Needless to say, a DLC expansion such as the Lost and Damned is quite the change of pace. Last generation, the Grand Theft Auto series reached a new plateau of critical and commercial success with an adventurous and well-done 3D sandbox adventure, and had three iterations — each their own disc-based, full-price game, with their own city, and their own sandbox, with each new title bringing more toys into the mix. This generation, however, Grand Theft Auto IV took things back, stripped things back down to the basics, and shifted the focus from expanding the sandbox to creating a realistic and moving story. Not to mention they spent an obscene amount of time and money creating Liberty City. I know I wasn’t the only one who would’ve been disappointed if Liberty City would have been the home for vanilla-GTA4 alone.
And furthering the post-IV GTA franchise, rather than another $60 title in a new city, is $20 expansion 9 months after the release. The main event in the Lost and Damned is the new story, with a new main character, new missions, and a bunch of additions to the cast. It also adds new vehicles, weapons (including the Assault Shotgun, which is possibly the most fun ever), music and things to do around the city, as well as new multiplayer modes, all retaining the same Liberty City introduced in GTA IV, which definitely had and continues to have more potential as a video game stage. Also, I’m not gonna lie. I like that I don’t have to buy three different $60 GTA games this generation. I think Rockstar really got GTA IV’s Liberty City right, and I know I’d personally be down to play endless episodes in it. Of course, I am a native New Yorker, so I can’t really speak for any collective on that particular extreme.
While I’ve fessed to being rather fond of GTA IV’s representation of my hometown, I’ll also mention another particular aspect of Rockstar’s approach with the Lost and Damned that I’m personally fond of. They used the story of Niko Bellic, a powerful story with a beginning and an end that stands on its own to establish a continuity and a setting (effectively a universe), and are now expanding on what they’ve created through the eyes of other inhabitants. Johnny’s story and Niko’s story have different tones to them, and they definitely show Liberty City in two distinctly different ways.
If I do have one complaint, it’s the price point. I definitely feel like I’ve gotten my $20’s worth, but this is the kind of thing that I think, in a dream world, would be $15. But like I’ve said, I got my $20’s worth, and considering that it’s an experiment, the first of it’s kind, and it’s friggin GTA IV, the highest selling game of the generation, they can charge $5 higher than I would’ve wanted. After all, what’s $5 anyway?
All considered, I think GTA’s new direction works out for everyone. It’s cheaper for Rockstar while allowing them to play to their strengths, cheaper for the consumer, and it was awesome to have a brand new GTA story without having to leave my house. I’m pretty eagerly looking forward to the next episode, and I hope The Lost and Damned was a big enough success that this sort of release model is proven to be viable and is applied to other games.
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