Review: The Ballad of Gay Tony

I am in the crowd that really loves Grand Theft Auto 4. The moment I got off the boat and into Roman’s cab I held the trigger down and floored it, only to realise the handling was drastically different this time around. At first I was worried but then it took only minutes to get to grips with it and to me it became the one fundamental improvement to an already fantastic series. I love the new handling mechanics, the more serious direction the game took, the character interaction and development. I love GTA4, simples.

So when I had completed GTA4 I wanted more. Despite the game being brilliant on a first play through, there was little to entice me back to just mess around like there was in San Andreas. That is, until now.

The Ballad of Gay Tony is the second part of a deal ensuring Xbox 360 owners can download exclusive game add-ons for GTA4. The first DLC made available “The Lost and Damned” offered a fantastic story that crossed paths with existing GTA4 events and The Ballad of Gay Tony offers a new story that ties up events surrounding the diamonds that were a focal point in GTA4’s main story and The Lost and Damned too. The conclusion is simply brilliant and the whole thing comes together a treat. The expansions leave you thinking that Rockstar had the whole thing laid out from the moment Niko leaves the boat, and that additional events are not simply “slapped on” with minor references.

– ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW –

This time around Rockstar have put you in the shoes of Luis Lopez working for a guy named Tony Prince, who (being the title character) is a gay nightclub owner. Whilst Tony is popping pills and stirring crap, Luis is left to pick up the pieces and take the initiative. I will refrain from going into too much detail here as this story really needs to be experienced first hand. Needless to say this title retains all the great character development and interaction, with some very funny people indeed. Brucie is here again and as funny as ever but the show does get stolen by a new guy called Yusuf Amir, this guy is crazy and will have you in fits of laughter.

Story aside this addition simply blows GTA4 and The Lost and Damned out of the water, bringing back some of the over-the-top gameplay the series is renowned for: you will be driving an APC through (literally) traffic with your finger on the trigger of a cannon capable of folding SWAT vans in half; you will be sky diving onto the top of a skyscraper, taking the stairs down to the offices and wiping out all who wish to stop you, assassinating a target before jumping out the window to parachute onto a moving vehicle and escape. And then there’s the nightclub shootout involving a grenade launcher and a generous supply of Russian mobsters. Want to get information out of somebody? Then strap him to the front of a golf cart and swing golf balls at him until he squeals like a pig on a honeymoon.

Perhaps my favourite was running along the top of a train taking choppers down with an explosive round shotgun, before having the front carriage air lifted off the track once I’d unhooked it. The action here is simply brilliant and all the variety you could wish for.

So much is new. The main menu is now full of colour, the action is ramped up to near Hollywood stunts and new weapons ensure you always have the tools you need to make things fun. We also get to drive new vehicles too: the APC as mentioned is by far the best addition and with helicopters now packing missiles, cars packing nitrous, you almost struggle to decide which vehicle to take. Thankfully after completing the main story all these things become available to use as you wish. Meaning an APC rampage or rocket barrage from an attack chopper finally gives me a reason to go back to Liberty City time after time again.

A nice addition is the new mission scoring feature that gives you objectives to meet and then scores you based on your performance. This usually involves beating the mission within a certain time frame or a limit to how much damage you can take. It also offers you the ability to upload your score to the Rockstar social club where you can compare stats with friends. Again, once the main story is completed you can replay any of the missions by activating them using you in game mobile phone. New mini games / side quests are on offer too. Play some golf, go dancing, intercept drug deals, manage a nightclub or enter a cage fight championship. Perhaps the best addition in terms of things to do on the side is the base jumping. Launching from a chopper, the top of a high rise or even a motorbike, you get a fun yet challenging activity that makes great use of the new parachute feature.

Multiplayer offers a few new additions. As well as using the parachute you can now get multipliers that give extra cash and nitrous for those classic races. However the multiplayer in this game still feels like a bit of a “slap on” and I personally would rather have seen the effort go into more of the good stuff, that being the single player. Still, this is fantastic value either way: you can buy this as a download for 1600 Microsoft Points or on disc bundled with The Lost and Damned for around £25 which doesn’t need the original GTA4. I enjoyed every moment and thank Rockstar for giving me another reason to soak up all the fun to be had in Liberty City. Now, time for that five star wanted level, an APC and an itchy trigger finger..

Pros:

  • Fantastic story that concludes key events from GTA4
  • New vehicles, weapons and mini games
  • The same great character interaction
  • Parachutes

Cons:

  • Multiplayer still feels un-polished

The Ballad of Gay Tony is more than just another reason to visit Liberty City again, it offers another fantastic GTA experience that no fan of the series should miss. Perhaps deliberately testing the water with these new features for future titles, Rockstar has also created the feeling that the gameplay available here should have been present in the entire GTA4 experience. With Hollywood style action, additions such as nitrous in vehicles and the ability to parachute, The Ballad of Gay Tony is a case of the very best saved until last: 9/10

– PAGE CONTINUES BELOW –