Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City
Grand Theft Auto 4 was an awesome game, but due to the long wait thanks to console exclusivity and the performance issues when it finally arrived it lost a lot of love from PC players. Having to sit by and watch the Xbox360 get one excellent add on after the other was also a bitter pill to swallow, but now finally nearly two years after the release of GTA 4 the “Episodes From Liberty City” makes a leap to PC. Consisting of both “The Lost & Damned” and “The Ballad Of Gay Tony” will these two titles breath new life into the series or is it a case of too little too late?
I think the “too little” part can be safely eliminated as together these titles represent excellent value for money and put a lot of full fledged games to shame with their content and length. New radio and TV stations, new weapons, new multi-player modes and new characters are just some of the improvements that these titles bring to the table.
The visuals look much improved over their console counterparts, but you still need quite a hefty PC to get the most out of them. The keyboard and mouse combination feels far superior for gunfights, but having a gamepad on standby for the driving and flying sections is highly recommended. You’ll see lots of familiar faces throughout the episodes and also get the chance to see old missions from a new perspective. It’s really cool to see how everything ties together in the end.
In “The Lost & Damned” (TLAD) you play as Johnny Klebitz, Vice President of a Liberty City biker gang called The Lost. Johnny is not a very pleasant character, but the real leader of the club, Billy, is even worse and when he returns after a brief stint in rehab all hell breaks loose. Since this episode is about a biker gang you’ll be spending a lot of time riding motorbikes but don’t worry as the handling has been vastly improved since the previous GTA.
Some new additions like gang wars and the ability to call for backup from your biker buddies makes for a very engrossing playing experience. All your comrades who survive a mission with you get improved stats making them more effective, but the ones that die are replaced by low level new recruits so it’s a good idea to not just use everyone for bullet fodder. An upgraded checkpoint system cuts down on the frustration of doing missions from scratch, but the disturbing scene of full frontal male nudity is a rather less welcome addition to the series. The story is good and intersects with the original plot at times, but the gritty lives of the Lost is rather bleak and there’s not many characters to care about despite all the talk of “brotherhood”.
“The Ballad Of Gay Tony” (TBOGT) is a completely different story and puts you in the shoes of Luis Lopez, right hand man to Anthony “Gay Tony” Prince, owner of some of Liberty City’s finest night clubs. Unlike the other characters Luis isn’t a small time hood, but thanks to Tony’s bungling gets drawn into a world of crime and violence. Not that he’s complaining, Luis is probably one of the most ruthless characters in the series and has few qualms about dispatching Tony’s enemies in violent ways.
Where bikes were the transport of choice in TLAD in TBOGT you’ll be spending a lot of time in the air courtesy of some new helicopter missions. It was these missions that made me appreciate the new checkpoint system even more as controlling the choppers can be quite a frustrating experience. Base jumping also makes a welcome return and the missions that feature parachutes are a blast. One stand out mission sees you tossing an annoying blogger out of a helicopter because his unfavourable reviews are impacting business. The catch is that you only want to scare him not kill him so you have to jump after him with a parachute and rescue him before he hits the ground. TBOGT is filled with memorable mission like this one and most of them are courtesy of a new character, Yussuf Amir, who has a penchant for desiring the impossible. Helicopters, tanks and even subway trains aren’t safe from this guy. Perhaps in an attempt to balance out all the “gayness” Luis can seduce and sleep with girls in the clubs by dancing with them or engage in some manly cage fighting or car racing for extra cash. You’ll also get scored for each mission at its conclusion and can retry them later for a higher mark. The multi-player limit in both games has been bumped up to 32 but even with the new game modes it didn’t seem like there are many people playing online.
Together these two episodes are unbeatable value for money and despite some small flaws should keep you going for days. Everything might still take place in the same city, but hen it was created so masterfully in the first place, who cares? I would gladly purchase another episode set in this city if it contained the same quality script and voice acting as these two have. All in all this pack does what the GTA series has always done best, made you the star of your own action movie. The amount of things to do that isn’t even story related has given me more entertainment than some other games I’ve played and once again the top notch voice acting brings the world of GTA to life.
This is most certainly not a game that younger players should be playing, but if you’re old enough to separate fact from fiction and can enjoy a game with mature elements then don’t miss out on this title.
*Review originally published in 2010.
- OS: Windows Vista – Service Pack 1 / Windows XP – Service Pack 3
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 1.8GHz, AMD Athlon X2 64 2.4GHz
- Memory: 1.5GB XP / 1.5GB Vista
- Graphics: 256MB Nvidia 7900 / 256MB ATI X1900
- DirectX Version: DirectX 9.0c Compliant Card
- Hard Drive: 16GB of Hard Disc Space
- Sound Card: 5.1 Channel Audio Card
- Other Requirements: Initial activation requires internet connection; Online play requires log-in to Games For Windows – Live and Rockstar Games Social Club (13+ to register); software installations required including Sony DADC SecuROM, Adobe Flash, DirectX, Games for Windows – LIVE, and Internet Explorer.