Parachutes are perhaps the most obvious new feature introduced in The Ballad of Gay Tony, and while there aren't many missions that use them, those that do are definitely some of the episode's best. You can use parachutes outside of story missions as well, and the controls while falling are easy enough to grasp that you'll be hitting the centers of targets, gliding through rings in the air, and landing on moving vehicles in base-jump challenges in no time. Other activities that you're introduced to during Lopez's never-a-dull-moment story include dancing and drinking minigames, hitting golf balls at a driving range, and competing in and betting on cage-fighting tournaments. You're not likely to spend a whole lot of time with any of these optional activities, but they're fun to check out once or twice, and they compare favorably to the arm wrestling, air hockey, and hi-lo-card games introduced in The Lost and Damned.
When you're not trying to progress through one of the episodes' stories or killing time with optional activities, you might like to put your skills to the test online in games that support up to 16 players. Each episode comes with its own multiplayer modes. The Lost and Damned has seven (detailed in this Xbox 360 multiplayer impressions video), and in addition to the requisite Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Race options, there are some really inventive ones. They include Chopper vs. Chopper, in which a player on a bike has to race through checkpoints while a player in a helicopter gunship tries to stop him, and Witness Protection, which casts one player as a bus driver that a team of police must protect from a team of bikers. Club Business is a lot of fun as well, since it lets you and up to seven other players play as a biker gang and complete missions cooperatively.
The Ballad of Gay Tony, on the other hand, has only four multiplayer modes, and they're all enhanced versions of modes from GTAIV. The Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes benefit from the inclusion of new weapons like sticky bombs, an advanced sniper rifle, and an automatic shotgun with explosive rounds. Meanwhile, Race and GTA Race modes feature new street courses and now give every driver access to a nitrous tank that gradually refills after every boost. This multiplayer content can be a lot of fun if you get in with a good group of people. However, it can be tough to find people playing some of the modes, and it's unfortunate that to move from one episode's modes to the other's you have to go back out to the main menu, load up the other episode, and access the multiplayer options from the in-game cell phone again. A single multiplayer lobby that combines content from GTAIV and both episodes would be much more convenient.
You can turn off The Lost and Damned's visual noise filter if it bothers you.
Even if you choose to ignore the multiplayer and most of the optional activities and side missions, there's a good 20-plus hours of fun to be had with these episodes. The visuals are showing their age, and The Lost and Damned, while great, is clearly inferior to The Ballad of Gay Tony, but in every other respect this package is difficult to fault. The stories are compelling, the memorable characters are too numerous to mention, and the gameplay is still top-notch. It's unfortunate that PS3 owners have had to wait so long to get their hands on this content, but that's certainly no reason for you not to enjoy it. The PS3 episodes are indistinguishable from there Xbox 360 counterparts, and there's no question that you should play them. So, the only decision you need to make is whether you'd rather download them for $20 each or pay $40 to get them on a disc.
Editor's Note: For more detailed coverage, check out our Grand Theft Auto IV review, our The Lost and Damned reviews blog, and our The Ballad of Gay Tony review.