The Lost and Damned has been somewhat of a mystery thus far, with few concrete details known about the upcoming expansion to Grand Theft Auto IV other than that it would focus on a brand-new protagonist (biker Johnny Klebbitz) and that it would add plenty of content in the form of new music, rides, weapons, and characters. So as you can imagine, we have been keen to find out more and jumped at the chance to roam the streets of Liberty City again when Rockstar opened up its offices to us this week for an early look.
From what we saw at our hands-on session, The Lost and Damned expansion is certainly much more than horse armor or a few extra added missions. Rockstar claims this Xbox 360-exclusive addition features the same attention to detail and production values as the original Grand Theft Auto IV. While we couldn't pin down our local Rockstar rep on exactly how many extra hours of playtime goodness 360 owners can expect, it seems that there will be plenty to do as you explore this new story set in a familiar place. The biggest GTAIV fans will, unsurprisingly, get the most out of The Lost and Damned, with seemingly plenty of nods to Niko Bellic and a difficulty level that presumes from the get-go that you know your way around Liberty City.
Unlike the mostly solitary fish-out-of-water tale that was Niko Bellic's narrative in GTAIV, Johnny's journey in The Lost and Damned is more about brotherhood. So while Niko--a new arrival in Liberty--had to work at getting safe houses and contacts for guns, backup, and cars, Johnny (as a longtime resident of the city) will have all these at his disposal right from the start of the story. Safe houses are where you can interact with your other brothers in the Lost, with new minigames such as arm wrestling and card games joining old favorites like pool. There will be plenty of missions where you'll ride out as part of a pack of Lost, with your brothers helping you out in the tougher firefights. You'll be encouraged to keep your bros alive, and surviving members of your gang will receive a stats boost to their health, accuracy, and damage dealing after each mission. If a Lost member does die, he'll be replaced with a new brother with set-to-zero stats. Simply put, the longer they stay breathing, the more help they'll be. And the attempts to make you feel like a member of a real biker gang don't stop there. When you're riding with your gang, a Lost logo will appear on the road to indicate where you need to be in order to stay in formation. If you stick to the logo, you'll be rewarded with dialogue with your brothers, as well as a small health boost.
Main character Johnny is the second-in-command of the Alderney-based biker gang The Lost, while gang president Billy is serving a stint in rehab. The Lost and Damned begins with the violent and unstable Billy finally making it out of rehab, taking the reins of the gang back from the more profit-oriented Johnny. Billy's first order of business is to shoot a member of rival gang The Angels of Death directly outside the Lost clubhouse, ending the truce Johnny brokered and sparking off a new gang war. The Rockstar rep had control of the demo at this stage, taking Johnny as he and the rest of the Lost got on their hogs to chase down the remaining Angels as they sped away from the clubhouse. It was here that we saw a new weapon--the sawed-off shotgun--which Johnny used one-handed to bring down the Angels. We also saw the first of the new vehicles promised: the Hexer, Johnny's custom-built bike, which is unique in the game. And when we say unique, we mean it--apparently there is no way to recover the bike should it get destroyed during a mission.
We grabbed the controls at this stage and set about walking Johnny around to see how different a character he was to Niko. He certainly acted differently onscreen, exhibiting a unique set of mannerisms from what we were used to with Niko. The first mission we took on was called Action/Reaction, in which Billy ordered the Lost to attack the Angels' clubhouse in retaliation for the supposed murder of a young Lost member (fans of GTAIV, however, will remember that it was actually Niko who capped that biker in the No Love Lost mission). Johnny starts the mission off with a grenade launcher, pegging an explosive through the Angels' clubhouse window to start the pain. Plenty of Angels then stream out of the building, starting a large firefight with the five or so members of the Lost who are acting as backup. After the opposition is cleaned up outside, Billy and Johnny make their way into the clubhouse to finish off the remaining Angels. In the basement, Billy orders another Lost to take the Angels' stash of heroin, prompting Johnny to suspect that revenge was never Billy's motive for the attack.
The next mission we took on once again intertwined with a storyline from GTAIV. If you played the full game, you'll probably recall one mission called Blow Your Cover, where drug queen Elizabeta sent Niko and Playboy X to broker a heroine deal in some abandoned apartments. It seems that the heroine was actually the gear the Lost stole from the Angels, and Johnny hooked up with Niko and Playboy X to try to sell the smack. In The Lost and Damned, you'll play this mission, now called Buyer's Market, from Johnny's point of view. Of course, the deal ends up being a police sting, and while Niko escapes by heading to the rooftops and sneaking away, Johnny decides to go the direct route downstairs and take on the cops. This is, of course, a pretty tough option, because there are plenty of police with heavy armor standing in between Johnny and the Hexer. We're not ashamed to say we found this fight quite tough, but it's going to be a good challenge for experienced GTA veterans..
The final mission we played harked back to the old on-rails shooting challenges of previous GTA games. In the Shifting Weight mission, yet another drug deal goes wrong, and Johnny and Uptown Riders gang members Malcolm and DeSaun have to flee the police. You control Johnny as he rides on the back of Malcolm's motorbike. The Lost gang member is armed with a cool automatic shotgun with unlimited ammo, which is handy given that dozens of police cars are in pursuit. This section was pure fun, with a palpable adrenaline rush as you pound police car after police car (and even two low-swooping police helicopters) with shotgun pellets as you zoom through the city.
From our brief hands-on with The Lost and Damned, it's clear the expansion will feature the same mature narrative, great voice work, and action-packed mayhem of GTAIV. It's especially rewarding to see the intertwining stories of Johnny and Niko play out. We'll have more on The Lost and Damned in the weeks leading up to its release in mid-February, so keep it locked to GameSpot for more information.