Whereas GTA 4 had to introduce you to the gameplay mechanics, the city and the characters, Rockstar has more or less assumed that players of The Lost and Damned will have already sunk hours into the game. This has allowed them to bypass the usual quiet beginnings of a full game, instead jumping straight in with the all-action missions. There are still a few generic fetch/delivery missions, but for the most part you'll be blasting members of rival gangs or taking on cops. There's even a series of turf war shoot outs, similar to those seen in the Saints Row games, adding some very enjoyable padding to the story and giving you a chance to level up your gang members. If you're into these kinds of things there are also a few new mini-games, although we'd recommend you avoid the table hockey.
One concern we had about the GTA 4 DLC leading up to release is how Rockstar would make the content feel fresh, considering most buyers of the content would have already spent a long, long time driving around the city streets. The answer seems to have been to set lots of the missions in fairly underused parts of Liberty City. No doubt there'll be complaints levelled at the fact that you don't get a new island or suburb to explore, but this isn't a sequel, it's a very reasonably priced extension to the original game.
Something we didn't expect was to be blown away by the visuals, but having not played GTA 4 for a while, going back to it made us realise just how much of a technical marvel it is. The frame rate and pop in issues are still present, but the city is created so brilliantly that these problems soon fade into the distance. Unlike other open-city games, in GTA 4 you get a real sense of the city being alive - whether it's just a guy selling hotdogs on the street or NPCs getting into random fights. Rockstar has included a new grain filter, which is on by default. To our eyes this added to the atmosphere really well, but it can be turned off if it's not to your taste.
Storytelling in The Lost and Damned is also of an exceedingly high standard, with Rockstar once again showing the rest of the industry how it should be done. While we prefer Niko over Johnny as a leading character, the quality of acting here is top notch, perhaps even better than it was in the original, and the tension within the gang is portrayed exceedingly well.
The additions to the soundtrack are superb, the new content on the TV is brilliant and there's even a new comedian performing at the comedy club, although probably not as well known as Ricky Gervais. On top of this there are numerous new multiplayer modes, including what we can only describe as online multiplayer Road Rash, complete with baseball bats. We have to admit that we fell out of love with GTA 4's multiplayer much quicker than we expected we would, but we predict many nights wasted playing The Lost and Damned's new modes.
The Lost and Damned would be worth buying as a stand alone game, so as a sub £15 priced download it's an essential purchase. Had we felt as attached to the main characters as we were to those in GTA 4 we might have been looking at another 10, but Rockstar has still changed what we expect from downloadable content.