The upcoming episode of the video game Grand Theft Auto IV looks to be a wild one.
GTA IV, which was released in April for the Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3, focused on former Eastern European soldier Niko Bellic and his escalating life of crime in the boroughs of Liberty City. This new episode, available Feb. 17 via download exclusively for those who own the Xbox 360 version (no price yet), stars Johnny Klebitz, a member of Liberty City biker gang The Lost.
"Johnny is a very different character than Niko, with a very different background," says Dan Houser, vice president of creative development for Rockstar Games. "I can't go into too much detail on the story, because we try not to give away too much plot before the game is released. But I can say that the story will show you a different side of Liberty City."
The episode, titled The Lost and Damned, requires players to have the full version of the Mature-rated GTA IV (ages 17 and older) and an Xbox Live membership to download. It's likely to carry an M rating, too. (Parents can use the Xbox 360's parental controls to prevent children from accessing inappropriate content.)
GTA IV is the top video game this year; nearly two-thirds of the 5 million copies sold have been for Xbox 360, according to The NPD Group.
In the original game, Niko crossed paths with The Lost several times. This time, Niko has only a bit part, Houser says. "The story is not directly impacted by decisions you took in the main game," he says. But "tons of details and mysteries from the main story get explained, so it will add a lot of color to the main story."
Rockstar Games has been fine-tuning its explorable 3-D virtual worlds since launching its first "sandbox" game with Grand Theft Auto III in 2001.
The new game will let you download more sandbox time. "We feel like we've only scratched the surface in terms of the depth and detail in" GTA IV's mythical Liberty City, says Houser.
Previous games have used downloads to add "new stages, weapons and costumes," says GamePro Media features editor Dave Rudden, "but GTA IV's content will reportedly add hours of gameplay."
Rudden hopes the episode costs $15 or less, but Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter expects a $20 price and says Rockstar could sell 2 million to 3 million downloads. "I see episodic content as a natural progression of the quality of downloadable content."