Game Review: Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony
Release: October 29th 2009
Genre: Free-roam, action/adventure, shooter
Developer: Rockstar North
Available Platforms: Xbox 360
Players: 1 (1-16 Online)
ESRB Rating: M
We’re saying goodbye to GTA IV. Liberty City has been a great setting, we’ve made a lot of friends, we’ve laughed and we’ve cried. Lost and the Damned bridged a few gaps and now it’s time for the gates to finally close on the city of Liberty. Rockstar North is going out with a bang by releasing the final content pack to Grand Theft Auto IV. The Ballad of Gay Tony concentrates on more content, rather than innovation, but it doesn’t mean that a few new features have hit the block. The experiences of Liberty City before this where of living in the gutter and trying to climb to the top of the league. This time however, things are different (and glamorous).
You play as Luis Lopez, ‘business partner’ and associate of Gay Tony, the head honcho of many of the town’s nightclubs. When he runs into financial trouble and a little business with some diamonds (yes, THE diamonds), it’s up to Luis to correct a few mistakes. Tony has upset a lot of people and you’ll be glad to know that you rub elbows with an array of colorful characters. Embedded in this story is a few tugging moments between Luis’ glitzy occupation and his family roots. It really does give you insight into a world in which Luis is torn between family and friends, and a world where everybody has a price.
Grand Theft Auto is a free-roaming game. The Ballad of Gay Tony doesn’t spice up GTA IV’s core gameplay mechanics that much. Really it mirrors it in every way possible, but it differs by dumping some new toys at your disposal. Taking cover is still as sticky as ever and every time Luis looks out to take a pop shot, it feels too heavy. The game runs into the same problem of IV, slowing up the action too much. It could have been an intense mechanic but instead it’s an annoyance. Aside from the cover aspect, the main GTA formula remains. You’ll meet somebody, watch a cut scene in which someone has done someone wrong, drive to the objective, take care of business and then watch another cut scene.
Lost and the Damned brought in a hefty change to the GTA formula – checkpoints. This returns in BoGT, allowing for a more streamline experience, also added in is checklists and percentages. There will be times you can complete other optional objectives in a mission, and this will all add up to a total score. You can also go back and play missions after the main story, something never seen before in a GTA title. On top of all these new features are some more toys to play with. Explosive shotgun rounds , heavy machine guns, golden Uzis and even parachutes.
All the characters, cast and plot are nailed perfectly. There is however one little gripe I have with the title and that is the whole ‘torn between polar opposites.’ aspect. Sure you’ll be getting a taxi from the northern and southern end of the city more often than you think, but the family missions end almost as soon as they start. These leads you to more explosive and thrilling missions, but those traditional little favors for family end rather too quickly. Another complaint I have is that you’re supposed to be managing a club with Tony, but this is just represented by a little ‘run around the club’ game. Not exactly engrossing.
That being said, the Ballad of Gay Tony is an excellent package and a true throwback to the days of San Andreas. Parachutes have been crying out to see Liberty City and now you get to really take in the city from a different view. The new toys handle smoothly too and aside from a few awful missions (some of the worst in the whole of GTA), it really does remind you of San Andreas. You’ll shoot helicopters while crawling on top of a speeding train, swing golf balls into a man’s testicles. There’s a lot of sex, drugs and guns in this installment of Grand Theft Auto and that’s what we like to hear.
There isn’t any new multiplayer modes to be found in the Ballad, but the core modes have all being tweaked. Free mode now has parachutes included, which respawn on your player every time you use them. Deathmatch arenas have also being tightened, allowing for more intense and enclosed skirmishes; but still allowing you with the freedom to go anywhere you want. Races also have the introduction of nitro. All in all, multiplayer hasn’t really been changed that much since the day GTA IV was released, but with all the new content, tweaks and fixes, it is definitely a way better experience.
Nath’s final say: The Ballad of Gay Tony is a true throwback to the days of San Andreas. It doesn’t bring many new features or innovations to the table of Liberty, but what it does do is deliver an experience like no other. This isn’t a depressing, serious business tread through Liberty City, this is a balls out fantastical drive down Explosive Avenue. This is what IV should have been. This is Grand Theft Auto.