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Friday, July 17, 2009

Grand Theft Auto 4 The Lost and the Damned Free Preview

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For 20 bucks, you're getting a brand new story to play through in the world of Liberty City. Instead of being eastern European badass Niko Bellic, The Lost and the Damned stars Johnny "The Jew" Klebitz (yes, he's actually in The Tribe), the vice president of one of Liberty City's motorcycle clubs, The Lost. Johnny has been in charge of the club while his brother, the club's president, Billy, has been in rehab, and he's done quite a good job. Forming truces with nearby bike gangs and moving away from the drug trade, he's managed to make his gang a safe and profitable establishment. Unfortunately, when Billy comes out of rehab things go a bit south. Hot-tempered and selfish, Billy quickly ruins the truce by blowing away a member from another gang, and from there it's all-out biker gang war. New high-quality cut-scenes and voice acting match the professional level we've come to expect from GTA, and they are spread generously throughout the DLC, making the experience feel on par to Niko's journey.

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Unlike practically every GTA protagonist that came before him, Johnny is not new to the city, not trying to make a name for himself. He's got friends, he's got a hideout and he's well respected. Therefore you won't need to ingratiate yourself to other gang members with mandatory bowling or darts sessions. All of that is still in there from GTA 4, but it's entirely optional. You still have a cell phone, though, and you'll be calling in back-up, gun deliveries and replacement bikes when the need arises, but mostly you're going to be focusing on conquering the 10 to 15 hour long story.

The story is the most compelling bit of The Lost and the Damned. It takes place alongside GTA 4's plot line, so you'll see a lot of crossover, with familiar faces like Ray, Elizabeta and Playboy X. Hell, even Niko is a big part of the game, and you'll play at least one mission with him. If you recall, Johnny was actually a bit part in GTA 4, in the mission where a drug deal turns bad and Playboy and Niko are forced to escape the cops via a series of rooftops. Johnny was at the deal too, and while Niko and Playboy bolt upstairs, you'll head down, playing out the scene in a completely different way.

The developers at Rockstar North really tried to advance the idea of this different perspective, even changing up the overall look of the game. When you load up The Lost and the Damned (selectable from GTA 4's pause menu), you'll notice a few major differences. The HUD and the menu screen have a distressed, almost rusty look. It's subtle, but you'll likely notice it straight away. The screen's also speckled with a film grain filter similar to Mass Effect or Rockstar's own Manhunt. Lastly the developers are tweaking some of the in-game lighting to give the city a slightly different visual vibe from GTA 4. Again it's nothing major, just enough to make you feel like you're seeing everything through new eyes.

Other additions include a handful of new weapons (an auto pistol, an auto shotgun, a grenade launcher, pipe bombs and a sawed-off shotgun) and a ton of new motorcycles. Motorcycles have also been tweaked so that they're much easier to ride and harder to fall off of, which is a welcome improvement that will hopefully make the transition over to the original GTA 4. Unfortunately the new weapons and vehicles won't be making the trip, at least not currently.

The highlight of our hands-on demo was in a mission called "Shifting Weight." After a drug deal goes wrong (yes, it's pretty common in GTA), Johnny is forced to ride bitch on a gang-member's motorcycle as the cops chase you through the streets. You've got no control over the bike, but you can aim and fire your auto shotgun which, conveniently, has unlimited ammo for this mission. The cops throw everything they have at you and you're forced to blast cop cars, SWAT trucks and even choppers

There's a lot more left to be revealed about The Lost and the Damned, ranging from new multiplayer modes to gang member advancement, but we'll definitely be getting another look at the game before it drops in mid February, so stay tuned.

Tags: 360, Action, Adventure, Features, Grand Theft Auto 4, Grand Theft Auto IV, GTA 4: The Lost and the Damned, Hands-On, Preview, Previews, sandbox, Shooters, The Lost and the Damned
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