When Grand Theft Auto IV released to universal acclaim, apart from some of the obvious improvements everyone would want (more content, more land mass, etc.), it was hard to see how you could improve upon such a striking game without treading old ground, especially if you plan on reusing the same city and setting. Episodes From Liberty City proves that in a city as large and wondrous as Liberty City, anything can happen.


The two expansions on display are Ballad of Gay Tony, and The Lost and Damned, putting you in the shoes of bouncer Luis Fernando Lopez, and outlaw biker Johnny Klebitz respectively. These characters show up several times throughout Grand Theft Auto IV to either aid or hinder Niko Bellic, but here during their own tales Niko is but another easy to forget criminal in a city full of them. The little touches done in showing how their plots intertwine when they so rarely see each other makes me wonder what else was going on and how other characters affected events in the city through actions so small even they couldn’t have seen the consequences. The main plot threads they all seem to share focus on a small stash of diamonds, a bunch of stolen heroin, and the downfall of several of the city’s biggest crime leaders, with story threads that were open in one game, being properly closed in another.


The Lost and Damned focuses on the Alderney chapter of the Lost Brotherhood after club leader Billy Grey is released from prison. This story ends up feeling far grittier and more hopeless than either Luis or Niko’s stories, with betrayal and desperation being the norm for life in the brotherhood. Here the new cast is complimented well by several returning characters, including Ray Boccino and Elizabeta Torres. We get to see them all in a new light, and several great missions have us directly affecting Luis and Niko’s lives, even if they do not know it. Johnny is a very different character from Niko and Luis, from his choice of clothing and weaponry, even to the way he walks as a result of an injured leg and how he chooses to live his life. He doesn’t have a persona outside of his outlaw image, and unless he’s doing something for his brothers he doesn’t care about striking it rich so much as just keeping his club afloat. He’s easily the least sympathetic character of the trio, but is still memorable for the way he tries to care for his friends and even in his hesitance to deal with betrayers despite the bad blood they might have had.


Gameplay wise, The Lost and Damned adds a lot to the table. Bikes now handle much smoother, and most of the game relies on you to drive on them to get from mission to mission with your biker friends. You are rarely along in a gunfight, and even the side missions attempt to work in your buddies for races and gang wars, contrary to the solo outings Niko was involved in when he was on a side mission. The new weapons are a blast, though only a few new ones are added, they change the way you play quite a bit. The new sawn off shotgun lets you fire devastating buckshot right from your bike, while the automatic pistol gives you a nice standby weapon for early on before you gain access to high power assault weapons or the new and powerful automatic shotgun. Unlike Niko, Johnny does have access to various weapons and vehicles right from the start, but the aforementioned business troubles means that players are still going to be hurting for cash at the beginning, and with the relative peace Johnny was in before the events of the game it is somewhat fitting he only carry a couple of good weapons at the start. The campaign lasts around 12-20 hours depending on how much time you focus on side missions, and while it doesn’t feel like a full big new Grand Theft Auto game, it’s damn close right down to the addition of various little details in animation, soundtrack and handling that make it that much more different from Grand Theft Auto IV.



Ballad of Gay Tony introduces us to Luis Lopez and his boss Anthony “Gay Tony” Prince, who runs two of the city’s hottest nightclubs. As a contrast to Niko and Johnny, Luis starts off the game mostly on the straight and narrow after a previous life of crime. He even has a job as a bouncer and club manager players can choose to attend (though since he’s co-owner of the clubs, you only get a few passive aggressive calls from employees if you simply choose to blow them off). The story isn’t as tight or interesting as either Niko’s or Johnny’s, but it manages to close all loose threads and gives us a fantastic array of caricatured characters in a larger than life setting with everything from the menu, to the music and even city itself all being much more flashy than ever before.


As mentioned, Luis starts off already living the high life, but much like with Johnny Klebitz, Luis is experiencing financial troubles of his own and isn’t even particularly close to his childhood friends at the beginning (so you’ll want to hang out with them and help them on their drug missions if you want to get some favors from them). Instead of the array of bikes and grungy weapons in TLAD, here we get some new flashy sports cars and choppers, along with some high powered gear that allow you to mow down opposition. The combat shotgun is my new favorite, with explosive shells allowing you to destroy vehicles easily, while the new magnum pistol and sniper rifle make short work of hard to pin down targets. A couple of new vehicles really sealed the deal on this DLC for me, so to speak, but I’ll keep quiet on them so long time GTA fans can re-enjoy what IV was missing.



Multiplayer wise, only The Lost and Damned really adds anything truly substantial, with several co-op and PvP modes rounding up the experience. New character models, weapons and vehicles all make it to the multiplayer here, as they do in Ballad of Gay Tony’s multiplayer. In BoGT’s online, you only really get the new gear and the ability to now free roam with parachutes, but as far as game modes there isn’t anything new. It’s a little unfortunate that the three games don’t share free roam or modes, since I’d love to have the same consistent character or use the different weapons and gear without being forced into only what each expansion offer individually, but the multiplayer is more icing on the cake than a premium destination.


Overall, Episodes from Liberty City adds a lot of content to the already amazing Grand Theft Auto IV. Issues with GTA IV aren’t any more improved, with the stick cover system and sloppy vehicle handling being particularly annoying after all this time, but if you can forgive those problems and you liked Grand Theft Auto IV, than Episodes is well worth your time.