“Grand Theft Auto IV” (rated M, $40 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $50 on PC) has been on the market for nine months now, and Xbox 360 owners will finally get a chance to play the game’s first downloadable add-on, a new campaign set in Liberty City called “The Lost and Damned.”
In a refreshing twist, “The Lost and Damned,” which reportedly adds about 10 hours of gameplay to “GTA IV,” does not star “GTA IV’s” iconic antihero Niko Bellic. Instead, you’ll play as Johnny Klebitz, the No. 2 guy in a New Jersey motorcycle gang called The Lost. Because you’re in a motorcycle gang, expect a bit less vehicular freedom than
what you enjoyed during your time as Niko. Early reviews indicate the motorcycle controls have been refined a bit for this chapter, which will be a comfort for gamers like me, who wiped out or went flying over the handlebars at the slightest bump while playing as Niko. Unfortunately, “The Lost and Damned” doesn’t patch the motorcycle gameplay for the rest of “GTA IV.”
“The Lost and Damned” is exclusive to the Xbox 360 because, back in mid-2007, Microsoft paid GTA publisher Take-Two Interactive, which was in a spot of financial trouble, a $50 million advance on revenue from downloadable content. In return, Take-Two gave Microsoft exclusive rights to two downloadable episodes after the game’s release. (The second one has not been announced.)
“Street Fighter IV” (rated T, $60 on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3) is the first proper new entry in the series in more than a decade, and it’s a bit tough to get a bead on. On the one hand, “Street Fighter” games are some of the best fighting games around, and characters like Chun-Li, Dhalsim and M. Bison have entered the popular lexicon. Given the series’ rich pedigree and classic characters, “SF IV” would be a no-brainer buy.
On the other hand, casual “Street Fighter” fans like myself will get destroyed online by the series’ legendary die-hard fans, who will have mastered all of the game’s timed-button-press combos within a week of release. (Surely, these guys are champing at the bit for the chance to play a brand new “Street Fighter.) At $60, it’s a tough recommendation for the casual player, unless you’ve got a stable of similarly (un)skilled friends, roommates or family you can play with. No matter how much you practice against the computer, those
first couple dozen matches online might end up feeling like playing chess against a grandmaster.
“Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride” (rated E10+, $40 on Nintendo DS) is one of those beloved Japanese role-playing games from the Super Nintendo era that never saw release stateside. Just as it did with “Final Fantasy III,” publisher Square Enix has prettied up the game a bit, localized it, tweaked a few things to make it work with the DS’ two-screen format and released it for Nintendo’s handheld. I’ve said earlier that I’m not a huge fan of gaming on handhelds, but old-school Japanese RPGs with turn-based battles that aren’t dependent on reflexes or a high-quality display screen work fabulously on the small screens.
“Noby Noby Boy” (rated E, $5 PlayStation Network download): The latest game from the creator of “Katamari Damacy” looks every bit as strange as that game did when it hit the PS2 back in 2004. You control a wormlike character named Boy, who can eat just about everything. As you do, Boy gets longer and longer. One analog stick contols Boy’s head, while the other manages his posterior. You can stretch Boy to fit through holes, tie him in knots or whatever. Um, yeah. Weird. But you’ve probably made more regrettable $5 purchases.
“Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?” (rated T, $40 on PlayStation Portable) is a side-scrolling action game where you play as the cute penguin-like bird things from the “Disgaea” RPG. Looks destined to be a cult classic.
“Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon” (rated E10+, $30 on DS) is a turn-based strategy game set in a fantasy medieval setting.
What I’m playing: Lots of “LittleBigPlanet” (rated E, $60 on PS3) as I dive into user-created levels for a future column. I may sneak in some “Culdcept Saga” (rated T, $20 on Xbox 360), “Left 4 Dead” (rated M, $60 on Xbox 360) or “Unreal Tournament III” (rated M, $20 on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3). “Halo Wars” (rated T, out March 3 on Xbox 360 for $60) awaits, but probably not until after I write about “LBP.”