Anyone who’s completed GTA IV on 360 is now wondering what Rockstar are going to do with the much-vaunted exclusive 360 downloadable content.
Assuming it will be new missions and characters – confirmed by, among others Lazlow Jones, one of the in-game radio station hosts – it still begs the questions; What new missions? What new characters? And where?
How is it going to work?
One of the key challenges we've got in second-guessing Rockstar's no-information on the 360 DLC is working out when it's going to be set. The reason is obvious - not everyone will have completed it by the time the extra content becomes available. Some people won't have even bought it yet.
So how does Rockstar make the DLC an attractive proposition to everyone?
First up, it would be difficult to simply continue the story where it left off at the closing credits of the game. That's fine for anyone who has finished it, but what about everyone else?
Aside from causing massive spoilers it would mess with the linearity of the plot and associated character progression - especially Niko's - and probably risk causing the universe to fold in on itself.
Worse, it would mean in order to enjoy the DLC you'd have to complete the game first. And that just isn't fair.
No. The only way we can see it working - if extra missions are the bulk of what we're getting - is to develop mission threads that slot in outside of the existing plot that can be played at any point in the timeline.
An additional problem this throws up is how to utilise the characters still left Niko's life without bringing up any of their story, past the point that the individual player has reached. For example it would be a bit weird doing missions for say, Packie, before he gets introduced to you in the main storyline. (Still with us?)
Which brings us to our next question...
Which characters will it involve?
This is where it gets even more complicated.
[Spoiler's exist from now on so back up if you don't want the game ruined. We warned you.]
In case you forgot, by the time you finish GTA IV - depending on what decisions you took - a number of people are dead - Roman, Kate, Playboy X, Dwayne and Darko. The obvious call is that they're both out of the DLC.
That leaves Little Jacob, Gerry, Packie, Michelle, Brucie, Mrs. Faustin, Mallorie, Little Jacob and Real Badman as characters still available for exploration - plus there's a whole new story to tell now Phil Bell has taken charge of the Pegorino empire.
That would be the obvious cast list. But how often do Rockstar do the obvious?
While it seems odd that Rockstar would spend years designing and perfecting the personas and voices for these characters and then sack them off for the DLC, we have to remember the full game and the extra material were developed in parallel.
In that case there's nothing to say a separate team wasn't working on a set of new characters who are waiting in the wings to tell an entirely different aspect of the Liberty City story. More on this at the end.