After putting so much time into last year's stunning Grand Theft Auto IV, I wasn't sure how excited I was to visit the crime-ridden streets of Liberty City again. But like any good vacation, the moment I arrived in town I was immediately won over. Grand Theft Auto IV's first expansion pack, The Lost and Damned, may not include a new city or that many new colorful characters, but it does have a fascinating story that manages to feel different enough to differentiate itself from the past Rockstar Games titles.
You play Johnny Klebitz, a minor character in last year's GTA IV who just so happens to be in a biker gang known as The Lost (he's also the first Jewish protagonist in the Grand Theft Auto universe). Like all of the biker gangs you see in the movies, The Lost is made up of a motley crew of low-lifes, junkies and other assorted criminals. The leader of the gang, Billy Grey, just got out of rehab and is looking to catch up on old times, which involves stealing other people's bikes, starting a few unnecessary gang wars, and smuggling in some hot diamonds. And so your adventure begins.
Seeing as this is a Grand Theft Auto game you can expect to do a lot of errands for Billy. Most of the first half of the game involves you doing your part to cause trouble and take out those who oppose you, in other words you'll be forced to do the same sorts of missions that made this series so popular in the first place. Before long Johnny will start to gain a little power, and you'll suddenly go from taking orders to calling the shots. Veterans of Rockstar Games' popular franchise will no doubt start to recognize some of the cliches in the story, but the game's two dozen missions do tell an interesting story that has a satisfying conclusion.
Although it's hard to tell at first, this expansion pack's story runs concurrent with that of the Grand Theft Auto IV narrative. In fact, some of the most memorable parts of the game involve you interacting with many of GTA IV's color characters. Not only do Elizabeta Torres and Ray Boccino make an appearance, but fans will also be happy to see favorites such as Niko and Roman Bellic show up. While most of the game has you focusing on your own troubles, from time to time you'll end up having to run a mission that involves one of the Bellic boys. One of the missions is pulled directly out of Grand Theft Auto IV, only this time around you see it from Johnny's point of view. It's little moments like this that flesh out the original game's story and make you feel like you're really experiencing something epic.
The truth is, those who weren't especially happy with Grand Theft Auto IV will continue to not be happy with this game. The Lost and Damned doesn't attempt to fix the problems that some gamers had, instead it adds to the experience by giving you context, perspective and sympathy for everybody involved. Johnny isn't as instantly likable as Niko, but by the end of the game you will feel like you've been through something emotional that is bigger than the people involved. This point is hammered home when you start to see how the little things you did in GTA IV affect the characters in The Lost and Damned, and vice versa.
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