Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony plays like how all GTA games should be played. You play as Luis Lopez, the business partner, friend and confidante of Tony Prince, the king of Liberty City’s nightlife. As Lopez, you spend the game helping Tony sort out his troubles with thugs, childhood friends and the son of a Middle-Eastern billionaire, who also happens to provide some of the funniest one-liners ever.
Lopez is meant to be an anti-hero, an idea which is getting very popular with video games of late. Nonetheless, Lopez is an interesting and extremely likable protaganist. Frankly, Luis Lopez reminds me of Jason Statham, as they both share similar traits and mannerisms.
The Ballad of Gay Tony offers a variety of missions which include standard kill-someone missions, escort missions, driving missions and even cage fights. I will not name examples for fear of spoiling the game for you. All I will say is that you will not have a dull moment when attempting the missions. At the end of each mission, the game will grade your performance, based on the time taken, damage received, enemies bumped off and other mission-specific criteria. Once you complete the game, you have the option to replay any mission.
Anthony “Gay Tony” Prince (left) with player character Luis Lopez.
Lopez, being the business partner of Tony Prince, has access to the nightclubs that Tony owns. You can choose the visit the nightclubs for either work or play. If you chose to work, you will be walking around the nightclubs, acting like some sort of bouncer, looking for troublesome patrons. This part of the game would like be watching paint dry, if not for the random situations that arise, ending your boring job and letting you take on a mission. If you want to have some fun at the nightclubs, there are two ways in which you can do it. You can either take part in a champagne-drinking minigame or you can do a John Travolta on the dance floor via a rhythm-based minigame.
Of course no GTA game will be complete with optional missions, and there are, I would say, many of them in The Ballad of Gay Tony. The expansion also introduces several new weapons like sticky bombs, a .44 pistol, an advanced sniper rifle, and an automatic shotgun with explosive rounds. These new weapons are a hoot to play with, especially the shotgun, which can shoot down helicopers in one or two shots.
The rhythm-based minigame in the club.
Although Liberty City is well-rendered with attention paid to details, the visuals look dated. Of course we are not looking for Crysis-level graphics but the game would have better if the view was more pleasant. If you look at pedestrians, you will find that their features looks flat, and the edges of buildings look jagged. Explosions also do not looks as spectacular as explosions should. However, the emphasis on the GTA games has never been on graphics but on gameplay.
As I mentioned earlier, the dialogue is totally hilarious. The conversations between Lopez and Tony, the titular character, made me laugh out loud at times. Rockstar games has done well in animating the characters as well as getting the correct voice artists. The audio, like all GTA games is impressive. The city sounds as busy as LA, the radio stations play great music and conversations between passer-bys often invite a chuckle or two.
All in all, The Ballad of Gay Tony is an excellent expansion. Do not give this a miss if you are a fan of the GTA series. If you are new to the franchise, I suggest you play GTA IV first to get a feel of the game and to understand the storyline better.
An Xbox 360 exclusive, The Ballad of Gay Tony is being bundled together with the orginal GTA IV game as well as the Lost and Damned expansion for a stand-alone retail product, Episodes from Liberty City.
The Good: Hilarious dialogue, excellent storyline, great new weapons
The Bad: Dated visuals
The Ugly: None noted