Grand Theft Auto 4: The Ballad of Gay Tony Review (Xbox360)
Grand Theft Auto IV pushed the boundaries of video games in every way, which we delved deeply into in our review. Then Rockstar North put out their first DLC, The Lost and The Damned, which we were equally impressed with. Their latest content, the ending of GTAIV’s saga, is just as mind-blowing and enjoyable.
The Ballad of Gay Tony stars Luis Lopez, a bouncer/business partner of Anthony “Gay Tony” Prince, nightclub connoisseur and the “prince” of Liberty City. While business may be good, the investors in Tony’s nightclubs come from all corners of scum: various mobs, lunatics, and generally greedy bastards. And it’s up to Luis to clean up the mess left behind.
Much like Niko Bellic, Luis Lopez grew up and screwed up, and it took him a long time and getting away from home to clean up his act. For Luis, it was getting caught drug dealing with his two best friends, who return not begging for forgiveness, but for help. Not only are they his friends, they’re family, almost all that Luis has left besides his mother, the typical Puerto Rican guilt inducing and condescending yet loving matriarch.
|Luis Lopez, player, bouncer, businessman, someone who gets the job done.||A major portion of the game revolves around the nightclub life, including Luis' work. Don't forget about it!|
Like TLATD, all of Liberty City is open from the moment you begin Luis’ epic tale. That doesn’t mean you’ll play just like you did in GTA IV, far from it. There’s no moving between apartments or buying new clothes or hitting up the comedy club (though there are a few new episodes on the TV, which are better than most of what’s on the real boob tube). But what there is a lot of is just fantastic.
Luis’ story, that of making Gay Tony’s problems go away and keeping them from piling up and drowning them both, is wonderfully done. The voice acting is superb, the story plays out wonderfully, and the characters are as colorful as we’ve ever experienced. There’s little macho BS we’ve come to expect from today’s titles; these characters are as real as they come. The dialog itself deserves an award, because the writing staff did their best work yet.
Clocking in at a little over twelve hours, completing the full storyline with limited to no extra missions is some of the best entertainment I’ve experienced in the last year. While games like Uncharted 2, Resident Evil 5 and Batman: Arkham Asylum offered excellent gameplay, TBOGT is in a class above. It can’t even compare; as far as this critic is concerned, saying GTA IV and its episodes is a game seems insulting. The writing is better than most movies released in the last twenty years.
One change is undoubtedly going to be a point of contention among gamers. At the start of many missions, a weapon will suddenly appear in Luis’ arsenal, without it being given to him or it being purchased. This pushes gameplay forward more smoothly, which I appreciated and found to be so much easier than having to go out and buy weapons, but of course where do those weapons come from? Some will say such a feature is crap, but I believe quite the opposite.
Many of the secondary missions are extremely repetitive, which is a shame. Working with Luis’ drug smuggling friends will have the same two or three dialog trees replaying over and over again, to the point of memorization. Listening to the talk radio also becomes repetitive, and several music stations had a tendency to play the same songs far too often (I’ve memorized Suavemente, and I don’t know a lick of Spanish).
A few of the new mini games are also worth mentioning. The fight club is fun and challenging, the races are epic as ever, and parachuting is just odd, but finally, that feature carried over from San Andreas. Club management is also an interesting array of throwing drug dealers out of the club, long driving bouts to deliver goods or people around the city, and generally child-unfriendly sequences.
Whatever it is, The Ballad of Gay Tony does it almost too perfectly. It’s one of the few games you can sit back and play the story and forget about everything else. Giving all your attention to this game is as easy as putting the disc in. I absolutely loved it, and if there’s anything better, I’ve yet to see it. Excellent gameplay, superb storytelling, a ridiculously open world and the best damn writing you’ll find today. If you haven’t already bought it, you’re either underage or something is seriously wrong with you. Go. Now.
Grand Theft Auto 4: The Ballad of Gay Tony Gameplay trailer
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Grand Theft Auto 4: The Ballad of Gay Tony Tony Prince Trailer
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