You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned

Rockstar takes this in an exciting new direction, creating a fresh story and cast for an existing backdrop, and bringing with it a host of improvements.

Downloadable content for videogames has traditionally consisted of new missions or levels that simply expand the experience. Rockstar takes this in an exciting new direction with “Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned,” creating a fresh story and cast for an existing backdrop, and bringing with it a host of improvements. The effort is a major success in the areas of animation and characterization. However, “The Lost and Damned” is also a structural mess, with elements awkwardly borrowed from “GTA IV” and a story that never gels, resulting in an experience that will leave fans a bit unsatisfied.

The creative minds at Rockstar have never been shy to admit their cinematic influences, and they have drawn heavily — often explicitly — from the best crime dramas. Their intentions with “The Lost and Damned” are different. As even the fonts scream, this game is a Western, with an aging motorcycle gang standing in for a frontier town obsessed with honor and vengeance.

Unlike previous “GTA” protags, most of whom have been hustlers making their way in the big city, Johnny Klebitz is the last of a dying breed — and the very idea of a motorcycle gang in 2009 is openly mocked. Rockstar exceeds its own high standards with the characters here, playing on tropes without relying on stereotypes.

Johnny is an aging but not yet bitter believer in the ethos of the Lost, best summed up at one point as: “Life is pain, and through this life, through this brotherhood, we can give pain the finger.” He’s beset  by problems including a former gang president fresh out of jail and a drug-addicted ex-girlfriend he just can’t quit. The characterization is helped by solid voice acting and expressive animation that far outdoes the stiff movements in “GTA IV.”

Yet while “The Lost and Damned” sets things up precisely and ends with a poignant epilogue, there’s not a well-thought-out arc in between. Much like protag Niko Bellic in “GTA IV,” Johnny ping-pongs between amusingly unsavory types — some borrowed from the previous game — doing dirty work in an effort to survive. Though most of these missions are well designed — a police chase while shooting from the back of a motorcycle is particularly exciting — they’re similar to what players have seen before, and they don’t fit as well here.

Niko was a war-damaged sociopath who’d kill almost anyone for a buck and repeatedly faces consequences for his moral choices. But Johnny, introduced as a conservative voice in his gang, just doesn’t seem like the type who’d blow away dozens of cops because it suits his interests.

Furthermore, many of the missions have no real relevance to the story or themes. There’s a distinct sense that players are just marking time until the inevitable showdown with the gang’s ex-president. When it finally comes, it’s not a faceoff but a hugely unsatisfying bloodbath that doesn’t fit the characters or effectively tie into the game’s themes.

Nonetheless, for fans of open-world action, there’s still nothing better than “GTA.” While it’s primarily a follow-up to “IV,” with the same setting and gameplay mechanics, “The Lost and Damned” shakes things up by putting players on a bike, which makes them nimble but more vulnerable. In addition, as part of a gang, Johnny can call on backup for many of his missions; they often help by setting smart traps, rather than just riding in, guns a-blazin’. And there are numerous new elements that perfectly fit the game, from songs such as Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” on the radio to new multiplayer modes designed around motorcycles and gangs.

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned

Production: A Rockstar presentation of a game developed by Rockstar North for the Xbox 360. Rated M. $20

More Digital

  • Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his Night

    ‘How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, DreamWorks Animation claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.” Ads placed for the fantasy film had an estimated media value [...]

  • ‘Tomorrow and Thereafter,’ ‘Diane Has the

    MyFrenchFilmFestival Prizes ‘Tomorrow and Thereafter,’ ‘Diane Has the Right Shape’

    Actress-director Noémie Lvovsky’s “Tomorrow And Thereafter,” a heartfelt homage to the director’s own mother, and Fabien Gorgeart’s “Diane Has the Right Shape,” about one woman’s surrogate motherhood, both won big at the 2019 UniFrance MyFrenchFilmFestival which skewed female in its winners and viewership, making particularly notable inroads into South East Asia and Latin America. Opening [...]

  • soundcloud-logo

    SoundCloud Launches Tool to Distribute Music to Other Streaming Services

    SoundCloud today announced a new distribution tool that enables artists to distribute their music to other streaming services. The feature, currently in open beta the service’s Pro and Pro Unlimited platforms, means that artists can upload their music to SoundCloud competitors including Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify and Instagram. “Creators using the SoundCloud Premier distribution feature keep [...]

  • Alison Meyer - Whistle

    Whistle Taps Refinery29's Alison Meyer as VP of Marketing

    Whistle has hired Alison Meyer, previously with female-focused Refinery29, to head up brand-marketing solutions for the male-centric digital media player. As VP of marketing at New York-based Whistle, Meyer will lead partnership marketing for the company’s slate of original programming and branded content. She reports to Whistle president and COO Michael Cohen. Meyer’s appointment comes on [...]

  • Snapchat - NHL Highlights

    Snapchat Expands NHL Pact to Add Hockey Highlights, Curated Stories

    Snapchat is adding more action from the ice under a new multiyear deal with the National Hockey League. The NHL, in association with Disney Streaming Services, is delivering a new weekly highlights show on Snapchat recapping the top 10 plays of the previous week and will produce Curated Our Stories on the platform for select games [...]

  • Hulu Adds Another Interactive Ad: This

    Hulu Adds Another Interactive Ad: This One Lets You Get Offers Via Email

    Hulu lets its subscribers choose the show they want to see. Now the video-streaming service is increasingly letting users choose to respond to certain commercials right away. A commercial from Sleep Number, the manufacturer of the bed with an adjustable mattress, that has run on Hulu for the past several weeks allows viewers to request [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content