As I’ve said before, I actually played through Grand Theft Auto IV for the story. Every random encounter, every mission, every iota of dialogue helped me work my way through the narrative, further involving me in Niko’s tale. He was an outsider to the country, new to Liberty City, and his story was unique. Seeing his journey to an end, witnessing his American dream, it was wonderful, and a truly fantastic experience, one with deep routes in classic literature.
Meet Johnny Klebitz, co-president of The Lost, a motorcycle gang based out of Liberty City. He isn’t new to the area, in fact, he’s likely lived there all of his life, so none of the fantastical features of the metropolis are new to him. Whereas Niko was introduced to the low-level crime lords and slowly worked his up the criminal underworld, Johnny already has his place. He doesn’t have to do favors for anyone to save his cousin; if someone messes with the Lost they get the full wrath of the brotherhood. There are several times where the paths of the two characters meet, rushing feelings of nostalgia and remembrance, but most of the story is new, and most of the story is good. The new characters are as interesting as those from GTA IV’s story (albeit a good deal more nude), and the voice acting, as expected, is top notch. While Klebitz’s tale isn’t quite as interesting or well developed as Bellic’s, it’s still a massive and fulfilling story, and should deliver eight to ten hours of content.
Besides the story, there are a number of additions that make the DLC feel different than the normal game. The Lost are a brotherhood, and often travel together, fighting in massive battles. In fact, even during missions that aren’t for the Lost, Johnny can call upon the aid of some teammates, who will grow in power as the game progresses. Later in the game, Turf Wars are unlocked, allowing for Johnny to initiate battles with the Lost’s rivals, the Angels of Death.
Additional weapons, ranging from sawed off shotguns, which can be wielded while riding a motorcycle, to pipe bombs, which aren’t really all that different than grenades, flesh out the game's arsenal. Rockstar has tweaked the bikes themselves, making them sturdier and easier to control for Johnny, who feels much more at home his hog than in any four wheeled vehicle. There’s also additional music on the radio, including more rock and metal tracks, as well as additional content for the television and the internet. Rockstar wanted to make sure the DLC had a different feel than GTA IV, and were sure to put in everything that could be expected of a dark, gritty, motorcycle focused title. New multiplayer options expand on the already fantastic online functionality, with several additional modes that take advantage of Lost & Damned’s new features.
The most fantastic addition, and one that should be added to Grand Theft Auto IV’s singleplayer immediately, is the inclusion of mid-mission checkpoints. It wasn’t uncommon at all in GTA IV to need to drive for several minutes to a location and fight enemies. Dying to those enemies would send Niko back to the beginning, forcing the player to need to continually repeat unimportant and uninteresting sections. The Lost & Damned fixes this by adding checkpoints at various times during missions, and allowing Johnny to start near where he ended. It’s a simple change, but one that prevents even the most difficult of missions from becoming too frustrating, and helps move players through the game quicker and easier.
In terms of new content, Lost & Damned is bursting at the seams. As of yet, developers have been treating downloadable content as more of mission packs, trickling out new weapons or levels to get a few extra dollars out of fans. Instead of adhering to this, Rockstar has treated DLC like an expansion pack, adding an entirely new look at the game while taking advantage of the fact that they don’t need to recreate an engine or create new gameplay. There’s little here to draw in anyone who grew bored with the fetch quests and repetitive nature of Grand Theft Auto IV’s story missions, but for fans it’s definitely a fantastic excuse to revisit Liberty City.