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May 1, 2010
Grand Theft Auto IV: Episodes From Liberty City - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
16/4/2010ROckstarRockstarRockstar North12-16
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Visually Episodes from Liberty City is nigh on identical technically to GTAIV.
When Xbox360 downloadable content (DLC) was announced over a year ago for the brilliant Grand Theft Auto IV, there was no word of it appearing on the PS3; something which saddened many-a-PS3 gamer. One thing which was odd however was that Rockstar never publicly said that the game wouldn't be making an appearance on the PS3; which gave hopefuls like myself the slightest glimmer of hope that one day it might make an appearance on Sony's platform. Fast forward to the end of January 2010, and with a single press release from Rockstar Games they brought truth to the old adage "Good things come to those who wait". Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City is the name of the game, where Rockstar have bundled up their two downloadable episodes for Grand Theft Auto IV into a standalone title.

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Characters in GTAIV are fantastic.
Now this is where people begin to scratch their heads for a moment; "It's downloadable content for a game, where the original isn't even required... how does that work?". Well, while GTA: EFLC may consist of previously-downloadable content, it is now a single disc with two stand-alone games that exist in the same Liberty City we've come to know and love. So there's no install-to-hard-drive option, and you don't require the original GTAIV game at all; while this may be a blessing to those (crazy) people who are yet to own it, at the same time it means that none of the missions and extras which you may have already unlocked with Niko are available to you.

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Jumping back into Liberty City.
"The Lost and the Damned" is the first of the two new episodes, with quite a dark and gritty theme to it; placing you in the shoes of Johnny Klebitz, the Vice President of Liberty City's chapter of the motorcycle gang "The Lost Motorcycle Club". The gang's president, Billy Gray, has just been released from a year-long stint in rehab, and is eager to get back to his past ways of violence and chaos, while Johnny (who has been acting president in Billy's absence) has more level-headed intentions. Their conflicting attitudes begin to cause a rift within the gang, which unfolds as the game progresses, presenting missions that focus primarily on gunfights, fire-bombings, killing and mayhem.

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Yes, these are indeed in-game visuals.
The second episode is entitled "The Ballad of Gay Tony", and rather than enacting the role of Gay Tony, you play as his bodyguard and right-hand man Luis Lopez. Tony owns several nightclubs and as such is one of the eccentric highlights of the Liberty City nightlife scene. Of course mo' money only leads to more problems, and Tony's expensive drug habits coupled with outstanding loans drives the storyline as Lois tries to keep Tony afloat. In contrast to The Lost and the Damned, The Ballad of Gay Tony's missions are more glitzy, crazy and out-there, with several taking inspiration from GTA: San Andreas by being parachute-equipped!

While GTA: EFLC is friendly to both newbies to Grand Theft Auto and veterans alike, past players of GTAIV will get extra laughs out of EFLC's stories as they cross paths not only with each other, but also with Niko's adventures in GTAIV. For instance, Lois' introduction occurs as he's lying on the floor of a bank, while being held up by Niko and the Irish mob, while Niko makes a cameo in one of the Lost and the Damned missions. It's a small thing, but it's these little finishing touches and hat-tipping to players of earlier games which Rockstar do oh so well.

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One major multiplayer shootout in GTAIV!
Built upon the engine of GTA IV, Episode from Liberty City's gameplay is virtually identical, save for a few tweaks which have been added for this expansion. Given the motorcycle-focus of Lost and the Damned (including the task of riding in formation), the erratic bike-handling of GTA IV has thankfully been improved, almost to the level where falling off your bike is a challenge (it's a shame the Harley-like bikes have a turning circle like a block of flats though). Also, mid-mission checkpoints are a new addition which allows you to restart missions from key point(s) mid-way through in the event you get busted, die, or fail the mission. It's a very thankful addition which removes much of the frustration associated with tough-as-nails missions in the past.

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A massive motorbike jump.
A more feature-laden upgrade from GTA IV found only in "The Ballad of Gay Tony" is a post-mission summary of how you performed; this includes mission play-time, accuracy, headshots, remaining health, car damage etc. Meeting all the predefined targets for a mission will enable you to tick extra checkboxes and earn 100% for the mission for bragging rights; which is a big plus for replayability. Following completion of the story mode you also have the ability to replay individual missions at will. In earlier Grand Theft Auto titles I've been guilty of keeping a dozen or so save games at various points in the game to achieve this very feature, so hopefully this feature will put an end to save-hoarders like myself.

Aside from these updates, there are also the 'standard' upgrades from GTA IV that one would come to expect from GTA: EFLC; namely weapons and cars. Aside from biker motorcycles, new helicopters and sports cars play recurring appearances throughout the game, as well as the aforementioned parachute. New weapons offered include sticky bombs and pipe bombs, as well as a tommy-gun style automatic shotgun, the P90 and a grenade launcher; while none of them stand out as being especially memorable, they all fit in with the existing weapons nicely.

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Multiplayer in Liberty City is intense.
As great as GTA: EFLC is, its biggest problem seems to be confusion between being either an expansion pack, or a stand-alone game in its own right. Initially this is apparent when starting a new game; the first mission teaches you the basics such as walking, entering vehicles, driving cars etc assuming no prior GTA experience; yet it oddly glosses over other important skills, like where to gain health and weapons and the role of spray shops. This confusion then comes to a peak at the end of the game, where you then may want to set out to kill the 50 seagulls (the pigeon equivalent from GTA IV) spread across the 3 islands, only to find that you have to spend 5 minutes returning to your solitary safe-house because that's the only place you can save. So while the game may be ideal for playing through the story mode, revisiting it for a random screw-around or seagull-hunt (which was a strong point of GTA IV) just isn't feasible anymore.

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Under the bridge in Liberty City.
While Rockstar have thankfully brought back the zaniness (and parachute!) that people loved so much from GTA: San Andreas, they have also brought back that horrendous "friends" side-quest from GTA IV. If players aren't doing the bowling/darts/drinking activities because they don't want to, then why would you force them to do it purely for the sake of befriending an NPC?

As mentioned earlier, because GTA: EFLC is built upon the GTA IV game, they look and sound pretty much identical (i.e. they're mighty sexy to both look at and listen to), so the Grand Theft Auto IV review makes for good reading if you seek more detail on this. The radio stations have been re-worked however, with one of the most surprising additions being John Farnham's "You're the Voice"; even if he were the last remaining artist on earth I wouldn't have ever envisaged Whispering Jack singing away while I mow down innocents in a drive-by attack on a rival bikie gang.

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Counting all the cash...
I began playing Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City with an eager outlook, and while it hasn't been exactly what you'd expect from an expansion, it's still a fantastic extension to Niko's storyline in Liberty City. Given that the storyline is over 20 hours long by itself (plus multiplayer), and the game is priced competitively by retailing at $70, it really is a no-brainer to pick this one up to get lost one more time in Liberty City. And not only is GTA: EFLC a successful example of how to do DLC, it'll be interesting to see what Rockstar learn from this, and carry through, for Red Dead Redemption and future Grand Theft Auto titles.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

GRAPHICSThe size and scale of the city is impressive, some small glitches.
SOUNDGreat radio stations, great speech, great audio overall...
GAMEPLAYFun, accessible and rewarding, with great contrast between the two episodes.
VALUE20+ hours for single player, but little value after that. Great multiplayer.
OVERALLWhile GTA: EFLC may not be the perfect example of how DLC can be added to a game (or in this case, bundled separately altogether), it sets the bar high for similar titles, and is a must-have title for both GTA fans and those meaning to find out what everyone's been raving about.

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