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Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City

Developer: Rockstar Games
Rating: 4/5

Buy Now: Amazon


Get ready to experience the Liberty City of Grand Theft Auto IV like never before. Originally created and released as episodical content for Grand Theft Auto IV and only available as separate downloads through Xbox LIVE Marketplace, Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City introduces new characters, new weapons and two new stories for players on Xbox 360 to enjoy on disc. Available as standalone games, they don't require the original GTA IV, a Xbox LIVE account or even an Xbox 360 hard drive to play.

Episode One: The Lost and Damned
Developed by series creator Rockstar North and set in Liberty City, Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned features a new main character, Johnny Klebitz, and plot that intersects with the storyline of Grand Theft Auto IV. Players will also experience new missions that offer an entirely fresh way to explore Liberty City with new multiplayer modes, weapons and vehicles and a diverse soundtrack with additional music´┐Ż"all with the incredible production values that are the trademarks of Grand Theft Auto.

Episode Two: The Ballad of Gay Tony
Grand Theft Auto IV's second downloadable episode, The Ballad of Gay Tony, injects Liberty City with an overdose of guns, glitz, and grime. Players take on the role of Luis Lopez, part-time hoodlum and full-time assistant to legendary nightclub impresario Tony Prince (aka "Gay Tony"), as he struggles with the competing loyalties of family and friends, and with the uncertainty about who is real and who is fake in a world in which everyone has a price.

Key Game Features
* Complete your Grand Theft Auto IV experience with content previously only available via Xbox LIVE Marketplace download.
* Two complete Grand Theft Auto games together in one box: The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony.
* Brings the interweaving Grand Theft Auto IV stories of Niko Bellic (main game), Johnny Klebitz (The Lost and Damned) and Luis Lopez (The Ballad of Gay Tony) to an explosive conclusion.
* Two diverse games let you experience the criminal lowlife and the glamorous high-life of Liberty City like never before.
* Both games are standalone releases that do not require the original Grand Theft Auto IV game, an Xbox LIVE connection, or even an Xbox 360 hard drive to play.
* Powerful new weapons, amazing new vehicles, diverse new music, never-before-seen features and all new mission types.


I, along with many others, was ultimately kind of disappointed with the original GTA IV. The removal of the staple elements of the GTA franchise was not good; the side service missions such as paramedic/fire/taxi, the wee remote control vehicles, the crazy cars along with the mini tracks for go karting, triple stunt points gone, and so on... and of course the loss of the planes. Heck even give me back the dodo R*! It was a big surprise to see all that gone and not a pleasant one. But when playing GTA IV you kind of felt that they had more planned for Liberty City in the future. Maybe that golfing range might be able to be used, that skateboard park might come into play and perhaps we'll get to ride on the ferris wheel too at some point.

So with the release of TLOD and TBOGT we're getting somewhere. Now for full disclosure I played The Ballad of Gay Tony through first even though it's episode two, primarily because I wanted to base jump! And in TBOGT I can see Rockstar finally giving us back some of what they took away. You can indeed now play golf in that floating driving range, you can base jump off specific buildings as a challenge or indeed just buy a parachute and jump off anything you want. Tanks are back too! Rockstar are slowly making LC a more fun sandbox and I hope that continues with the release of more episodes. With regards to these two episodes, well you can't go wrong. Both are typical GTA fare with varied missions and great story lines. I won't go into the plots of each - do I need to? There's some nice cross-over moments in the stories though that will make you smile!

With TBOGT you have specific optional targets to do in each mission such as a time limit or how much damage you take. The nice thing about the way this works are the new very extensive mission checkpoints, something massively lacking from GTA IV. But there's a penalty for using a checkpoint - if you use a reload then your mission objectives aren't saved. You can still complete the mission and continue with the story but there's an actual incentive to replay each one and do better each time. It's a great game mechanic that satisfies both players who prefer to blast through the game and those who wish to fine tune each play-through. Nice.

It also seems that LC's code and graphics were fine-tuned somewhat because there's considerably less little glitches and popups in TBOGT over TLOD and the original. But do install the game to the HD if you buy the disc version regardless of which episode you play.

All in all very satisfied that I got my money's worth here. I'm now playing through TLOD although I still have some side mission (drug wars) to complete in TBOGT. It took me 18 hours to complete the second episode and I expect about the same for TLOD. So for about a dollar an hour entertainment this hits the mark. If you felt, as I did, that GTA IV was a step in the wrong direction for GTA then I recommend this compilation; GTA is heading back to its roots.

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