Grand Theft Auto IV: Episodes From Liberty City - Cheat Happens Game Review
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Grand Theft Auto IV:
Episodes From Liberty City

PC, Playstation 3, XBox 360

Reviewed on: PC

Developer:
Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Rated: "M" for Mature


CHEATfactor Game Review
by Joe Sinicki

   
   
   
Audio/Visual: 6
Gameplay: 5
Lasting Appeal: 5
Overall: 6
   
CHEATfactor: 6
   
     

Let’s skip the formalities in this review shall we? You’ve already played Grand Theft Auto IV. You’ve already stolen your fair share of cars, ran over enough pedestrians and partaken in a few of the…ahem…pleasures that nights in Liberty City has to offer. No, the question when reviewing a game like Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City isn’t one of the source material – it’s if the new content adds to the experience at all. And it does – to an extent.

Episodes from Liberty City is unquestionably fun, but as there was when the games launched as separate episodic content on the Xbox 360, there’s a clear divide of quality between the two games.  While The Lost and the Damned comes off as predictable and by the numbers at times, the real jewel of the package is The Ballad of Gay Tony which could be the best content the series has ever seen.

The formula for Grand Theft Auto games has long been the same, you start off as a lowly no name and through a series of illegal activities and “favors” you work your way to the top. The Ballad of Gay Tony changes the equation and thrusts you into a story that involves Liberty City’s upper echelon. It may not seem like much, but it makes The Ballad of Gay Tony seem incredibly fresh. It’s particularly nice to start a game not in the slums, but in Star Junction (Liberty City’s version of Times Square).

"...there’s no shortage of interesting characters asking you to carry out missions for them."

 
   

In The Ballad of Gay Tony, you play not as the titular character, but as his business partner ally Luis Lopez. Luis is a loyal and hardworking “problem solver” for his boss Tony “Gay Tony” Price – one of Liberty’s hottest nightclub owners. From the beginning you’ll notice that Luis is a great protagonist – sure he seems to like killing people for money and does a lot of really bad things, but he’s doing so to ensure a better life for himself following a stint in prison for drug trafficking. While most of the game centers on Gay Tony; this is after all a Grand Theft Auto game and there’s no shortage of interesting characters asking you to carry out missions for them. A few are a bit eccentric, but you never get the sense that they’re cartoony – these could all be real people in any major city in the United States. Keep an eye out in particular for the son of an Arab millionaire and a few childhood friends who always keep life interesting. But who am I kidding? This is Grand Theft Auto! You want to blow some serious stuff up! And you shall; The Ballad of Gay Tony is no slouch when it comes to the destruction and devastation the series has become known for.

The main reason? There’s an added emphasis on tanks in this one. Yeah, let that one sink in. The game encourages you to use tanks more. There are also a slew of new weapons at your disposal including a new shotgun which fires exploding shells, sticky bombs and an advanced sniper rifle. The main story in the DLC should take most gamers between ten and twelve hours to complete. The missions, for what it’s worth tend to be a bit more varied than the original GTA IV disc and The Lost and The Damned. You’ll be doing everything from cage fighting; to skydiving and even playing golf and in a nice touch you’ll be able to experience a number of missions from the earlier GTA games from a different perspective. When you take a step back, the game feels like a Quentin Tarantino movie with the intertwining stories.

It’s not that the game’s other episode; The Lost and the Damned is bad, in fact – it can be quite fun, it’s just showing its age. Though they’re released here together (and in later incarnations for the PS3 and Xbox 360), there was a near 8 month gap between the two episodes and as a result it doesn’t feel like it’s as much of a complete package as The Ballad of Gay Tony.

"...rumbling down the streets of Liberty in your custom bikes is an awesome feeling..."

 
   

In The Lost and The Damned, you assume the role of Johnny Klebitz, a well-established member of the Lost biker gang.  Klebitz has been disagreeing with the Lost’s leader Billy Grey a lot lately; mostly on whether war with rival biker gang The Angels of Death is necessary. Even though Klebitz isn’t that much of a likeable protagonist (another reason it seems like a lesser game than its counterpart) what’s really cool about a lot of the missions in The Lost and The Damned is that you really care about your fellow gang members. You’ll travel in packs (rumbling down the streets of Liberty in your custom bikes is an awesome feeling) and you’ll cover each other in battle; though you’ll be doing most of the killing.

Since you’ll be doing so much time racing around on motorcycles in The Lost and the Damned, the game gives players the ability to shoot while riding on a hog, an ability that was missing in GTA IV. Another new feature the episode implemented (which was carried over into The Ballad of Gay Tony) is the new checkpoint system used for missions.  How many times in past GTA games were you almost done with a mission only to die right at the end, resulting in you having to do the whole thing over? Thanks to the new system, when you reach points in certain missions, you’ll be able to pick off from that point rather than the beginning. It’s a great addition, and makes you wonder why it hasn’t been in a GTA game before.

The true problem with both episodes is keeping them looking decent without dropping the framerate. Of course, much like GTA IV before it, Episodes from Liberty City looks great – if you have the right setup. Sadly, you’ll find that if you try to play with all your settings turned on high, you’re going to be forced to deal with a horrid framerate. Though it still did suffer from a bit of framerate problems, the game seemed to play loads better with the settings turned to medium.

If you’ve played through Grand Theft Auto IV, and haven’t experienced the follow-up Episodes from Liberty City, you’re missing a very big piece of the sandbox puzzle.  Framerate and originality problems aside, the collection has everything fans of the series love, and pundits love to hate. 

 

CHEATfactor

CHEATS USED: Unlimited Health, Ammo, Stamina, Add Money

One thing I’ve always loved about the Grand Theft Auto series is that the developers embrace putting cheats into their games perhaps better than any modern developer.  When using the cheats, the goal becomes less about furthering the story, but more about seeing just how much havoc you can cause in your sandbox city.

There are of course the cheats found within the original game – seriously, how can you NOT love spawning a chopper in the middle of a busy street, then proceeding to fly up to a building and pulling out your sniper rifle?  Then there is the Cheat Happens trainer, which adds an entire new level of cheats to the mix. You’ll have access to unlimited health, ammo and stamina, not to mention the ability to get more money whenever you want it.

 

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