Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City (360)

By Steven Marsh

Published on Thursday, November 26, 2009

Graphics: 9.00
Sound: 8.50
Gameplay: 9.00
Replays: 8.00
Gamelength: 7.00

“Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City” is perhaps the best collection of specific game add-ons for the Xbox 360 so far.

When the original “Grand Theft Auto 4” game dropped, it broke records. At the time, it was the star of the show. Even though the popularity of the game has dwindled since then, Rockstar’s new episodic content keeps people coming back for more time and time again. With the release of the second episode, this disc version was put on store shelves all over the place. Those of you who have rid yourselves of the original GTA 4 game disc will be happy to know that this is indeed a standalone collection and can be played without the original disc. That said, it’s time to hop aboard a plane and head on out to Liberty City for our review of “Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City.”

As expected, the visual quality of both new episodes is on par with the original “Grand Theft Auto 4.” Of course, this means that there are no noticeable graphical enhancements, but that’s totally fine, given how wonderful this game already looks. High amounts of realism are visible in every part of this sprawling city, including some of the most realistic character models for the Xbox 360 console. To sweeten things up even more, the lighting, shadows and weather effects are all as good as it gets.

As usual, the audio stands out as an important part of the game.

In “The Lost And The Damned”, a high intensity rock soundtrack floods the radio, cutscenes and just about every other part of the game. Of course, there’s also a few new tracks of other genres and some more miscellaneous radio content to look forward to. In this particular episode, the voice acting ranges from just okay to fantastic, which seems to be a step backwards for the series as a whole.

In “The Ballad Of Gay Tony”, there’s a lot more radio content geared towards fans of club music, but of course there’s a brand new treat for owners of the disc version of the new episodes. The new radio station, appropriately titled “Vice FM”, is a tribute to the old Vice City radio content. As for the voice acting, it’s much better by comparison to “The Lost And The Damned”, although there are a handful of iffy spots.

Now it’s time for the most important part: The new content.

Both of these episodes add new missions, but there’s not a whole lot of new replayable content. The replayable content is pretty much limited to new multiplayer content, which is all fairly cool, but of course, the same old free roaming destruction is possible, for the most part. The new missions, however, are the star of the show in both cases.

“The Lost And The Damned” chronicles the rise of Johnny Klebitz. The missions are all generally the same idea as everything in the past, with chase scenes, run and gun objectives and everything else that the series has been known for. There are no truly difficult missions and this episode is rather short, but there’s a lot of personality in the members of The Lost. Additions in this episode include new weapons, new motorcycles, gang wars and new safe houses. Multiplayer additions include various motorcycle-themed modes, including races, “Witness Protection” and “Club Business”, among other things.

“The Ballad Of Gay Tony” features Luis Fernando Lopez and tells a much darker and more emotional tale. As the bodyguard of Anthony “Gay Tony” Price, a whole lot of stuff goes down. This is one story that truly keeps you guessing. You never know who’s good, bad or even simply crooked. In my opinion, this is by far the best story in the entire series to date. Still, much like the rest of the GTA4 game model, the missions are generally the same idea, with not much difficulty. There are a small handful of potentially challenging missions, but there’s nothing that will force most players to replay the game over and over. Additions in this episode include new weapons, new vehicles, parachute activities, new minigames and a “Fight Club” style underground tournament series. New multiplayer additions include several updated versions of original GTA4 modes, as well as competitive base jumping activities.

Overall, while the core gameplay remains the same as GTA4, the new areas of Liberty City and the new characters really bring the world to life all over again.

Pros:
+Beautiful graphics.
+Plenty of new weapons and vehicles.
+”The Ballad Of Gay Tony” has a fantastic story.
+New multiplayer modes add a bit of replay value to sweeten the whole deal.

Cons:
-None of the missions are truly new experiences for series veterans.
-A lot more could have been done with the multiplayer content in both cases.

Bottom line:
If you like GTA, you’ll like this collection. If you like GTA4 in particular, you’ll like these episodes even more. Otherwise, it’s still GTA at it’s core. Stay away from this if you’re not into the whole GTA game design.

Overall Rating: 8.50

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