When GTA 4 made its first appearance on the PC in December 2008 many players and reviewers were somewhat nonplussed, us included. Rockstar wanted you to be on Games for Windows Live, Steam and the Rockstar Social Club all at once, as well as demanding a serious chunk of hardware to play the game itself due to poor optimisation. It all seemed so unnecessarily flawed, and Rockstar essentially threw their diamond into the rough by their implementation.
Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City is not a sequel in either narrative or technology however – Rockstar has clearly learnt from past mistakes and streamlined the experience as a result.
So, if not a sequel, what is GTA: EFLC, apart from an unwieldy abbreviation if ever there was one? Well, in simple terms it’s a standalone game set in most of the world of GTA 4 with two stories to choose from and some new multiplayer modes.
Less annoying pop-ups and logins? Party time!
These two stories are The Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, which were previously released as DLC for the console version of the game. The new multiplayer modes include some biker-based game types, including a particularly welcome cooperative mode in which you and your mates roar around Liberty City doing simple missions. Another highlight is the new Chopper versus Chopper mode, where a biker flees a gunship.
New stories set in Liberty City sounds like a great idea on paper, but without improvements to the engine and the gameplay the world is not about to be set on fire. So one of the key questions PC gamers are likely to want answered is whether or not anything has changed under the hood? Thankfully, it has.
He once caught a fish THIS big!
Most of these changes are admittedly those that players of the original GTA IV have seen over the year in patches though. There are expanded graphics options that let you extend full control over anything that’s hammering your framerate, the chief culprit usually being the resolution on reflections. Unchangeable in the game at release this meant, naturally, that reflections on water and such looked incredible but came at a big performance cost.
Equally, shadows at night caused a lot of work for the system without a big payout visually. These can now be mitigated in the GTA IV: Episodes, though some might argue that it’s too little, too late. Also the Rockstar Social Club is no longer its own little program sitting in the taskbar; it’s just a log in when you start playing, no more egregious than a log in for an MMO, particularly as it saves your password.
In addition to performance optimisations and new customisation options GTA: EFLC offers an expanded range of weapons, vehicles and side games, though it does away with shopping for clothes and relegates dating and taking your friends to the pub very much to the sideline. You’ll still get a call or two from your needier pals over the course of your adventure, but you aren’t constantly being harangued by your lecherous cousin to take him out to the local strip club, thankfully.