x360a Review: GTA IV's The Ballad of Gay Tony
Written Monday, November 30, 2009 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Liberty City is still a city that amazes me. A city that can captivate my attention with both its unique, awe-inspiring views, and the charm of its inhabitants. It is with a sad tone that I review this latest, and more than likely, last, episode from Rockstar for their Grand Theft Auto IV title. Not because it’s bad DLC, on hell no, on the contrary, but because it’s the last time I’ll conceivably be visiting the city. Cue sad face, grab the hankies. At least GTA IV is going out with a bang, as The Ballad of Gay Tony provides the action of a Michael Bay action movie whilst delivering the writing of a Scorsese film.
The Ballad of Gay Tony throws you in to the shoes of Luis Lopez, the right hand man of Liberty City club mogul, Anthony “Gay Tony” Prince. The story follows Lopez, a crazed womanising maniac, as he looks to save his neurotic, drug addled friend Tony from his failing businesses and probably more importantly, himself. It’s up to you to save the struggling club owner by doing his dirty work which in turn saves him from taking an early dip with the fishes. The story follows the successful twists-and-turns formula of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, but whilst the original standalone version of GTA IV focused on a realistic crime drama, The Ballad of Gay Tony steers the action back to the over-the-top, Hollywood-esque set-pieces that include surfing a train, stealing a tank and blowing up a yacht with the new Buzzard attack chopper. Missions that not only rival some of the greatest missions from the original game, but look to challenge them for the "best mission" crown.
Although the Ballad of Gay Tony has injected some dumb fun back into the franchise, they seem to have done it without sacrificing the realism that made the retail version so successful. It tells the story of a conflicted character who is trying to get on the straight and narrow, and off the streets, but thanks to constant reminders of his roots from his childhood friends and being told by his mother that he’s not good enough, it’s a task that’s made even more monumental. The line-up of characters allows this dual personality to survive, with Lopez constantly saving Tony from the Mafia and the Russian mob on the one - slightly more serious - hand, whilst the antics of the frankly hilarious, more-money-than-sense, Yusuf Amir, bring a much more tongue-in-cheek aspect to the proceedings.
Like The Lost and Damned was, The Ballad of Gay Tony is riddled with content that more than justifies its price. If you’re itching to 100% another Grand Theft Auto any time soon, then look no further. This latest episode has 15+ hours of content to offer gamers which includes; new random characters to meet, seagulls to hunt down, drug war side missions to complete and base-jumps to nail. Throw in some club management that sees you bouncing the clubs and tending to the Liberty City VIPs, some golf and a fight club, and you’re never short of new things to do around the city. If you want to relax, you can even just hit up the club’s dance floors or take advantage of the free shots at two of Tony’s clubs.
That’s really only scratching the surface of new content though, and The Ballad of Gay Tony continues to deliver unprecedented content like the first episode did. Not only does that mean more epic music, including Candi Staton’s “Young Hearts Run Free” and Chic’s “Everybody Dance” that perfectly mirrors the mood of the clubs that Tony is running; but you’ve also got new TV shows, including the fantastic tongue-in-cheek anime spoof, Princess Robot Bubblegum. There are also new vehicles that include an APC tank, the Buzzard attack chopper and some swanky new motors including the F620; as well as new weapons like the auto shotgun with explosive rounds, the advanced MG, sticky bombs, and of course, the parachutes make a return. There have also been a few changes in the online multiplayer world including a competitive base jumping mode, the inclusion of kill streaks and kills assists, but GTA has always, and will always be, about the single player.
It seems Rockstar have experimented with a new scoring mode as well, which ties into the vast majority of achievement points, where you have certain targets for certain aspects throughout every story mission; including speed, damage taken, headshots, and even a few unique objectives, like killing the RPG guy before he shoots at you. I can’t say I’m a fan of this new scoring system as it seems to shape how you play the game, even if it is subconsciously, and we’re hoping it doesn’t become a staple in the franchise. The other achievements include grinding out 25 drug war completions, doing the museum diamond mission and a few random task ones. I think it's safe to say that Rockstar just don't "get" the achievement system and what makes it great.
With The Ballad of Gay Tony, Rockstar have delivered another killer episode of DLC. Players that moaned that Rockstar had taken the fun out of the game with too much realism will be happy to see the return of the over-the-top antics, whereas players who appreciated and loved the realism and the story, still have more than enough substance to keep them immersed. The overlapping of the three stories comes into its element with The Ballad of Gay Tony, with Luis, Johnny and Niko meeting on more than one occasion. Only charging £13/$20 for a piece of content that can last in excess of 10 hours is putting the rest of the industry’s shoddy-2-hour-burst-DLC-for-half-the-price, to shame. In a word, or two... this DLC is “must buy!” A ton of content, great writing, plus, it’s another excuse to step back into the liveliest digital city ever created.