In today’s gaming industry, downloadable content (DLC) has become a way of life. It’s the developers’ way of offering tit bits of new content such as new missions, multiplayer modes, weapons and characters for a smaller price.
With their first batch of DLC for Grand Theft Auto IV — exclusive to the Xbox360 — Rockstar has taken the term to the next level by offering an entire game for just 1600 points (that’s no surprise since Microsoft paid them nearly $50 million for this Xbox360 exclusive content).
Some new faces
Unlike most DLC that continues with the original protagonist, The Lost And Damned introduces a whole bunch of newcomers, all of whom are interesting. You have the new protagonist, Johnny Klebitz (who’s not new to the GTA IV universe), an old-school chopper-riding, leather jacket-toting leader of the Lost Motorcycle Club (or LMC) and Billy, who’s a tad more complex than him. Both Johnny and Billy are faithfully followed by the entire LMC who don’t stand out in any particular way but are fine as the supporting cast.
Then you have Johnny’s love interest for dramatic effect, who’s desperately trying to kick her nasty drug addiction. You also have certain recurring characters like Ray Boccino, Elizabeta Torres, and of course, Niko Bellic and his cousin Roman, who are sadly underused.
You won’t have trouble getting involved in the plot since all the voice actors involved in this project have done a stellar job of things. Even though Johnny is more dislikeable than Niko, you’ll slowly but surely be rooting for him by the end of the game. Billy is a nut-job but he’s got an enigmatic quality that you just can’t ignore. The other cast members don’t stand out but are quirky in their own ways.
Better bike control
TLAD takes place in Liberty City which is good and bad. It’s good because you don’t have to waste time figuring your way around town but bad because there’s nothing new to look at. One aspect of the game that’s been tremendously tweaked is bike control and it’s nearly as good as it was in San Andreas (that aspect alone made me fall in love with this DLC immediately).
You no longer feel like your bike’s gliding on ice; floor the pedal and you weave in and out of traffic with minimal effort. You also have newer weapons like the grenade launcher, automatic pistol, sawed off shotgun and — my personal favourite — the automatic shotgun.
What impressed me most was the fact that TLAD actually played better than GTA IV because it’s smaller in scope which means a tighter mission structure (just like Crysis Warhead); and Rockstar seem to have taken a teeny cue from Saint’s Row 2 making missions seem a lot more action oriented and over-the-top. On the flip side, certain missions are a bit tough and some are downright annoying. Luckily there is a new mid-mission save to minimise frustration.
For more than one player
Not content with providing players with nearly nine hours of gameplay, Rockstar has even thrown in some new multiplayer modes. The first one is Race which is exactly that. The only difference is that players now have a bat at their disposal with which they can whack their opponents off their rides.
Next up you have Chopper vs Chopper — a one-on-one duel where one player commandeers a helicopter mounted with a machine gun while the other has to ride his bike through various checkpoints while avoiding the oncoming fire. You also have a co-operative mode called Club Business that’s almost the same as GTA IV’s Team Mafia.
TLAD is solid value for money. It costs 1,600 MS Points (Rs 1,070) and offers far superior gameplay than most standalone games. Add in side quests like gang wars and bike races and you’re looking at more than 15 hours of gameplay. Rockstar has raised the bar for DLC everywhere.
To play TLAD you need a copy of Grand Theft Auto IV in your Xbox360.