Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City
|a game by||Rockstar Games|
|Platforms:||XBox 360, PC, Playstation 3|
|User Rating:||7.5/10 - 42 votes|
|Rate this game:|
|See also:||GTA Series, Open World Games, Sandbox Games|
The Grand Theft Auto games are among the most popular and best-selling series in the industry. GTA Episodes From Liberty City was the first real downloadable content for the series. Rockstar isn't really much of a DLC-heavy developer, but when it adds downloadable content it goes in all the way. Their game-length DLCs are famously huge, and this game includes both available for Grand Theft Auto IV. So, what did the company do with one of the best games in the series to make it even bigger and better? Let's talk about that:
About the game
Just like in the basic Grand Theft Auto IV, Episodes From Liberty City takes us into a two-episode completely new story into the same New York-inspired city. But this time, our adventure won't go by Niko's hand. These two episodes include new and original missions that will connect to the main game and between each other. The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony are pretty much two small games with the same quality of GTA IV.
In The Lost and Damned, we play as Johnny Klebitz, a biker of The Lost gang. Johnny is a close friend of the gang leader who just got out of jail. Due to the constant rivalry between criminal organizations and gangs, the glory days of The Lost are fading. Even its leadership is questioned by its own members.
As for The Ballad of Gay Tony, we play as Luis López one of the grunts of Tony, the owner of the two more prominent night clubs in Liberty City. But even with such success, Gay Tony has a ton of debts and gets involved with criminal organizations to get his stability back. Now Luis has to solve some problems for these criminals to pay for Tony's debt.
Rockstar does it again!
Rockstar did an amazing job when creating these two extra episodes. And soon again they did it again with their next game. For Red Dead Redemption, they did a similar thing when creating Undead Nightmare. The downloadable content for Red Dead Redemption would pretty much become a game all on its own.
Sure, in Episodes from Liberty City they didn't add zombies or the apocalypse, but the narrative takes place in the same city. But of course, even though Undead Nightmare is a huge game, it's still the same main character.
These two episodes are really amazing, their narrative is excellent just as any Grand Theft Auto Game. The characters are unique and charismatic, and the missions are exciting and full of drama and fun. Johnny Klebitz and Luis Lopez are completely different characters with different skills and abilities. Not only are the stories different, but so is the gameplay.
Different mechanics and characters make each expansion a completely new experience. They even got a physical release separate from Grand Theft Auto IV. and bundled in together.
Graphics and visuals: They have the exact same visuals as GTA IV, which means it looked great. One of the best-looking games of its time actually. And not only that, but the UI is also different and more attuned to the main characters in the expansion.
Gameplay: The gameplay is excellent too, and the new abilities of the characters make it a new experience even though you're technically playing the same game. There are plenty of missions and extras just as in any GTA game, so there are a lot of game hours ahead in these games.
Sound: As Excellent as you'd expect. They added more songs to the radio stations to fit with each episode's personalities. And the original soundtrack is completely amazing too. The voice acting, sound effects, everything is simply stunning.
Download Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City
Once The Hubbub died down and people stopped (rightly) grumbling about inadequate performance, Games for Windows - LIVE! integration and the irksome Rockstar Social Club, people saw Grand Theft Auto IV was a great game. The closest games have come to recreating an authentic-feeling, huge city. Not just authentic in its design, but authentic in its vibrant atmosphere, an effect achieved through the actions of its pedestrians right down to the detailed and carefully considered ambient sound effects. It was an absolute triumph of design.
So yes, it was a great game and, as with so many such great games that sell ridiculous amounts, it's been blessed by extra material, namely the two new episodes: The Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony. Both of which, naturally, were feverishly received as yet more proof of the original game's godlike status. And from March, we PC gamers be able to take a more reasoned view of the new episodes.
Like your usual expansions, the Episodes don't feature any vast changes to what went before. You're going to get more of what you had before, but this time you're getting it with the usual Rockstar flair and panache.
There's even a bit of controversy to be getting on with too, with fans of full frontal male nudity in for a treat In general, both expansions bring the same sort of thing to the table, but let's have a look at the specifics.
The Lost and the Damned came first and brought a slew of new weapons to GTA4: grenade launchers, automatic pistols and a broken pool cue add to the fun. It also adds a new protagonist: Johnny Klebitz, a member of The Lost Motorcycle Club. His tale is one of loyalty, betrayal and riding on bikes listening to extreme metal (see Cavalera Conspiracy).
You'll be doing this for a relatively long time too, as there's around 10-15 hours worth of play here, not including the new multiplayer modes, of which Chopper vs Chopper looks to be the most interesting one. Perhaps taken straight from the Multi -Theft Auto mod series, this is where one guy in a helicopter chases another on a bike, attempting to prevent the latter from getting through a set of checkpoints.
The second episode is The Ballad of Gay Tony, which also introduces a new protagonist, one Mr Luis Fernando Lopez. I Like The Lost. Ballad's storyline is extensive and sometimes interweaves with that of the original game. For example, this one starts out with your Character, a member of the Dominican drug cartel and bodyguard of the titular Gay Tony, trapped in the bank Niko Bellic robs, Heatstyle, in the middle of the main game's plot.
As well as the new story, a few other things were either introduced or brought back from previous games, such as the base jumping from San Andreas or the ability to replay missions to achieve a better score (the first time this has appeared in the series since GTA: Chinatown Wars). Other than that and a few new mini-games, the main change was to make the game a bit more lighthearted, again returning to the San Andreas/Vice City way of doing things.
One of the criticisms of the original Grand Theft Auto 4 was that it was bipolar - a serious story mixed into the ludicrous, comical world of Grand Theft Auto. Gay Tony leans more to the latter side of things and will be a bit of light relief for players.
When all's said and done, it's just a question of how well the Episodes will be transported to the PC, rather than how good they're going to be. We know how good they are from playing the console releases, but the PC release is usually the definitive version, with better visuals, radio options and such. We'd like to think Rockstar have learned plenty of lessons from the debacle of GTA4's original PC release, hoping this gets a much smoother introduction to our beloved platform. Nobody wants the memory of GTA4 to be soured permanently by a shoddy port, so it's important Rockstar do their creation justice and give us something to remember it fondly by.
Inside 2008's Re-Drawn and re-imagined Liberty City, Rockstar declined to change the shape, structure and content of the game, or even the average mission.
Niko Bellic's freedom to roam around the city was comfortably stifled by constant prompts telling him what to do next, whether it was getting in a car, following the mini-map, losing the cops, or shooting a man with an arrow floating above his head. Grand Theft Auto IVs sandbox element was mainly punching women's shopping out of their hands.
Gunplay was never the game's strongest card and GTA4's new cover mechanics did little to enhance it. Now, you just slog along the odd corridor with your back to the wall, instead of facing it. Let's not be too down: it's important to remember what GTA does with majestic, and rarely equalled, excellence: tell stories in a way that makes you feel.
Take GTA4: Brucie was a charming mentalist, and the futility of his missions was a superbly deflating payoff. The constant pestering of your phone might have been frustrating, but it created bonds with certain characters that gave their eventual betrayal a genuine sting. The much-vaunted openness of Liberty City - and the dry and meaningless A cliche that it was "living and breathing" - paled next to the lives of its mission-dispensing stars. They might not be sympathetic characters, but they're never boring, and they're dripping with satire that the tabloids never acknowledged.
With Rockstar's skilled writers providing redundant reams of character dialogue and satirical radio chat, Episodes From Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories develops the game's strongest assets admirably - and even fixes one of the more tedious problems of GTA4 with mid-mission checkpoints. The release as two chapters that are playable independently of one other and GTA4, even makes sense of the game's bipolar attitude to gritty realism and OTT dick-waving. If you want real, get on your bike. If you want to jump out of a golden helicopter, go gay.
The Lost and the Damned drops you into the leathers of Johnny Klebitz, the second-in-command of The Lost, one of Liberty City's motorcycle gangs. He's been acting up while the proper boss, Billy, went through rehab. During this time, he negotiated a ceasefire with the rival gang and got the business side of the gang (selling drugs, naturally) sorted. Basically, he's greatly improved the standard and expected life expectancy of the average gang member's life.
But this isn't a situation that pleases Billy when he returns. He doesn't own a Biker to Pussy translating dictionary, so he's not sure what "ceasefire'' means. And he isn't prone to respecting the boundaries of his enemy's territory. So that's the journey you take on in The Lost. the role of the reasonable man forced to watch his hard work being undone by a stubborn old-tLcner with mental health issues. This tense relationship is so expertly written, and with such self-control, that you'll wince at the constant anticipation of Lost-on-Lost violence that's being saved for the finale.
In terms of what you do in the world, few things change. You ride as part of a pack now, and riding over the icon that appears in the centre of the pack triggers bonus dialogue that you'd normally get from being in a car. The pack mentality extends to your members - they're not a lot of nameless, faceless people. If someone dies, they stay dead. If they're replaced, it'll be with less helpful rookies. Group AI and health is always something of an opaque art in GTA4 - it's difficult to tell what help your friends are actually offering, or what damage they're taking. You often suspect they're simply there to add to the spectacle, rather than the battle.
Beyond that (and the excellent handling on the bikes that undermines beefs about the GTA4 cars) this is classic DLC. More of the same, but with new characters that wouldn't fit into the main story. Rockstar aren't selling you the last level they didn't finish by deadline.
The Ballad Of Gay Tony is a very different beast. When I say that, I don't mean it's a different game: you'll still be driving to waypoints, and you'll still have 25 side missions called Gang Wars. But the tone is bolder, the pace is faster, the music is camper, and ii the characters are bigger. Gay Tony isn't even the star of the show, which shows considerable restraint: it'd be all to easy for Rockstar to pander to their target audience and turn him into a comedy flamer, so kudos for filling out his character. Admittedly, he's pill and coke-addled, a lousy businessman and no role model, but if you come to GTA for your role models, you need taking out of society right now.
Like its titular hero, The Ballad of Gay Tony is a tackier, unsubtle and more fun affair. You'll take down a helicopter with a rocket launcher in an introductory mission, and the parachutes are a flat rejection of The Lost's grenade-launching grittiness, in favour of a colourful Just Cause-style attitude to reality.
In a lovely touch, the relationship between player character Luis and Tony is one of genuine warmth. Luis' story is a new take on the GTA classic theme of a doomed new start - Tony sponsored Luis' release from jail and offered him a job. Of course, Luis is dragged back into his old ways - with a mother in debt to a loan shark, hopeless friends trying to carve themselves a drug empire, and a boss whose business methods involve selling his clubs simultaneously to two different (and equally violent) gangs. There's comedy here - for example, the escape from a golfing range in a caddy, but it rarely comes from Tony or Luis. They're just friends in a world that tends to crazy levels of bat-shit.
Same, But New
Gay Tony has a loveable, hypermanic comedy figure from the Brucie's school of self-regard - Yusuf Amir, voiced by Omid Djalili. He's the kind of guy that wants a subway train to boost his social standing, and Tony's the kind of guy who dangles bloggers from helicopters.
Between them, Luis is the classic bemused observer, helping out because he doesn't have a choice. And again, his is a story you'll care about, and it's pleasing to see that the openly homophobic characters are also the least intelligent.
The same issues that were annoying in GTA4 remain present in the Episodes. The double sign-in to the Rockstar Social Club and Games for Windows - LIVE still feels needless, and despite some optimization since the first PC release, this is still a punishingly demanding game that'll swallow 17GB of hard disk and dip to ruinously stuttering frame rates if you're not on a relatively new PC. Taking a corner is still frustrating on a keyboard - it's like trying to control a suitcase full of kangaroos with a bit of dowel rod. Combined with cover-and-shoot segments of the game - clearly designed for consoles too - you might prefer to play this on a gamepad.
Episodes From Liberty City adds mature and expertly written stories and entertainingly unacceptable characters to the rapidly ageing Liberty City. They're punchier stories, and the imagination poured into GTA's restrictive framework manages, on many occasions, to break the monotony that set in towards the last third of Niko Bellic's journey.
We hunt in packs
The joyful stupidity of Grand Theft Auto 4's multiplayer is extended and embellished by the Episodes.
Lost and the Damned resurrects San Andreas' Gang Wars in Own The City, and introduces daft unbalanced racing combat in Chopper vs Chopper -in which a helicopter takes on a pushbike. There's Road Rash-esque Race, which combines speed with baseball bats to opponents' heads.
Gay Tony doesn't bring so much new stuff to the party, but welcomes BASE jumping back from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. GTA4 will always be a primarily single-player experience for most people, as the combat has never been the most compelling part of the game. But you should definitely poke your nose into the multiplayer side, because it's dumb, irresponsible fun.