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GTA IV DLC: first impressions

GTA 4′s very first episode of DLC, The Lost And Damned, hits Xbox Live tomorrow, and we’ve managed to tear our attention away from Mobile World Congress long enough to give it a play already – find out what the GTA 4 Lost and Damned is really like after the jump!

We took a joyride down to Rockstar‘s offices last week to spend some quality time with GTA 4: The Lost And Damned, and after wearing out our thumbs blitzing through some of the new missions, all we can say is that it’s been worth the year long wait.

Alright, we can say a bit more than that. Rockstar has pulled it off, mining the same territory once more and coming up with gold again. The Lost And The Damned is GTA 4 all over, yes, but it’s so different that you’d forgive Rockstar even if they badged it up as a complete sequel.

For the uninitiated, the first episode of GTA IV DLC moves away from the East European underworld to Liberty City’s biker gangs. You play Johnny, the level headed acting leader of The Lost biker gang while livewire, tattooed president Billy is locked up. You’ve negotiated an uneasy truce with rival gang the Angels Of Death, but within minutes of Billy’s return, that pact has been shot to pieces. Literally.

Since Lost and Damned is DLC and not a whole new game, players are thrown in straight at the deep end. Your contacts book is already full, and just a few missions in and you’re destroying a rival gang clubhouse with the all new grenade launcher and killing hordes of leather clad bikers (surprisingly for Rockstar, this isn’t played up too camp), so there’s no unnecessary learning curve.

Controls are exactly the same as before, though Rockstar has tweaked the bike controls to make it slightly easier to steer – and since Johnny has his own exclusive Hexer bike, you’ll be using them a lot.

So what else is new? Well, there are plenty more weapons to choose from, including what we’d imagine would be the perfect weapon for bikers: the sawn off shotgun. As you’d expect, it’s terrible from a distance but stroll into a building and you’ll clear it out with just a few shots, and you can fire it from a bike now too.

Even better though is the game’s biggest, baddest ass new gun: the auto-shotgun. We took it for a ride on one of The Lost And Damned’s final missions, a rollicking, riotious rail shooter familiar to anyone who’s played GTA: San Andreas. It’s pretty much what it says it is: an absurd gun that annihilates everything from pedestrians to helicopters without the hassle of re-loading.

Size-wise, Rockstar has pulled off an amazing feat. Yes, it is the same Liberty city, but there are so many missions, new interiors and new songs (of course, there’s a new heavy metal station on the dial) that it’s hard to believe it was all squeezed into the Xbox Live download limit – Rockstar says it’s 1/3 the size of the original game, which is frankly stunning.

It isn’t a sequel though, and it plays on the GTA 4 universe by bringing you back to some of the same locations and even the same characters – it’s not spoiling anything to say that you’ll run into Niko more than once on your travels.

The Lost And Damned is out tomorrow to download on Xbox Live and while we haven’t had chance to blitz all the way through just yet, it’s already proof that DLC can really, truly add to a game, rather than feel like a cheap cash in. Stay tuned for plenty more on GTA in the next few days, and check out some of the screens below.

Out Tomorrow | 1600 Microsoft points | Rockstar

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