We've had a mixed bag as far as DLC goes, with developers struggling to find the right balance between content and price. The early DLC more or less focussed on small additions, like new characters or costumes, but more recently new levels and multiplayer maps have been growing in popularity. For around 800 Microsoft Points we've generally received two to three hours of new content, but Rockstar has completely rewritten the rule book.
The Lost and Damned, a new story-driven campaign for GTA 4, will take most people longer to work through than the campaigns of Call of Duty 4 and Call of Duty: World at War combined - all from some new content that costs less than £15. On top of this new episode Rockstar has added to the multiplayer component, included a bunch of new tracks for the in-game radio stations, and even freshened up the TV stations. DLC as we know it has changed forever.
Rather than returning to the life of GTA 4's Niko Bellic, The Lost and Damned casts you as biker Johnny Klebitz, vice president of Liberty City's motorcycle gang The Lost. At the start of the game you cruise through the streets of Liberty City with your gang before meeting up with president and all round nut job Billy Grey. He's spent a considerable amount if time in rehab, during which Johnny has run things. On his return things understandably get a little heated as Billy takes over command and asks Johnny to do some things he's not all that willing to do.
That's more or less all the detail we want to go into regarding the story, because how it unfolds is key to the enjoyment you'll get from the episode. What we will say is that Rockstar has quite brilliantly integrated the new storyline into that of GTA 4, with numerous crossovers with significant moments in last year's game, returning characters and more. While The Lost only played a relatively small part in GTA 4, with Johnny making more appearances than the other members, those of you who finished the game will know that he's a fairly significant character. What goes on here fits pretty seamlessly into the overall story (although why the city is free to roam from the off isn't explained) and gives you a lot more background info on Johnny as a character.
In terms of how The Lost and Damned plays, aside from your improved motorcycle which corners far better than those in GTA 4, it's more or less business as usual. There are a handful of new weapons, including the quite brilliant grenade launcher, automatic pistol and automatic shotgun, and Johnny seems a little tougher to kill than Niko, but the big difference comes from your gang. Many missions see you fighting alongside other members of The Lost (you can call a few of them up for assistance), who can increase their battle readiness by fighting alongside you. It's a basic form of levelling up, but gives you more of a sense of being part of a gang and not just teaming up with throwaway NPCs.
Something that's likely to be a bit hit and miss is the implementation of formation riding. When travelling from location to location with your gang you're able to ride over a gang emblem to replenish health, as a reward for keeping your bike in the right place within the gang. Staying on the emblem for long enough isn't all that hard, but trying to ride alongside NPC riders is very tricky indeed. The main problem is that when you're following someone to a destination you don't know which direction they're going to turn until the last minute, causing your bike to either come to a screeching halt or an ill-advised sharp turn into whoever is riding next to you.
Rider AI gets a thorough workout here and often falls some way short of the quality the game demonstrates in almost every other area. Other riders tend to react to things too late, pay no attention to other vehicles that might be blocking their path and frequently mount the curb - something that stood out as something of an oversight during the otherwise impressive opening cutscene.