Grand Theft Auto IV: Episodes from Liberty City Review
Best enjoyed after beating Grand Theft Auto IV, this great double-pack of episodic content shows you sides of Liberty City you never knew existed.
Parachutes are perhaps the most obvious new feature introduced in The Ballad of Gay Tony, and while there aren't many missions that use them, those that do are definitely some of the episode's best. You can use parachutes outside of story missions as well, and the controls while falling are easy enough to grasp that you'll be hitting the centers of targets, gliding through rings in the air, and landing on moving vehicles in base-jump challenges in no time. Other activities that you're introduced to during Lopez's never-a-dull-moment story include dancing and drinking minigames, hitting golf balls at a driving range, and competing in and betting on cage-fighting tournaments. You're not likely to spend a whole lot of time with any of these optional activities, but they're fun to check out once or twice, and they compare favorably to the arm wrestling, air hockey, and hi-lo-card games introduced in The Lost and Damned.
When you're not trying to progress through one of the episodes' stories or killing time with optional activities, you might like to put your skills to the test online in games that support up to 32 players (up from 16 in the console games). Each episode comes with its own multiplayer modes. The Lost and Damned has seven (detailed in this Xbox 360 multiplayer impressions video), and in addition to the requisite Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Race options, there are some really inventive ones. They include Chopper vs. Chopper, in which a player on a bike has to race through checkpoints while a player in a helicopter gunship tries to stop him, and Witness Protection, which casts one player as a bus driver that a team of police must protect from a team of bikers. Club Business is a lot of fun as well, since it lets you and up to seven other players play as a biker gang and complete missions cooperatively.
The Ballad of Gay Tony, on the other hand, has only four multiplayer modes, and they're all enhanced versions of modes from GTAIV. The Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes benefit from the inclusion of new weapons like sticky bombs, an advanced sniper rifle, and an automatic shotgun with explosive rounds. Meanwhile, Race and GTA Race modes feature new street courses and now give every driver access to a nitrous tank that gradually refills after every boost. This multiplayer content can be a lot of fun if you get in with a good group of people. However, it can be tough to find people playing some of the modes, and it's unfortunate that to move from one episode's modes to the other's you have to go back out to the main menu, load up the other episode, and access the multiplayer options from the in-game cell phone again. A single multiplayer lobby that combines content from GTAIV and both episodes would be much more convenient.
Another caveat with Episodes from Liberty City, other than the fact that The Lost and Damned, while great, is clearly inferior to The Ballad of Gay Tony, is that getting these episodes to run at acceptable frame rates means making some compromises on the visuals. On multiple rigs that exceeded the recommended specs and defaulted to a mixture of high and very high graphics settings, we had to knock everything down to medium to keep the frames per second around 30 in The Ballad of Gay Tony and to prevent dips below 20 in The Lost and Damned--irrespective of whether the latter's visual noise filter was turned on. The episodes still look very good on medium settings, but while the inconsistent frame rates don't hamper the gameplay significantly, they're noticeable enough to be jarring.
Even if you choose to ignore the multiplayer and most of the optional activities and side missions, there's a good 20-plus hours of fun to be had with these episodes. The stories are compelling, the memorable characters are too numerous to mention, and the gameplay is still top-notch. It's unfortunate that PC owners have had to wait so long to get their hands on this content, and even more unfortunate that the episodes don't perform any better on the PC than GTAIV did, but that's certainly no reason for you not to enjoy them.
- Player Reviews: 28
- Game Universe:
- Grand Theft Auto 2 (PS, PC, DC, GBC),
- Grand Theft Auto III (XBOX, PS2, PC, MAC),
- Grand Theft Auto Double Pack (XBOX, PS2),
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PS2, PC, XBOX, MAC),
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, PC, XBOX, MAC),
- Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969 (PS, PC),
- Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (PSP, PS2),
- Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3, X360, PC),
- Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy (PS2, XBOX, MAC),
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (PS2, PSP)