Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City Review – Xbox 360

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Summary
If you’ve enjoyed GTA 4, then be sure to pick up this awesome pack which has 2 distinct stories (The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony), new cars, weapons and great value for money! The best part – you don’t need the GTA 4 disc to play the game.
Good:

  • Two very good distinct story lines
  • Lots of new vehicles and weapons
  • Introduced checkpoints, making failure less frustration
  • Good value for money

Bad

  • Graphics  engine is  starting to show its age
  • Control system is still frustrating

Ugly:

  • Separate Multiplayer Lobbies for GTA 4 and GTA 4 Episodes.

The Story
The Lost and the Dammed:

Johnny is a veteran member of The Lost, a notorious biker gang. Johnny has been creating business opportunities for The Lost in Liberty City, but his first loyalty must be to the patch he wears on his back and to Billy Grey, the club’s President. However, when Billy returns from rehab hell-bent on bloodshed and debauchery, Johnny finds himself in the middle of a vicious turf war with rival gangs for control of a city torn apart by violence and corruption. Can the brotherhood survive?

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.
Graphics
For both these games, graphics are nothing new. The old GTA 4 engine is starting to show its age, and things could have been improved to make it standout, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. There are claims that it does look better, but quite frankly the changes have been very minute compared to the severe issues that could have been addressed. But don’t get me wrong…it’s still a great looking game despite the old graphics engine and will put most modern games to shame.

Controls
The controls are very much the same as GTA 4, nothing new to add here. Some annoying camera angles still exist, but this can be attributed to not tweaking the graphics engine as well

Gameplay
This is where it truly shines…

The Lost and the Dammed:
While TLaD’s story offers up a look at the grungiest aspects of Liberty City’s already-seedy underworld, it also brings a raft of new gameplay features and improvements, not the least of which is the ability to stay on your bike if you suffer a minor collision. Throw in sidekicks who level up the more they’re used, a few new weapons and new, biker-centric multiplayer modes, and The Lost and Damned is a fun – if unrelentingly gloomy – romp through GTA’s even-rougher side.
Another neat feature introduced in TLaD, which also made it into The Ballad of Gay Tony, is a mission checkpoint system. Some of the missions take a long time to beat, and a good number of them involve riding or driving to locations that might be a good distance away before the action really gets under way. In GTAIV it could be frustrating to fail these missions, because doing so meant restarting them from the beginning, but the checkpoint system addresses that problem by giving you the option to restart from the last checkpoint that you made it through successfully.
Parachutes are perhaps the most obvious new feature introduced in The Ballad of Gay Tony, and while there aren’t many missions that use them, those that do are definitely some of the episode’s best. You can use parachutes outside of story missions as well, and the controls while falling are easy enough to grasp that you’ll be hitting the centers of targets, gliding through rings in the air, and landing on moving vehicles in base-jump challenges in no time. Other activities that you’re introduced to during Lopez’s never-a-dull-moment story include dancing and drinking minigames, hitting golf balls at a driving range, and competing in and betting on cage-fighting tournaments. You’re not likely to spend a whole lot of time with any of these optional activities, but they’re fun to check out once or twice, and they compare favorably to the arm wrestling, air hockey, and hi-lo-card games introduced in this offering.

The Ballad of Gay Tony:
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. 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. The high-flying elements are a welcome part of the Gay Tony storyline, but they should have been refined. Fortunately, the majority of missions don’t focus on mid-air confrontations.
Luis has plenty of weapons to fulfill his missions, including the P90 assault SMG…and you get to romp around in a compact APC NOOSE tank. It’s built for policing metropolitan areas
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. Your buddies from the old days, when you were a petty thug, need your help. They want to build a drug cartel but have no money. They plan to start their empire by stealing drugs from rival gangs. Each Drug Wars scenario gets progressively more difficult and hectic. It’s mindless fun — just the kind of fun I like. If fisticuffs is more your thing, you can join the fight club and take on other shirtless brawlers. It’s not as explosive as Drug Wars, but it’s another way to eat up some time.
The Lost and Damned has seven  and in addition to the requisite Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Race options, there are some really inventive ones. They include Chopper vs. Chopper, in which a player on a bike has to race through checkpoints while a player in a helicopter gunship tries to stop him, and Witness Protection, which casts one player as a bus driver that a team of police must protect from a team of bikers. Club Business is a lot of fun as well, since it lets you and up to seven other players play as a biker gang and complete missions cooperatively.
The Ballad of Gay Tony, on the other hand, has only four multiplayer modes, and they’re all enhanced versions of modes from GTAIV. The Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes benefit from the inclusion of new weapons like sticky bombs, an advanced sniper rifle, and an automatic shotgun with explosive rounds. Meanwhile, Race and GTA Race modes feature new street courses and now give every driver access to a nitrous tank that gradually refills after every boost. This multiplayer content can be a lot of fun if you get in with a good group of people. However, it can be tough to find people playing some of the modes, and it’s unfortunate that to move from one episode’s modes to the other’s you have to go back out to the main menu, load up the other episode, and access the multiplayer options from the in-game cell phone again. A single multiplayer lobby that combines content from GTAIV and both episodes would be much more convenient.

Sound/Music:
The sound is still great as ever and has definitely gone up a notch or two.  While we can continue to write endlessly on the new music added…take a look at the official site for the tracks.

Overall:
We would recommend you play TLaD before the Ballad of Gay Tony. Most people say that TLaD has a character that one couldn’t care about…but we disagree, as you get deeper into the game you’ll see how cool Johnny can really be and how he comes into his own as story unfurls. But yes, compared to GTA 4, it’s a better offering, as none of the bad stuff from GTA 4 made it into this.
The Ballad of Gay Tony is the perfect way to close out the GTA IV saga. Finally, we know what happened to the diamonds stolen in the main story a year-and-a-half ago. Though Luis Lopez doesn’t have much of a story at all (this is the ballad of his boss, after all), the supporting cast is phenomenal. There are a lot of hilarious moments and ludicrous missions that will please GTA fans. Sure, a few of the missions fall flat compared to the wild nature of others, but all-in-all this is  a great package

Release Info:
Available on:  Xbox 360
Genre: Adventure
Release date: Oct 29, 2009
Published by: Rockstar Games
Developed by: Rockstar North
Franchise: Grand Theft Auto
Multiplayer: Online 16 Player VS, Offline – 1 player solo.

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