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Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City

Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City

The new content offers the same recording features so you can take clips of your adventures and upload them to Rockstar Social. The multiplayer works the same as it does in GTA IV, except each episode’s online world is self-contained. If your friend is playing GTA IV and you are playing The Lost and Damned, you won’t be able to meet up. Each world has its own set of multiplayer modes, weapons and vehicles. It would be nice if all three were merged into one.

The Lost and Damned
The Lost and Damned takes place in Liberty City at the same time as Niko’s tale from GTA IV. You play as Johnny “The Jew” Klebitz, Vice President of the biker gang named The Lost. Johnny’s been the de facto leader while the President of The Lost, Billy, has been in rehab. The story begins with Billy’s release and resumption of duties as head of the gang. This naturally leads to a conflict as Billy looks to dive nose-first into the drug trade while Johnny wants The Lost to be smarter about how it handles its business.

The Ballad of Gay Tony
In The Ballad of Gay Tony, you take on the role of Luis Lopez who works for the title character. Where GTA IV star Niko Belic and Lost and Damned anti-hero Johnny Klebitz are men of little means attempting to rise up in the world, Luis has already made his transition from rags to riches. Tony Prince, owner of the biggest straight and gay nightclubs in Liberty City, took Luis under his wing and made him something. The Ballad of Gay Tony isn’t about living in squalor. You live well and you work for the richest men in the city.

Many of the missions take place in Algonquin, Liberty City’s version of Manhattan. Though there are a few early missions that tie into Luis’ old life, they are throwaways and very quickly the story focuses on the problems of Gay Tony. The missions are jobs for some of the most unstable people in the city, including Tony, the ridiculous Yusuf Amir, and the bat-s*** crazy Russian mobster, Bulgarin. While there are still the standard crop of “these guys just betrayed you, shoot your way out” GTA missions, there are a number of others that are more over-the-top than anything in GTA IV or The Lost and Damned.

Bulgarin, for example, is obsessed with owning Liberty City’s hockey team, the Rampage. So much so that he sends Luis on a few missions to strong-arm the owner. And I mean strong arm in the GTA sense — out a window. At one point, you leap out of a helicopter and parachute onto a rooftop, wax some guards, throw an innocent man out a window, then take a leap of faith from 20 stories up. Don’t worry, you have a second chute you can pull as you make your escape, landing in the back of a moving getaway truck.

The real star of Gay Tony, though, is Yusuf. This guy is lovable but completely nuts. He just wants his Arab Sheik father to be proud of him. What do you get for the man who has everything? How about stealing an attack chopper or a subway train? Or maybe you construct the tallest building in Liberty City? Money is no object to Yusuf and Luis has no objections to killing for cash. The two make an excellent team.

Of course, bigger jobs mean bigger toys to play with and The Ballad of Gay Tony is packed with weapons that give a big bang. Helicopters play a larger role, which is both good and bad. It’s certainly faster and easier to travel in a chopper and the new ones are stocked with weapons, but mid-air battles are still a challenge. Why does Rockstar include a lock-on for guns when you’re on foot but not when you’re in a helicopter? There are a few missions that require you to do battle in the air and all are a challenge simply because it’s difficult to target enemies. Fortunately, the majority of missions don’t focus on mid-air confrontations.

Luis has plenty of weapons to fulfill his missions, including the awesome P90 assault SMG and sticky bombs which can be manually detonated. Oh, and there’s a tank. No, not an imposing M1 Abrams tank, but a compact APC NOOSE tank. It’s built for policing metropolitan areas. There’s a tiny turret powerful enough to demolish cars and choppers in one shot, but it’s not the kind of slick tank that’s going to help you pick up chicks.

Along with a bigger, badder, bolder attitude, The Ballad of Gay Tony includes some welcome additions. You receive a score at the end of every mission. Once you beat the game, you can replay any mission using your phone and attempt a higher score. There are also 15 base jumping challenges for those who missed doing silly stuff in a GTA game. On top of this are 25 Drug Wars side quests where you assist your buddies from the old days as they attempt to build a drug cartel.

Last, but not least, are the clubs themselves. You manage Maisonette 9 for Tony and can enjoy its offerings any night of the week. You can get down on the dance floor in a simple, but enjoyable mini game, compete in totally hetero champagne battles, or try your luck at club management. I wouldn’t recommend that last one. Being a club manager is boring. You just walk the floor and look for trouble. And trouble amounts to useless drunks.

See Also

Should you wish to play with some buddies, the only modes are trimmed to the essentials — Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Race, GTA Race and Free Mode. But you do get to enjoy the new weapons, parachuting, and nitrous boosting (in the races) for these modes.

Verdict
Even if you choose to ignore the multiplayer and most of the optional activities and side missions, there’s a good 20-plus hours of fun to be had with these episodes. The visuals are starting to show their age, and The Lost and Damned, while great, is clearly inferior to The Ballad of Gay Tony, but in every other respect this package is difficult to fault. The stories are compelling, the memorable characters are too numerous to mention, and the gameplay is still top-notch. If the last thing you saw in the GTAIV universe was the ending of Niko Bellic’s story, Episodes from Liberty City is made for you. If you’re still playing GTAIV you might want to wait until you’ve beaten that game, and if you’ve already downloaded one episode it’d obviously be more cost-effective for you to just download the other. Episodes from Liberty City might not be the best way for you to experience these downloadable episodes, but do make sure you experience them.

System requirements

XBOX 360

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Masterpiece
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Pros

Two great and very different storylines

New vehicles and weapons freshen up the familiar gameplay

Checkpoint feature makes failing missions less frustrating

Lots of amusing references to original game's characters

Great value for money

Cons

Visuals are starting to show their age

Separate multiplayer lobbies for GTAIV and both episodes

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