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

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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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