"You're going to write about your experiences? Wouldn't that time be better spent experiencing?" - Captain Applepants

Well, maybe it would, if it wasn't for the fact that my fingers actually hurt from playing it so much. Despite having been fairly busy with stuff recently I've managed to fit in at least twenty hours of GTA IV's first episodic downloadable content on our 360. Well, Matt's 360.

Weighing in at 1600 funny monies ("MS Points") it cost about £13 and I've got to say, so far I've been impressed. I had been looking forward to the release but not been expecting much. Rockstar have indeed exceeded expectations and released an expansion that not only breathes life into GTA IV (Not that it needed it) but actually expands the scope of the world in a fun and meaningful way.

I'd make the comparison of GTA III and GTA: Liberty City Stories but it'd be unfair as The Lost and Damned isn't a shitty tech demo. This expansion is actually fun to play.

Whilst playing as Niko Bellic was great fun, I essentially avoided motorcycles and spent very little time on the third island of Liberty City (Alderney - paralleling New Jersey, I'm told). So far I've found myself exploring what feels almost like new areas and it's worth noting I've spent a great deal of time in this version of Liberty City as Niko, 72+ hours, in fact.

One of the major changes is the bikes - I can actually ride them quite well when I play as Johnny (Johnny Klebitz, protaganist of TLAD). Johnny doesn't fall off at the slightest bump but also has a much greater number of bikes available to him. I personally prefer the choppers but the Captain seems to favour plastic fantastics (a nickname the game used for them at one point). I like the mass and rumble of the choppers in the game, my current favourite being the Innovation, a bike that becomes available after hunting down all fifty hidden seagulls.

Yeah, GTA IV replaced hidden packages with 200 hidden pigeons, TLAD has its own hidden collectables - 50 seagulls. Thankfully it only took a few hours with a map to hunt them all down, something I couldn't be bothered with in the original game due to the absurdly high amount of the damn things (yes, I know, not as bad as San Andreas..). I was initially disappointed with the reward for the job but after some experience with the Innovation my mind was changed. Without it I couldn't have won the game's races.

What's most concerning is the fact that once I finish the story I'll nearly have 100% completion. A frightening prospect.

What I will say for the game is that it has tougher combat. Whilst Niko faced guys that could be felled with a few carbine rounds, Johnny commonly encounters foes who are 'arder than an armour-plated triceratops. Headshots work, of course but the higher level gang wars result in countless gangsters packing serious heat making mincemeat out of anything that crosses their path. This is probably a good thing though - I found the combat in GTA IV almost too easy much of the time.

In general I would say - if you enjoyed GTA IV, get The Lost and Damned. It has new weapons, new vehicles, fun characters and a decent challenge. It's not too expensive either and hopefully if there's a decent financial response to TLAD then Rockstar will produce more top notch stuff for us to play with.

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