My dude is running around with an automatic weapon, but I'm not staring at the gun. Instead, it's his sweet cream-colored flat cap, the tan jacket he's rocking that looks like it might be leather, and a thin layer of moustache that wouldn't look out of place on that weird aunt of yours who has too many cats. I'm fascinated by his faux tough-guy look, and while I work with the camera to try to get a better view of his gear, a bullet rips through his chest and he's dead. Oops, forget admiring the sartorial splendor of my makeshift thug and let's get to doing what he does best: popping bullets in fools in the multiplayer features of the upcoming downloadable content episode for Grand Theft Auto IV, The Ballad of Gay Tony. Rockstar hosted a multiplayer session during which we had a chance to try out most of the multiplayer modes available in the Gay Tony expansion.
We started out with a few free-for-all deathmatches, including one particularly hectic match located in the amusement park Funland. Dodging bullets amidst all of the carnival rides turned out to be some of the most fun we had during the entire session. At one point, we had a great sniping point on the veranda of an office building and managed to snag a handful of successive kills without ever being spotted. The Gay Tony-specific weapons have some high points--including a sharp assault submachine gun that's good for tight spaces and an advanced machine gun that makes up for its lack of accuracy with some deadly stopping power.
In addition to the free deathmatches, we tried out the team deathmatch where multiple teams compete to collect as much cash as they can before the session timer runs out. With a long strip of road running down the middle of one of the most popular areas during our team deathmatch session, it wasn't uncommon to see cars hurtling down the road before exploding into flames as rival teams battled it out on the steps of the government building nearby. New deathmatch features in the Gay Tony DLC include earning cash for assisted kills, getting bonus cash for kill streaks, and the using the aforementioned new weapons.
Getting some bullet therapy in has its charms, but it's certainly not the only thing to do in Gay Tony's multiplayer. After all, it wouldn't be GTAIV without some racing, right? We tried out a couple of different races during our session, which included long point-to-point races in high-performance sports car models. Some of the routes were a bit confusing, thanks to a lack of direction. At one point, we managed to take a wrong turn off the highway and completely screwed our race. After a few weeks of playing Forza 3, the loosey-goosey handling of the GTA cars took some getting used to as well. Still, the wheel-to-wheel, anything-goes attitude of racing events made for a lot of laughs (and only a few curses). As in other multiplayer game types, there are a ton of options when setting up races, including car class, number of laps, traffic, pedestrians, time of day, weather, and several others. The races we ran featured sports cars with nitros attached--you could get a significant boost of speed with the B button and respawn your completely destroyed ride by holding the Y button.
The highlight of the multiplayer session had to be the free mode where got a chance to try out the completely awesome (and wondrously incongruous) BASE jumping mode. After hitching a ride with a Rockstar employee who knew his way around the city, we immediately headed to the closest helicopter, took off to fly downtown, and looked for the tallest buildings in the city. With parachutes strapped to our back--which you automatically receive when boarding a helicopter in the game--we peered off the edge of the skyscraper, pondering our virtual doom, before taking the leap of faith and free-falling for as long as we dared. At the last possible moment, we pressed the A button to pull our chute and, for added flare, popped some smoke by pressing the L3 button.
We touched down safely, but because it was the free mode, it wasn't long until other players started making trouble. The timed free-mode session ended with a swath of fiery destruction as we were on foot being chased by a Rockstar employee emptying his helicopter's missile supply in our general direction. We did our best to get another BASE jump attempt in but were met with a fiery death instead. Of course, that isn't the only way to die when BASE jumping. In addition to failing to pop your chute in time, you can be chopped by the rotor blades of a helicopter and killed by weapon-wielding opponents as you glide down to earth.
But then, no one ever said BASE jumping was safe.
Look for The Ballad of Gay Tony for Grand Theft Auto IV on Thursday, October 29, available for download or on disc as part of the Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City stand-alone game.