Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Also on: N/A (Xbox 360 exclusive)
Console Played on: Xbox 360
Release Date: Thursday October 29th 2009
Age Rating: BBFC 18
[Disclaimer: This is the review of the second piece of DLC for Grand Theft Auto IV. We downloaded it, like everyone else most likely, from Xbox Live Marketplace. We do however also have Episodes from Liberty City with us from Rockstar, which we will be reviewing soon after this. Stay tuned for the review.]
In early May last year, I reviewed Grand Theft Auto IV on both PS3 and 360. Needless to say, it was awesome, as the review points out.
In February this year, Rockstar released the first of two exclusive downloadable episodes for the 360 version of the game, The Lost and Damned, which got an 8/10 from me. Now, announced back in May to bewilderment, comes The Ballad of Gay Tony, which sees the Grand Theft Auto IV saga wrap up between Niko Bellic, Johnny Klebitz and Luis Fernando Lopez.
But is Gay Tony fabulous? Or so last year?
Luiz Lopez is far from the broody Niko Bellic or biker Johnny Klebitz. Hanging out with the elite “Gay” Tony Prince, you would think that he is leading a life of wealth in luxury. In fact, while the wealth bit is pretty much true (he does live in a decent apartment), the same can’t be said for luxury. Tony’s Algonquin nightclub empire is falling around him, with dwindling attendance for both of his night clubs Masionette 9 and Hercules, which are both straight and gay clubs respectively. Not only that, but Tony is spending money left, right and centre on drugs and booze.
Before you know it, he is in with some shady characters. They come collect some money from Tony at gunpoint because of an outstanding loan. This is where everything in The Ballad of Gay Tony kicks off.
You will meet some old characters from the GTA IV universe, both from the main game and from The Lost and Damned, such as Roman Bellic, Brucie Klubitz, Billy Grey and Ray Bulgarin, as well as new faces linked to the GTA IV universe like Mori Klubitz, as well as the brilliant Yusef, played by British comedian Omid Djalili. And yes, of course, you do get to play your part in the mission “Museum Piece”, which sees all three of Grand Theft Auto IV’s main stars come together.
There is so much more to do in The Ballad of Gay Tony this time round which opens up a lot more diversity for the expansion. You have the clubs to manage. Just head to Masionette 9 and trigger the mission marker. From there, you can do many various jobs around the club, such as kicking out drug pushers, drunks, the stubborn people who refuse to pay up bill tabs and more. You might also be called away to do other things like escort a celeb out of either Masionette or Hercules. Of course, if you want to have some downtime, you can also party away by having a little dance on the floor and having drinks. Take your pick from shots and champagne. In fact, there is a champagne mini-game which you can play while out and about in the club. First one to chug down a full bottle of champers. Beware though: drink too much, and you’ll pass out, waking up in a random location in Liberty City. There are more things to do in Liberty City in TBoGT, but this is arguably the main important one.
Arguably, Grand Theft Auto IV became a very serious game after what was arguably a lot less serious game with San Andreas five years ago, so for anybody who complained about how serious GTA IV was, The Ballad of Gay Tony should shut you up, as it does bring back a bit of the fun factor from San Andreas. Parachuting, APCs (the closest your going to get to a tank in GTA IV), clubbing and more. It does give you a lot to do around Liberty City in this expansion. An example of that being the helicopters in the expansion. Yes, you get them in GTA IV and The Lost and Damned, but they aren’t used as much as they are in Gay Tony. In fact, helicopters have a lot more of a focus then they do in the past. In one mission for Yusuf, you need to go and steal a buzzard, which is basically a small military helicopter of small rockets and mini-guns. As well as that, there is stuff like the triathlons and the skydiving.
That is how one thing can have so much focus in the game after sitting out twice in the GTA IV timeline. And that shows much diversity Rockstar has shown in The Ballad of Gay Tony.
Missions in Gay Tony are pretty much what you’d expect: trigger mission, watch cut-scene, get your objectives, drive from point A to B and do whatever you need to do, shooting being the main point most of the time. However, some missions can vary from all of that. For example, Mori enters you into a sort of triathlon, which you can unlock as a fun luxury afterwards, which consists of parachutes, boats and very fast cars. Another example being from Mori (again), where Luis must steal some supercars with him and Brucie in Middle Park, before phoning the cops, but not to set you up but more for sport and an adrenaline rush. Before you know it, you’re in a riverside chase with the cops. The point is both levels are set up nicely to make sure the fun factor is there for anyone who wants it, particularly the car chase. The police checkpoints and the banter on the police radio, as well as the set pieces in the level make for an interesting level that, as well as the triathlon stuff, shows all in one go what The Ballad of Gay Tony are all about: fast cars, parachuting, action set pieces and more.
You do also get new toys in Gay Tony. Examples being new weapons like the P90, an explosive shotgun, a .44 pistol and more, as well as new vehicles and then some.
Graphically, The Ballad of Gay Tony has aged a fair bit. It still looks good it has to be said, you’d be idiotic to say it doesn’t. But it really has aged since GTA IV. The world that consists of Liberty City is still as lively as it was back in April 2008 when we first entered it, but on a graphics scale, it hasn’t done as good. It’s a shame really, as like I said, it still does look good today, but not to the point where you can really say wow at them anymore.
You also get a brand new multiplayer mode in The Ballad of Gay Tony which is based on the base jumping gameplay feature from the game. Sadly, we haven’t tried it yet. But we will tell you about it in detail in our review of Episodes from Liberty City pretty soon. So stay tuned.
Final Thoughts: Flaws aside, Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony is still a fantastic end to the Grand Theft Auto IV saga. It doesn’t do anything major to bring the series forward, but neither does it do anything to put the series backwards. The final expansion on the GTA IV saga is full of glitz and glamour, with a humourous story, that sees it out to the end with a fantastic ending, which possibly does show what is next in the GTA series.
If you haven’t gotten to buying this yet, best do so now.
Story – 9: A fantastically written story from start to finish.
Gameplay – 9: The inclusion of so many great things to do in The Ballad of Gay Tony, like parachuting, the nightlife of Liberty City and more, will not leave you bored for a good while yet.
Graphics – 8: The life of Liberty City is still pulsating as strong as it was back in GTA IV, although it has aged a bit on the graphics front.
Sound – 8: Good voice acting in the game with fantastic new music to listen to, particularly on the dance front.
Overall – 8: Two words – buy it.
If you haven’t gotten The Ballad of Gay Tony yet, it’s easily worth every MS point for this piece of DLC. Go buy it… NOW!