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Review: Episodes from Liberty City

Information about the game:

Developer: Rockstar North (UK)

Release date: October 29th, 2009

We once again jump into the world of Liberty City and the seedy underworld of it with Episodes from Liberty City. In an effort to reduce costs on my behalf, I rented this game from Netflix instead of paying outrageous amounts of money through the Xbox Live Game Marketplace (both 1600 points, seems a little bit steep for my pay). I was excited to play this game after all the effort that I originally put into GTA IV, and how this studio pushes how in-depth you can become in video games.

First, I played through The Lost and the Damned, one of the two “episodes” from the standalone game. It introduces you as Johnny Klebitz, a member of the biker gang The Lost. As an interesting aspect of the game, you are allowed to do many more activities with this new additional feature. Throughout the city, you can participate in various Gang Wars or Street Races with members of The Lost, putting an interesting spin on this already in-depth title.

When the game starts, your ex-President of the gang (Billy) regains control of the biker gang, as he is released from prison and sent on parole. As you were long standing president while Billy did his stint in jail, gains occurred all over for The Lost (truces with the other biker gangs, deals made for economic gain). Billy seeks to destroy these as soon as he gains control of the gain again, and the tension is apparent in the first missions of the game.

The story mode is another addictive part of the game, where you are consistently running from one mission to another in order to advance the story and see how it plays out. Another big improvement over the original GTA IV storyline is the complexity and action pushed into each mission, with never-ending waves of police, to cameos of Nico Bellic from GTA IV. Rockstar took the time to make all of these complex interwoven story-lines, and they get so in-depth that it hurts my head to think about all of the time it took to produce this game.

The short side of the stick with Lost and the Damned is that it’s quite terse, and seems to be a bit repetitive when it comes to side missions. It only took me about two days, three to four hours per days, and the ending of the game seemed a bit abrupt. Gang wars are interesting, but the races seem damn impossible. Maybe I am horrible at them, but get ready to really let your rage loose when you play these missions. Seriously, I got beaten off of my motorcycle several different times just trying to do one of the first races. Learning curve seemed intense, but racing is never my strong suit.

The Ballad of Gay Tony seems to be better in almost every way. Sure, the gang aspect of Lost and the Damned is interesting, but the other innovations for the GTA series seem to be more relevant in this “episode”. The replay mission features lets you replay all of the the missions in order to get a 100% rating in an arcade style, which is really well done. Different objectives for different missions will keep you entertained over several different playthroughs.

As was evident in the last game, the missions are larger than life in this addition as well. The element of skydiving in this game adds a new dimension to the airborne aspect, where the ladder missions in the game will take you in trains, helicopters, and even airplanes. With the complex intertwining of stories, Gay Tony has its core centered around Tony Prince and his bodyguard, Luis Lopez. You are Luis Lopez, and you help to manage the club for your coke-addicted, binge drinking gay nightclub-owner-boss. The writers of this game worked extremely hard on creating a human element for the characters, which seems to fall a little bit flatter with Lost and the Damned. For example, if you go on the computer, you can get more information on your family (brother and sister), and even email ex-girlfriends who are stalking you. In your apartment, there is a picture of your dad in the army, and this is also explained later in the game through the E-Mail system. As well, your main character’s friends and family are complex, weaving stories of their own through missions. Story drives this game, and it seems to be extensively longer than Lost and the Damned.

Both of these games should be played by anyone who enjoys Grand Theft Auto, or is even interested in the title. The coarse language and content throughout both games is pushing the M rating that it has received, so it’s most likely not for everyone. However, I highly recommend playing through both of these games on the disc, or if you are feeling excessively rich then buy it off of Xbox Live (or give it to me instead).

Breakdown of different areas:

Audio: 95

With the addition of new radio stations, this add on makes driving even more fun and politically incorrect. More hilarity ensues with this release, and the gun shots, ricochets, random swearing, and footsteps make the game seem quite real. It makes it so I can’t take real radio seriously anymore. Bravo Rockstar, I love you and the effort into the radio stations in these two games.

Graphics: 90

While the graphical componenets of this game being not the newest, I will over-inflate the score a bit. The scale on which the cars, motorcycles, even the planes were rendered in looked beautiful. While the core gameplay is still the most important thing to Rockstar besides story, the attempt to improve and smooth out graphical issues was there.

Play-ability: 85

The Lost and the Damned had its own cool aspects to it, but frankly there wasn’t too much replay involved. However, this is not the case with The Ballad of Gay Tony. With multiplayer apsects, skydiving minigames, arcade-style replays of missions, and even stranger missions all over the city, this game does deliver, as well as a GTA game can, replayability.

Delivery: 92

The strong story writing, coupled with all of the other perfect aspects of a game like Rockstar puts out, makes this game seem like a classic. Sure, it is downloadable content, but it a testament to the effort that this game studio pours into its creations. Without games like this, other people wouldn’t be as pressed to keep innovating and turning the wheel, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in video gaming. The size and scale of gunfights and car chases is mind-blowing when compared to its predecessor only one year previous to its release. Minor flaws take some of the awesome away, but all in all its an excellent series of games, unique in their own right. Also, a bit of a warning, watch out for the penis in Lost and the Damned. Really surprising.

Overall: 94/100

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