The Episodes keep the fun rollin' in Liberty City.
The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony are two fully realized games that can be played and enjoyed without the need to first play the main story of Grand Theft Auto IV. Both episodes take place in Liberty City concurrently with the events of GTA IV.
The Lost and Damned
You play as Johnny, an aging biker who believes in compromise more so than gang wars. However, nothing gets settled and stays settled. Before you know it, Johnny and The Lost are once again wrapped up in the dark seedy side of Liberty City. Missions are varied and fit the motif of a biker gang. Johnny and his biker brothers' criminal activities include but are not limited to settle scores with rival gang members, possession and distribution of drugs and merchandise, and doing illegal favors for politicians.
Between missions and committing crimes, Johnny and his friends can play pool, go out to eat, and visit the strip clubs among other things. The graphics are not as sharp as you might want and the sound effects are somewhat flat. Johnny has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal. They can be found scattered across Liberty City or purchased at the local gun shop.
The Ballad of Gay Tony
In this episode you play as Luis Lopez, an ex-con trying to make good as business partner of Tony Prince and as friends with his two buddies from the neighborhood. Tony owns two of the hottest clubs in Liberty City. Unfortunately, the clubs are having financial problems as of late and it is up to Luis to save the clubs and a way of life in LC.
Right from first look, the graphics in this episode are much more appealing than The Lost and Damned. The weapon availability and gun play are similar in both episodes. Luis' movements are a lot more fluid and realistic.
The missions are way more fun, from sky-diving from a helicopter to jumping through a high-rise business building window and hoping your parachute will open before you hit the ground is just plain fun and exhilarating. Luis has many more skills than Johnny so the amount of activities open up and the missions are quite varied. He can dance, use helicopters in dog fights, and manage Tony's two night clubs.
Johnny, Luis, and Niko from the main GTA IV story will cross paths at some point in Liberty City struggling with their own vices. Even though each story can be a stand-alone game, it is better to play GTA IV first, then Johnny's story, and end with Luis and Tony trying to save the better part of Liberty City.
If you liked GTA IV, purchasing The Episodes will only extend an already great game.