The Ballad of Gay Tony. Doesn’t sound the least bit controversial does it? After the amount of critical acclaim GTA IV and The Lost and Damned received, it’s clear Rockstar wanted to go out with a glitzy bang, and they so have! So, is this perhaps the last DLC we’ll see for GTA IV? Have Rockstar decided to give the residents of Liberty City an easy life? After all the blood, sweat and tears that must have gone into creating the best DLC of all time, I’m inclined to say yes. So buckle up, and hit the Liberty City highway one last time.
The biggest surprise in Gay Tony is probably the fact that you don’t actually play as a gay character, and there was me hoping I would finally get to walk in front of a speeding cop car as Florian Cravic. You walk in the shoes of a Luis Lopez, bodyguard, or as he prefers to be known, assistant to Gay Tony, owner of LC’s hottest gay and straight nightclubs. Not bucking the trend GTA IV and TLAD set, the main protégée isn’t simply a hard-nut psychopath; he has a softer side, which makes him endearing and a pleasure to play as. It’s refreshing to see Gay Tony himself isn’t a complete cream puff, he’s got a fairly straight-acting manner and his friendship with Luis is about as far as it goes. Props to Rockstar for the realism. Other standout characters include Yusuf Amir, the man that has it all, but wants more! He’s certainly one of the funniest character creations to come out of the series.
The story is fun and has all the shine you would expect, most importantly though it’s light on the brain and, for once, seems to let the missions do the talking rather than the script. As with TLAD, a fair few missions intertwine with the main story. The diamond mission makes its third appearance, but there are also some new and interesting stories, such as dealing with Liberty City’s very own “Celebrity Blogger” akin Perez Hilton.
The basic gameplay mechanics stay unchanged - if it ain't broke don’t fix it. A host of new features are prominent in The Ballad of Gay Tony. First being Mission Scoring and Replay. You’re marked on a variety of different objectives - time, headshots, car damage etc. They all add up to a total percentage, and the good thing about this is you don’t need to achieve them all in one go (trust me it would be very difficult), which is where mission replay comes in. It does exactly what it sounds like - after completing the game you can replay any mission from your mobile to improve your overall score, or, like me, you just want to jump out of a chopper again and again and again! The side missions are fantastic and you actually feel inclined to play them more than once, unlike the snooze fest that was bowling. Base jumping is by far the most exciting, tasking you with jumping from a very tall building, or a plane, and landing within feet of your target mark. The parachute handles beautifully and can carry you some distance. After a mission at the golf range, you can go back there anytime, though after you’ve nailed how to play it loses its thrill a little. Also new is cage fighting, for those that enjoy the hand to hand combat in GTA (why?!) this is just for you, pitting you against a wave of blood-thirsty men all going for the title. A great way to exercise the slew of new weapons is to participate in drug wars. The aim here? Shoot like hell and get the dope. Last but certainly one of my favourite new features is the new races, a GTA triathlon if you like. Parachute, boat, then drive to the finish line faster than the competition.
New cars, boats and helicopters are available, including the Buzzard which is penned as being “easier to manoeuvre than the annihilator”, though I have to disagree. Its rockets and machine guns are immense fun to shoot off when you get the chance to aim though. I found balancing the Buzzard was just frustrating, thankfully though this was my only main gripe with the entire DLC. Remember how much fun could be had with a tank in Vice City? Yes?! Well it’s back, the unstoppable APC is a great way to add to the over the top feel of Gay Tony. The Lost and Damned upped the ante when it came to weapons, but the new AA-12 Combat Shotgun blows pretty much any previous weapon out of the water. The damage you can do with this baby in close combat is immense and very satisfying. .44 pistol, a new sniper rifle and sticky bombs added to the previous arsenal means you really are spoilt for choice.
The new weapons, vehicles and overall over the top vibe Gay Tony contains is what gamers have been asking for all along. Many were disappointed with the story focused GTA IV and its stark contrast with San Andreas and Vice City. I mentioned earlier that the missions take centre piece here, and they do. The insane weapons, crazy side missions and vehicles all complement the string of exciting missions you’ll face. In one mission I was tasked with scaring the living daylights out of a certain character, so what did I do? We decided to take a helicopter tour of liberty city, gaining as much altitude as possible. Then I threw the poor guy out of the chopper without a parachute or a nappy. Now this fella wasn’t a bad guy, just a bit of an annoying loud mouth, so I did the decent thing, and I went after him. Fortunately I caught him just in time, but he won’t be shouting his mouth off anytime soon. That’s just a snippet of the type of missions you’ll face, so forget your reservations, they really are every bit as fun as the screenshots make out.
Several new gameplay features are tweaked in multiplayer to make them even more fun, including kill streaks and assisted kills. New deathmatch and race routes are also available. There are also new songs and talk shows, as well as a new station (Vice City F.M.), and finally the overall style of the menus and health bar etc. all tie in with the camp style of Gay Tony.
The Lost and Damned brought a good deal of value to the table. Gay Tony not only top’s that in quantity, but quality too. The main missions are more exciting and fun, and worth the $19.99 alone, but the side missions, new weapons, and new vehicles all make the game worth playing even after you’ve completed the campaign and they don’t feel tacked on. Mission replayabilty is a great way to extend your playtime and go back and enjoy some of the outrageous missions you've encountered.
For those that have enjoyed the new style of GTA, there is still plenty of that here. The story is, as always with GTA, brilliant. But for those who wished GTA IV was just a bit more like Vice City and San Andres, Gay Tony is here and it’s every bit as fun. If you haven’t picked up TLAD yet it's well worth your while to pick up the disc based version that includes both downloadable episodes. You could find yourself having more fun with these than you did with the main game!