This week, webmasters from five major GTA fan sites were given the opportunity to visit New York City and experience GTA IV: The Lost and Damned first hand. Myself (adamcs), Jevon and illspirit were there to represent GTANet, while Chris was there from TheGTAPlace.com, Psy from GTA4.TV, Zidane and Kodo from GTAGaming.com, and G-WizZ from GTAWH.com. The event was jointly hosted by Rockstar Games and Xbox 360, and took place on Tuesday between 2pm and 6pm at Don Hill's Club in Soho (unfortunately we weren't able to take photos inside the venue - sorry!).
Advertisment for The Lost and Damned on Greene Street.
The UK webmasters (myself, Jevon, Chris and Psy) were flown out a day prior to the event, in order to allow us to adjust to the time difference. We stayed in the swanky Standard Hotel in New York's Meatpacking District, which is built in an H shape over a disused elevated railway, quite similar to the one featured in GTA4. The hotel is brand new (part of it is still under construction) and each room features a mini-bar, peek-a-boo shower, plasma TV and seating area, along with stunning views of the Hudson River and Midtown Manhattan.
On the first day, the UK group did a mini-tour of NYC with one of the guys from Rockstar who is native to the area. First we got some pizza at John's Pizzeria on Bleecker Street, then we walked through Soho and jumped on the subway to Grand Central, and from there we visited The New York Public Library, Bryant Park and Times Square. We received a pretty thorough tour of NYC back in April, so these were mainly things we didn't get the opportunity to see last time.
The next morning, we went for a wander up Broadway to try and kill some time before the event. We met up with the US guys (illspirit, G-WizZ, Zidane and Kodo) after lunchtime and made our way to the venue. When we got there, Rockstar were still busy making final preperations inside, so we didn't get in till around 2.20pm. The atmosphere was terrific inside - it was dark, there was no windows, two motorbikes were parked on the stage, Lost and Damned trailers were playing on an infinite loop on TVs above the bar, an Xbox 360 logo was projected on the wall to our right, and a massive GTA IV logo was illuminated at the back of the club. In the middle of the room there were 8 huge-ass TVs with Xbox 360s hooked up and ready to go.
Outside Don Hill's on Greenwich Street.
We basically started from the beginning, played a few missions, took turns each, and then screwed around with multiplayer for a bit. The game has already been previewed extensively by the gaming media, so it's difficult to think of anything to say which hasn't already been mentioned. Regardless, here are some points which we felt were worth highlighting:
- The 'noise filter' mentioned in recent previews is toggable via the Display menu. The difference it makes is fairly minimal however. It's a bit like Manhunt, only less extreme.
- The radar contains a scratch effect around the edges, giving it a grungy appearance. The health bar is now white as opposed to green, and the font on the radar and option menus has also changed. Billy's missions are indicated by a green 'B' icon on the radar.
- Johnny's phone has a leather case, and the wallpaper is a 'Lost' logo on top of a grey background.
- Gameplay and Environment
- The action is fairly intense from the beginning, because it assumes you've already played/completed Niko's story. We killed at least 20 people during the first few missions.
- The Lost clubhouse is very impressive. It feels massive inside, and there's so much stuff to do there. It contains about three separate levels, and on the ground level there's a bar where you can challenge people to arm wrestle and play card games. It also mentioned something during the tutorial about "paying respect to fallen comrades," whilst the camera was focused on a photo on the wall, but we didn't have enough time to learn what that was about. The clubhouse also contains a QUB3D machine, a television, a roof exit, and a place to save your game (Johnny sleeps on a mattress on the floor, by the way).
- The bikes are easier to control than they are in Niko's story. Turning sharp corners now requires less of an effort, and your character is less likely to fall off when you collide with something.
- The gameplay and the types of features available are similar to those found in Niko's story, so don't expect any wild or radical additions to the game. It's very much more of the same.
- The motorcycle club thing really changes the whole gameplay dynamic. Instead of being one man against the world, it feels as if you're really part of a team. While it's not a true 'squad based' game, per se, having the club back you up on missions adds to the depth and atmosphere. Giving all the crew names, and having their pictures posted on the clubhouse memorial wall if they die, was also a nice touch. Much better than the nameless gangsta clones in San Andreas.
Limited Edition Lost and Damned Xbox 360 Elite Console.
The "Witness Protection" mode is a bit similar to Cops N' Crooks. One member of the cop team must escort three witnesses to police stations in a prison bus, while The Lost team tries to prevent this from happening by destroying the bus (which takes an awful long time to do) or by killing the witness as he leaves the vehicle.
- There is also a manhunt-style mode called "Lone Wolf Biker," where one player is made the target (becomes orange on the radar) and every other player must hunt down and kill him. The target must reach various checkpoints in order to continue scoring points, so hiding in one spot or hiding out at sea probably isn't the best idea. The winner is the target who survives the longest. Once a player becomes the target, he/she is invincible for 10 seconds to allow them to get a head start. Myself, Jev and illspirit agreed that this was the best mode.
- There's also a race mode, a turf wars mode, and a couple of other cool modes, which are detailed in IGN's multiplayer preview. Racing on bikes with baseball bats through the airport provided some hilarious moments.
- The grenade launcher is fun and bouncy, but we didn't feel it was suited to multiplayer. We used it during a game of deathmatch at the Alderney prison, but it's difficult when people are constantly running around. It should be great for taking out those hard-to-reach campers though.
- The pipe bombs are very similar to grenades. The only difference appears to be that you can roll them underneath vehicles.
- Drive-by'ing with the sawed off shotgun is a lot of fun, but you need to get close to your enemy in order for it to be effective. It takes a while to re-load, so if you're chasing someone at high-speed then an SMG is probably more effective. Great for destroying vehicles though (due to its sheer power).
- The Automatic 9mm was great during deathmatch because of its high rate of fire.
The event concluded at ~6.15pm, at which point we were all given our own limited edition Xbox 360 Elite consoles with Lost and Damned cases (!!!) in addition to some t-shirts and other stuff. It was an incredibly nice gesture from Rockstar and Microsoft, and a great way to finish off the event.
After the event, we met up with a couple of people from R* and headed to Hill Country for some tasty [artery-clogging] barbeque. Then afterwards, we went to the top of the Empire State Building for a night view of the city that never sleeps, which was spectacular to say the very least. For the trip back to the hotel, we found that a limo was cheaper than hiring another small fleet of cabs to carry us all, so that's what we did. The next morning, we only had a few hours before it was time to go home, so we walked through Soho for a bit, grabbed some lunch, and then went into some shops. We also came across a huge Lost and Damned wall ad which was having finishing touches added to it (you can see a photo of it at the top of this article).
Click here to see a whole bunch of photos that we took during our brief stay in NYC, and if you have any questions let us know on the forums.
Overall, it was a tremendous experience and we thoroughly enjoyed playing The Lost and Damned. It was also great to meet the guys from Rockstar and the other fan site webmasters again. We'd like to extend a very big thank-you to Rockstar for making it all happen.