Both GTA 4 DLC episodes, The Lost And Damned and The Ballad Of Gay Tony, crashed on to the Xbox 360 last year, but only now can PS3 and PC gamers join in on the fun. With Grand Theft Auto 4 almost past its second birthday, is Liberty City starting to show its cracks, or does Rockstar’s tried and tested free roam formula still work? We fired up the ol’ PlayStation 3 to find out: read on and we’ll reveal all in our full GTA 4 DLC review for PS3.
If you’ve played through the GTA 4 DLC on the Xbox 360 already, move along, there’s nothing to see here – other than a perfect port. It’s a solid conversion, right down to the motion control support for the PS3’s Sixaxis controller. Both parts, The Lost And Damned, and The Ballad Of Gay Tony, dish out a top notch storyline that casts a new light on the Grand Theft Auto 4 Liberty City setting, with the same carjack, cruise and kill routine Rockstar’s already mastered. The former has you playing as Johnny Klebitz, a biker who slowly begins to feud with his former mentor and gang leader when he’s released from rehab, while the latter has you take on the role of Luis Lopez, a nightclub owner with a sideline in murdering people and skydiving.
The basic game mechanics and controls in the GTA 4 DLC have changed little from the original and in the conversion to the PS3: only as much the new storylines allow, with the odd new weapon that makes a different noise while splattering someone. Otherwise, all you’ll have to get used to are some new colours in the menus, and more (excellent) multiplayer modes to roll through. If you got hooked exploring the vast city as Niko Bellic the first time round, you’re bound to again.
While fans of the series will find the new episodes like slipping on comfortable old clothes though, Liberty City’s starting to fray at the edges in just the same way. GTA 4 DLC first hit Xbox Live more than a year ago, and that in itself was an extension pack for a year old game. Rockstar’s essentially released two add-ons for a 2008 game in 2010, and it’s starting to show. Bends in the road are more hexagonal than circular, and the short draw distance compared to beautiful newer games such as Just Cause 2 makes you wonder if Johnny and Luis shouldn’t crash their car into the nearest opticians. And yet weirdly, the PS3 version still suffers from some major slowdown when the on-screen carnage gets a bit too high octane.
Graphics aren’t everything of course, but sometimes the GTA 4 DLC episodes run close to rehashing the same tired gameplay structure of Grand Theft Auto 4 as well, particularly The Lost And Damned. You may just find yourself rolling your eyes when it turns out it’s time to drive to a building, empty it of gangsters, and drive back, again. Luckily, the addition of mid-mission checkpoints now make this much less of a pain when you die, and while the superior Ballad Of Gay Tony mixes things up with ludicrous vehicles and hijacking escapades, The Lost And Damned simply tries to hide this slightly stale structure by tossing in a few new guns. Rockstar can coast on the sheer addictive nature of the third person controls, the vast setting and its superb storylines, but not for much longer.
As if to make up for this, Rockstar’s being as flexible as possible in selling GTA 4 DLC on the PS3. Both parts can be found on the PlayStation Network for £13.99 each, but can also be snapped up together on an Episodes From Liberty City disc (For PC also) that doesn’t need the original game to play – a smart move that gives any gamers yet to experience GTA 4 no excuse.
We tested both episodes out from the disc, and while lengthy load times on the PS3 haven’t improved from the original GTA 4, the initial PS3 install for both parts is a quick 10 minute job (Around 3GB of hard drive is needed), with a split start screen giving you a large logo for each game to choose from and jump in, so it couldn’t be easier to get underway. Our only major grumble in the porting process is that you have to save over original GTA 4 PS3 saves (If you have any) rather than make fresh ones, and with only 10 slots between both parts, you’re essentially limited to five save slots for each.
We’d have much preferred it had both GTA 4 DLC episodes hit every platform at the same time, but we can’t complain with what’s finally turned up for PS3 and PC. Both parts are fast, fun and for better or worse, familiar. Just the sort of the quick blast that should see you through until Rockstar’s next full game, Red Dead Redemption, rides in to view next month.