Five Ways to Play The Lost and Damned
Liberty City is a big place. And like most naked cities it has more than a couple stories to tell. The Lost and Damned lets fans of Grand Theft Auto IV revisit their old stomping grounds from the perspective of Johnny Klebitz, second-in-command of the motorcycle gang The Lost Brotherhood. But if you're only diving into this new content to tackle new missions, you may be missing the point. Rockstar games, especially the Grand Theft Auto series, live or die by details -- little moments that add up to something much bigger than the sum of their parts. After spending a week with The Lost and Damned I've isolated a handful of angles that will best help you find, savor, and digest these details. Try approaching the game from these directions.
Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss.
As a disgruntled underling: Most all Grand Theft Auto protagonists share a mistrust of authority. In the case of Johnny Klebitz, he's forced to step down from a leadership position when Billy Grey, the president of the Lost Brotherhood, gets out of the pokey. Klebitz had held the fort by being sensible and shrewd, and keeping his head down. Grey comes out of the joint guns blazing, starting a war with a rival gang. Klebitz disapproves of this balls-out approach and spends much of his energy grumbling about Billy's thoughtless decisions. Being an underling sucks, especially when you know better than your boss. And who among us doesn't know better than our bosses? We all share Johnny's frustrations in our day-to-day lives. The great thing about The Lost and Damned is that it gives us a chance to chafe against leadership. During the first third of the game, players are forced to ride in formation behind Grey, the gang leader. Pull your hog ahead of him and he chews you out. But Klebitz is no bitch. On the way to one mission Klebitz finally gets sick of looking at Billy's tailpipe. "Let's drop the hammer!" he shouts. Now it's a race to the gang's destination. When Klebitz pulls past Grey, he shouts "get behind me!" It's a moment of anarchy and rebellion that taps into frustrations most everyone shares.
Johnny Klebitz: psychopath, hypocrite, mensch.
With an appreciation of the unreliable narrator: A common criticism levied at Grand Theft Auto IV was that Nico Bellic said one thing and did another. He complained that war was terrible, but he used violence and brutality to solve his problems. Johnny Klebitz shares the same character flaw. He's ticked at Billy Grey for starting a gang war, but when it comes time to do missions he kills cops and clips innocent pedestrians. Some say this is an inconsistency in the Grand Theft Auto IV game world. I call it an approach to storytelling as old as time. Johnny Klebitz, like Holden Caulfield and Tony Soprano before him, is an unreliable narrator. We can't entirely trust what he says. He is, after all, a murderous psychopath. Half the fun of playing with a protagonist like Klebitz is to try plumbing his emotional depths -- to push aside the monstrous elements and find the few remaining bits of humanity.
Ashley, like Def Leppard, excels at bringin' on the heartache.
As a jilted lover: The Lost and Damned is the perfect game to play if you've just been dumped -- especially if you've pushed past the hurt and found your angry survivor. Klebitz's former old lady is an ice addict named Ashley. The girl is a mess. We never see her as she was, only as the jittery, addled mess that she is today. And, like all addicts, she swears that she's going to clean up her act. As The Lost and Damned unravels, Ashley continues to disappoint. Each revelation around the girl stings. Johnny, ever the pragmatist, responds to her empty promises with steadfast resistance. He won't be fooled again. Still, as we read Ashley's e-mails and talk to her on the phone, we long for the happy ending that Nico Bellic didn't get. The Lost and Damned's closing message when it comes to love isn't exactly an uplifting one. Don't get your hopes up.
"Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit drinking antifreeze."
As a role-player: There's no rule that says you can't spend all of The Lost and Damned tooling around Liberty City in an Infernus. But eschewing American steel for an imported crotch-rocket or a four-wheel sedan just feels wrong. And Johnny Klebitz will tell you so. Jump in a car for a mission and he'll long, verbally, for his hog. As Nico Bellic I used Liberty City's many cabs to move from mission to mission. In The Lost and Damned it just didn't seem right to let somebody else drive. The same goes for the radio. Nico, as a newcomer to this country, seemed like the kind of guy who might surf the dial, trying to absorb the myriad sounds of America. Klebitz has no time for that kind of crap. When Klebitz was in the saddle, the only tunes I rocked were the classic tunes on Liberty Rock Radio and the aggressive noise on Liberty City Hardcore. When you play The Lost and Damned, try slipping into Klebitz's skin -- it may be your only chance to stop being such a wuss and listen to some metal.
"I know you are but what am I?"
As a completionist: I have unfinished business in Liberty City. Last year I harbored the fantasy that I'd nail the game's 100-percent Achievement and nab one of those nifty keys to Liberty City that Rockstar was handing out. I was stymied by a single pigeon. With 99 of the flying rats under my belt, I gave up. The idea of meticulously scouring the entire landmass of Liberty City for a single bird was daunting. And yet, when I fired up The Lost and Damned I harbored, in the back of my brain, hope that I might bump into my quarry. One night in Alderney I thought my quest was at an end. Thanks to some sloppy driving, Johnny Klebitz's bike flew off a tall overpass, landing atop a warehouse. I carefully dropped off the roof into a space between two buildings. Riding over the ruined railroad tracks, my heart nearly stopped. There in the dark was the orange glow of a bird. I pulled out my pistol and shot the thing, hoping to hear the pop of an Achievement. All was silent. Instead I saw the message, "49 Seagulls remaining in Liberty City." There are a ton of tasks like this in The Lost and Damned. The motorcycle races and gang wars are pretty overt ways to make money. But I like bird-hunting the best, because I'm a sucker for exploration. And because the cops in Grand Theft Auto IV have ears. Every time you discharge your weapon is another chance to tangle with the police. I have 50 such adventures to look forward to.