GTA:IV Gamers get Lost and Damned by staying up late

The Lost and Damned, the first expansion to Rockster's 2008 smash hit Grand Theft Auto IV, launched on the XBox Live service early this morning (2:00 AM PT), and the hardest of the hardcore gamers stayed up to download it. Expect plenty of mysterious illnesses in the workplace today. Playstation 3 gamers will be in on-time, though: the new content is exclusive to the Microsoft platform — another battle won in the video game wars.

Rockstar ramped up the controversy ahead of time by releasing a trailer showing full-frontal male nudity, a first (I believe) in mainstream video games. The video shows protagonist Johnny (second-in-command of a biker gang called The Lost) talking about a prospective job with shady politician Mr. Stubbs (they're never subtle, these Rockstar people) while Stubbs gets a massage. When the massage ends the politician jumps up, sans towel, and declares "No secrets" to Johnny. A long dialog scene ensues with the camera staying chest high until the very end when we get the full monty.

Expect a firestorm of outrage the first time mom walks in while her kid is playing that scene. Public service note: games have ratings for a reason, parents. Know what your kids are playing!

Grand Theft Auto: The Lost and the Damned costs 1600 Microsoft points ($20 US) and weighs in at an advertised 2 gigs (people who've actually downloaded the expansion report 1.7 gigs). A hefty price for add-on content, but we're told the new gameplay is about one third the size of the original game, so the math works.

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