Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony Review
This superb downloadable episode for GTAIV would be easy to recommend even if it were a full retail product selling for three times its actual price.
- Luis Lopez is a great protagonist
- Lengthy storyline with loads of varied missions
- New vehicles and weapons freshen up the familiar gameplay
- Option to replay missions for leaderboard high scores once you beat the game
- More new content than many full-priced games.
- Visuals are starting to show their age
- Little in the way of new multiplayer content.
The current iteration of Liberty City is home to a great number of interesting people, but until now you've been able to play only as two of them. In Grand Theft Auto IV you assumed the role of illegal immigrant Niko Bellic as he stepped off a boat from Eastern Europe. In The Lost & Damned downloadable episode you played as biker gang member Johnny Klebitz. And now in the The Ballad of Gay Tony, which is being released both as a downloadable episode and as part of the Episodes from Liberty City stand-alone retail product, you play as nightclub owner Tony Prince's business partner and confidant, Luis Lopez.
Despite the fact that he shows no remorse, and even appears to enjoy killing people for money, Lopez is a multifaceted and extremely likable protagonist. In part, that's because he's clearly someone who wants to better himself after doing a stint in prison for dealing drugs as a teenager, even if he's not going about it in a way that any parole officer would approve of. Lopez is loyal to a fault, so while the missions you undertake in his shoes are rarely selfless acts, you often perform them primarily to help other people out. A lot of the time it's his business partner, Tony, whose life needs sorting out, but missions also come courtesy of childhood friends, the always-amusing son of an Arab billionaire, the older brother of a previously prominent character, and a disapproving mother who has fallen on hard times, to name but a few.
Depending on how you play and choose to move around the city, Lopez's never-a-dull-moment story will likely take you around 10 to 12 hours to play through. Mandatory missions are significantly more varied than those in either the original game or the previous downloadable episode. To cite examples would be to risk spoiling some of the most memorable moments, but in addition to the regular gunplay and driving, you can expect missions to incorporate plenty of helicopter combat and parachute jumps, a handful of cage fights, and even something resembling a game of golf. You can also expect to experience some missions from both Niko's and Johnny's stories from a different perspective, which will bring a smile to your face if you've played through them before. All of these missions are a lot of fun, and your performance in each of them is now rated based on the time taken, damage sustained, enemies killed, and other mission-specific criteria. Scores are then uploaded to online leaderboards, and once you've beaten the game, you have the option to revisit any mission in an attempt to improve your rating or just to play through your favorites again.
In addition to story missions, Liberty City is again filled with all manner of optional activities--many of which expand upon gameplay mechanics introduced as you progress through the game. For example, base jumping isn't something that you're required to do very often, but it's so easy to grasp and so much fun to do that after your first freefall you'll almost certainly want to check out all 15 of the optional jumps that are scattered across the city. Furthermore, there's a good chance that you'll end up making some of them multiple times, not only because riding a motorcycle off the roof of a skyscraper and then parachuting down onto a moving boat is a blast, but also because each jump has its own objective (typically a target on the ground or a moving vehicle) and is scored in the same way that missions are.
Drug Wars, another optional undertaking, are another great addition. Early on, there's a distinct lack of gunplay in Lopez's storyline, and while that's certainly not the case for the duration, you're undoubtedly going to be looking for an excuse to play with some of this episode's new weapons. Sticky bombs, a .44 pistol, an advanced sniper rifle, and an automatic shotgun with explosive rounds are all excellent additions to the GTAIV arsenal, and they're way too much fun to just have them sitting in your inventory. And that's where Drug Wars challenges come in: There are 25 in total, and they generally involve plenty of shooting as you help a couple of smalltime dealer friends to rip off their rivals.
If you'd rather test the expanded arsenal against other players than against street gangs, you can hop into The Ballad of Gay Tony's multiplayer suite at any time via an option on your in-game cell phone. Unlike The Lost & Damned, which introduced a number of brand-new modes to GTAIV, this latest episode only offers modes from GTAIV, albeit enhanced with a few new features. The Free Play mode now seems designed primarily for players who want to make parachute jumps and impress one another with stats that let everyone know how long you were falling for and how close to the ground you opened your chute; Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch games benefit from the inclusion of new weapons and location options; and Race and GTA Race contests (the latter are races that encourage the use of weaponry) play quite differently now that every vehicle comes equipped with a nitrous tank that gradually refills after every death-defying use. New street circuits have clearly been designed with nitrous use in mind, because they incorporate lengthy straight sections and some spectacular jumps.
- Downloadable Game
- Player Reviews: 46
- Game Universe:
- Grand Theft Auto 2 (PS, PC, DC, GBC),
- Grand Theft Auto III (XBOX, PS2, PC, MAC),
- Grand Theft Auto Double Pack (XBOX, PS2),
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PS2, PC, XBOX, MAC),
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, PC, XBOX, MAC),
- Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969 (PS, PC),
- Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (PSP, PS2),
- Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3, X360, PC),
- Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy (PS2, XBOX, MAC),
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (PS2, PSP)