The Grand Theft Auto series is known for its fair share of controversy, and it’s latest downloadable release, The Ballad of Gay Tony is no different. With a title like that you know you’re in for some interesting stories, yet somehow the last chapter of the GTA IV series is probably the weakest of the three. Set in the expansive Liberty City, and during the time of the original Grand Theft Auto IV and it’s other episodic release, The Lost and Damned, The Ballad of Gay Tony gives gamers a chance to explore the nightlife and flamboyant nature of Liberty City as they take on the role of Luis Lopez, the likable right hand man of notorious night club mogul Anthony “Gay Tony” Prince.
While the story may be the weakest of the three, it’s not all that bad. Where as Niko Belic and Johnny Klebitz, from the previous two GTA IV releases, are men of little means attempting to work up the ladder of life, Luis is already there. He’s already made a name for himself and lives the life of luxury, thanks to Gay Tony. The basic gist of the story is that Gay Tony is over his head in debt and he’s turned to connected individuals to get him out. Now he owes them and if he can’t pay up his clubs, and his life, are gone. It’s up to Luis to help Tony get out of trouble and make sure he stays out. Since this is Liberty City, it’s easier said than done.
Besides Luis and Gay Tony, we’re introduced to other characters who are probably some of the craziest we’ve met yet in the world of GTA IV. There’s Yusuf Amir, the Arab who has everything but still wants to more. Crazy Russian mobster, Rodislav ‘Ray’ Bulgarin, who really wants to own Liberty City’s hockey team and will do anything to get it. We also meet Luis’ two childhood friends, Armando Torres and Henrique Bardas, who you’ll perform a number of drug raids for. We’re also treated to some GTA IV familiars, like Johnny Klebitz from the Lost and Damned and Brucie Kibbutz. It’s a wide variety of over the top characters, and they really bring life to the game.
The Ballad of Gay Tony’s gameplay, for the most part, is identical to GTA IV. Using the same engine, the only new feature is the base jumping that Luis gets to perform. Another new feature, but non-gaming related, is the score awarded for each completed task. These will tie in directly to the achievements, and adds replay value. Other than that, the combat, running, driving, etc. is all exactly the same. Yet it still works so well. The same can be said for the visual side of the equation. It still looks good, but you’ll still experience the rampant pop in all over the game. This is probably the only down side to the game, but for a sandbox game it’s still the best out there.
In true GTA fashion, there are a number of side missions available that will keep you occupied for hours. From golf, to cage fighting and the base jumping there’s a lot to do. You can even participate in 25 Drug Wars, rekindling the spirit of San Andreas. If there’s one thing the GTA series is known for it’s keeping you busy, and the Ballad of Gay Tony is no different.
Once you’ve satisfied your hunger in the single play campaign you can jump over to the multi-player. While 16 player multi-player is still offered, the game modes have been trimmed to the essentials. There’s Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Race, GTA Race, and Free Mode. But all of the new weapons are available, which gives it a little boost. There are also new maps, which you’ll find yourself in much closer quarters than before, making it more straight forward and less open to move around in. Rockstar also introduced kill streak rewards and a couple other perks that round out the experience.
Overall, while The Ballad of Gay Tony may be the weakest out of the three GTA IV releases it’s still a good game. You’ll find yourself immersed within Liberty City for hours, making it well worth the $20 price tag. For fans of the series, it’s a good way to close out the stories from Liberty City. Questions are answered and many loose ends are tied up. It’s definitely a good buy for fans of GTA IV, but if that wasn’t your cup of tea you might want to think twice.