Last week Gamersyde was invited to a – short – presentation of Grand Theft Auto IV’s upcoming DLC, The Lost and Damned. With Snoopers all dressed in a very trendy down jacket, we faced the cold of winter to see what it was all about. First impressions inside.
The Lost and Damned should be considered as an additional episode taking place in the Grand Theft Auto IV world. Much like a spin-off, you’ll get to run into some old acquaintances from the previous game and of course wander around the streets of good old Liberty City. Things are not all the same though since the eyes through which you will see the story are no longer those of a freshly arrived immigrant from Eastern Europe. Now you’re an all tattooed “Libertan” biker born in the USA, which is pretty logical after all as we now know the city pretty well after hours spent on GTA IV.
No more Niko then – though you will run into him during this all new adventure. The main character is called Johnny and he belongs to the Losts, a gang run by Billy, a guy that is about as tender as overcooked beef. Billy’s back from rehab after being arrested with a good amount of dope he preferred to claim was his to use to avoid jail. He’s pissed as ever at the Angels of Death, the rival gang that has been at war with the Losts for as long as anyone can remember. Johnny has a more pragmatic view of the situation as he has come to realize that this war is starting to be bad for business for both parties. Right from the start, it’s quite obvious that the two friends will not be on the same wavelength.
From what we could see during the presentation, it doesn’t seem like the game is going to offer real new situations mission-wise. It will still be about delivering packages or going from point A to point B by bike with a pinch of car chases or gunfights in between so you can measure up against Blues or Angels. Nothing new then but the formula still works well and we hope the game offers as much pace as what we saw in one of the missions. Indeed, we particularly liked what was really just a simple rail shooting sequence where Johnny was sitting at the back of a motorbike and shooting the cops that were after them. It was all very dynamic and with the change in camera angles from time to time, it really felt like an action movie – at some point a gas station exploded and the camera switched to show the bike driving away from it for a few seconds. Nice and immersive, that’s what it was!
One of the new features of the game is some kind of management system for your squad which can be upgraded in the course of the game. By maintaining the relationship between Johnny and his fellow bikers, their aiming skills can improve for example. All you have to do is to stay in formation when you drive your bike to the mission objective. Some – huge – icon appears on the road and you must stick to it long enough for a dialog sequence to start – much like what happened automatically in the previous games when you went somewhere by car. It forces you to adjust your speed all the time which does not feel very natural when you think of it. It’s not a bad idea per se but we can’t say we saw a real difference with our teammates in the mission that followed. However, the fact that you can lose one of your men and have him replaced by someone with basic statistics might bring a bit of tactic to the game.
Some new mini-games are also planned – among which arm wrestling, which should remind something to Ryo Hazuki’s fans – but unfortunately we didn’t get to see any of them. We were able to try some of the cool new – and powerful - weapons such as a grenade launcher or a sawed-off rifle. On the other hand, we weren’t given the number of new songs that will be added to the game’s soundtrack – we expect rock to have a great part so becoming an easy rider is more natural – nor were we told about the number of new vehicles – we still saw an old rusty wrecker that would have pleased Cooter for sure. No clue about the longevity of the game either, not even the total number of missions included. We were promised that players will get something worth the price but given it’ll cost you 1600 MS points, we still need some convincing it was not just some marketing talk.
Visually and technically speaking, the game remains the yardstick it was when it was released and it even looks sharper somehow. Rockstar added a grainy filter that not only gives the game a very cinematic touch but also makes some of the visual flaws less obvious. The artistic direction has also been tweaked a little so as to fit perfectly with the biker mood and we thought it looked great.
The Lost and Damned may not bring that much more to GTA IV but it will undoubtedly please all those who just needed an excuse to go back to Liberty City and have some more fun there. We aren’t quite convinced yet about the new characters’ charisma but hey, coming after Niko Bellik is no easy task.