It’s been more than two years since Grand Theft Auto 4 came out, and the game is still on everyone’s mind. Not only because of all the hoopla over the high scores it received (I gave it a 9.9), but because it’s spawned some excellent DLC. Lost and the Damned along with the Ballad of Gay Tony have shown that DLC can be much more than costume packs and extra missions. They can be solid games that can rival “full” games. While Microsoft did pay to initially have both DLC exclusive to the Xbox 360, they’ve been released on the PS3 as well.
Lost and the Damned tells the story of a motorcycle "club" called the Lost whose leader, Billy Grey, has returned to the group after years of prison and rehab. You take the role of the second-in-command, known as the Vice President in the group, named Johnny Klebitz. While Billy was away, Johnny took the Lost to a new level in both status and financially in exchange for burying old rivalries with other clubs. Now that Billy's back, there is a big shakeup in the city and it's up to Johnny to either follow the hierarchy of the club or risk no longer being a brother anymore.
The Ballad of Gay Tony takes a similar yet different approach to the typical GTA story. Most GTA stories take you from rags to riches building up an empire and then indulging in the finer life of a big time criminal. The Ballad of Gay Tony goes the route that you're already a balla' living it up on the posh side of Liberty City. Our (anti-)hero for this story is Luis Lopez. Luis is the bodyguard, partner and all around problem solver for Anthony "Gay Tony" Prince. It appears that Gay Tony has done more than his fair share of trying cash checks that he can't afford thus putting him a world of underground activities with all the ugly elements of Liberty City. Being that Gay Tony owns the most popular gay and straight club in Liberty, Luis is already living the good life so there are no petty crimes to start off with or poverty life to work on. You start off rollin' big and the action that follows matches the larger than life experience. Both Lost and the Damn and the Ballad of Gay Tony will have multiple missions where their paths intertwine with each other, and with the protagonist of GTA 4, Niko Bellic.
Common with GTA games is the open-world, sandbox gameplay and like in GTA4, Liberty City is your playground. While controlling Johnny or Luis you have to make your way through the storyline missions that have you kill, steal, destroy and commit almost every other possible crime you can think of. You can always take a break from the story missions to have some fun on the side with the immense amount of side activities available in the city.
Although both games make use of the same GTA4 engine they do have some differences in how the games play. The most notable showing happens in Lost and the Damned, where Johnny and his gang work together in all the various missions. In a sense it plays like a squad-based game because your gang can be given commands during a fight. This game mechanic adds a lot more strategy to the game since you will be facing more enemies.
The Ballad of Gay Tony has more of the “sim-like” aspects of the GTA series. You control multiple businesses, make customers happy, and so on to keep the life of a balla going. There are also plenty of activities that are simply bigger and more exciting than found in the other GTA games including the favorite, base jumping.
For the PS3 release, Rockstar didn’t simply port the 360 version; they’ve added more content in the form of music on the radio, TV shows to watch in your home, and internet content. Subtle improvements have been made to the graphics yet there is hardly anything in particular to take note of.
At the price of $40, Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City is an excellent buy for fans of GTA and fans of sandbox games. Each game has about 10 hours of storyline missions along with the countless amounts of side missions to go with the online multiplayer making the game well worth the money.