Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City – The PS3 Attitude Review
Despite rumours and speculation since the exclusivity was announced that the episodes would still one day release on a system other than the Xbox 360, we still find it hard to believe that we actually have a copy in our hands.
Many of you who played GTA IV have probably left that universe behind long ago, but with these two episodes is there a good enough reason to revisit Liberty City?
First of all, there are two ways to enjoy these episodes. The first method is to download them straight from the PlayStation Store, which requires GTA IV to play. Alternatively you can buy Episodes from Liberty City that has both episodes on one Blu-ray disc and doesn’t require GTA IV.
Essentially there is little difference in the content either way so it is really down to personal preference. If we really have to put our finger on our preferred method however, we would probably choose the disc version thanks to the usual discounts retailers tend to offer, the inclusion of bonus radio station Vice City FM, and the fact you’re buying something that you can actually hold.
Each episode can almost be considered a separate game in their own right as they feature a brand new protagonist and story. They also sit parallel to the events in GTA IV, which allows them to tie in the loose ends from the game and portray some of the major events from different standpoints.
Both episodes sit on very different angles of life in the big city and in many ways are polar opposites. The mood of TLAD is very dark and gritty while TBOGT on the other hand is full of glitz and glamour to a scale we have not seen since Vice City – basically it’s like GTA IV on steroids.
The Lost and Damned is the first episode and this focuses on Johnny Klebitz, Vice President of the The Lost biker gang. Johnny has been taking the helm of the gang while The Lost President Billy has been in rehab. The episode begins when Johnny has to hand back the keys to Billy, who soon overturns the treaty between the bikers and rival gang Angels of Death that Johnny had been working so hard to maintain. The game ensues with the gang wars reigniting but with conflict also at the heart of The Lost.
Admittedly, the storyline won’t blow your mind and we have seen far better writing by Rockstar in the past. By centreing the episode around a biker gang, we also feel that the developers are alienating many GTA fans as the episode feels very unconventional compared to previous titles in the series. The characters in the game are also very average including Johnny himself which is a real let down, especially because Grand Theft Auto is known for its big likeable personalities.
In many of the missions you play, especially in the first half of the game, you are assisted by fellow Lost bikers. But even if they are not involved within the actual story of the mission, you can still call them for backup. In fact the more they are used, the further experience they gain which will boost their maximum health and killing abilities. Therefore it is essential that you don’t go into every mission only watching your own back and instead assist your friends as well – If any of them die, they will be replaced with a new member lacking in any experience.
In addition to the main campaign there are also brand new sub-missions including gang wars and bike races. Although they will keep you occupied for awhile, they don’t really stand out as anything too compelling and as with many of GTA’s sub-missions from past to present, they can become very repetitive ever so quickly.
As we said, these episodes don’t just pack in a new story and playable character. You may be familiar with how poorly bikes handled in GTA IV, and we are happy to say that you will have no problem with them anymore in The Lost and Damned. Unlike before, you will struggle to fall off your bike as Johnny sticks to it like glue – Only driving at a solid object at high speed can see him landing face first onto the concrete!
Overall this episode could have been a lot better if Rockstar took it at a different angle, but there is no denying that it still has its own merits.
The second episode is The Ballad of Gay Tony where you play as Luis who works for his boss Tony Prince, the man who has his hands on the biggest Straight club and the biggest Gay club in Liberty City.
From the offset we will tell you that this is by far the superior offering and in fact makes The Lost and Damned feel substandard!
As Tony Prince’s right-hand man, Luis has already made it to the high life as he has all the money and girls he needs. But this doesn’t stop the episode from becoming anything short of compelling as you soon find yourself struggling to keep his empire afloat and repay all of Tony’s debt! Everything about it is bigger, brighter and most of all, better than TLAD. Throughout we meet some great people who are amongst some of the best characters we have seen so far in the whole GTA series. The missions and characters in this episode really are very gripping and it’s the perfect ending to this GTA saga.
Many of you will be happy to hear that Parachutes are back for the first time since San Andreas, and they are as cool as ever. And Rockstar are not afraid to use them either as they do come in handy in a lot of the missions where your only escape may be by jumping off from the top of a building.
There are many new vehicles too. Not only are there sparkling new cars, TBOGT adds a small range of new helicopters including one that can shoot missiles, and Rockstar again use them at every opportunity! They still aren’t the easiest things to handle though, which is a little disappointing as it was a frustrating problem in GTA IV and sadly this hitch carries over into this episode.
And of course we can’t forget that tank! Although not a full blown one, this beast can still perform some nasty damage to anything that approaches. We aren’t quite sure why Rockstar didn’t go all out with this one by offering us the meanest thing that they could dish up, but it’s a lot better than nothing at all.
One of the best and welcome new features in this episode is the ability to playback any of the missions. By implementing a special scoring system, the game will rate you on every job that you complete including the time it took you, the damage you withstood, and more. By passing each criterion your percentage rating for the mission will get higher, which should spur you to replay them until they all reach 100%.
One of the other highlights is the ability to do various activities at Tony’s clubs. If you fancy impressing the ladies with your striking dancing moves you can do that, or if you want to manage the club and stop any trouble that may emerge you can do that too.
Additionally there are a number of different activities around the city that may be of interest. For all you thrill seekers there are fifteen base jumping challenges that see you jump from buildings or even helicopters. Or if you want to force your anger out onto someone, the fight club could be your thing that even has its own league. A spot of golf can also be on the cards or one of twenty five drug war games which involves helping Luis’ friends build an empire in Liberty City.
Compared to GTA IV or The Lost and Damned, The Ballad of Gay Tony offers far more to do outside of the fantastic missions, which makes it far more memorable and replayable overall, and the better of the two episodes.
But a number of new features have also made their way into both episodes. For the first time ever, and long overdue, there are now checkpoints for each mission. This means that if you die, you don’t have to start from the very beginning again, which is a welcome plus as we have been crying out for a feature like this since the series went 3D, and it’s good to see that we have finally been heard.
After multiplayer came to the series for the first time in GTA IV, both episodes feature an almost identical offering, albeit with some minor improvements such as new weapons, assisted killing, and in TLAD a few alternative modes. Sadly though there isn’t really anything new here, which is a little disappointing as it was never anything spectacular the first time around.
Content wise Rockstar have also added a new soundtrack that is designed to suit all tastes – personally we enjoy the dance music the most. Furthermore both episodes feature new weapons such as the grenade launcher or shotgun with explosive bullets. Plus there are new programmes on the Liberty City TV channels too.
In all, we’re delighted to say that the long wait has been well worth it, and PS3 owners can now sit in satisfaction that they are not missing out on any of the great additional content for GTA IV. Even if you have never played the main game we still recommend purchasing the content via Episodes from Liberty City as it offers exciting experiences and great humour that should put a smile on your face. It may even convince you to pick up a copy of GTA IV itself which is going very cheap nowadays! Arguably The Ballad of Gay Tony is the better of the two, but they are still both well worthwhile playing and should provide at least twenty hours of gaming in total.
Buy GTA: Episodes from Liberty City from – GameStop : Amazon (US) : Amazon (UK) : GAME : Play.com
Buy Grand Theft Auto IV from – Amazon (US) : GAME : Play.com
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