Monday, February 1, 2010

GTA IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony video game review

Disco is not dead. At least not in Liberty City, the fake New York City in Rockstar's latest add-on game, The Ballad of Gay Tony, for Grand Theft Auto IV. (GTA IV) You play Luis Lopez, the Dominican right hand man to Tony Prince, night club impresario who owns two dance clubs, the straight Masionette 9, and the gay Hercules. Oh, did I mention that Tony is gay? Anyway, Tony gets into trouble with the mob, requiring you as his muscle to bail him out.

Along the way, you meet up with other characters in Liberty City, a couple who had short roles in the original Grand Theft Auto IV. These guys will have "work" i.e. criminal missions for you to do. There's Ray Bulgarin, the Russian mobster who nearly killed Niko Bellic in an ambush. He's even less redeeming here, a pig of a man. We also finally meet Yusif Amir, the developer. He's probably the most fun loving Arab character depicted in any popular medium. You also get to hang out with your two drug dealing friends, Armando and Henrique from the old neighborhood.

It's hard not to like Gay Tony as his worst vices are drugs and bad gay lovers. After all, he gave Luis a job after prison and a lifestyle of the rich and famous. Luis pays him back by looking after his welfare. It's this relationship that drives the story. As you complete the story, you run into other threads from the original GTA IV and The Lost and the Damned, (TLAD) the other add-on game. Most of them have to do with the diamonds that you have seen all the way from the beginning of GTA IV. So, it helps if you at least played GTA IV.

Gameplay is your typical GTA fair, except that battles are bigger. Expect bigger firefights. There's some wild missions, that include hijacking a train, destroying a large yacht by attack chopper, battling a pursuing biker gang with sticky bombs, etc. These missions make for a more flamboyant affair than Niko's adventures in GTA IV. Hey, it ain't called "The Ballad of Gay Tony" for nothing. One new feature allows you to replay missions after you complete the main story. Add parachute jumping, racing, drug wars, disco dancing and you are a going to have one great time in Liberty City.

There are new vehicles and weapons. Sticky bombs stick to most any surface. You then remote detonate them. Assault SMG is a more powerful SMG. There's an Advanced MG, a belt driven machine gun. The explosive shotgun is an automatic shotgun that can fire explosive shells which can bring down choppers. Two new vehicles are the APC and the attack chopper Buzzard. The APC fires artillery rounds like a tank while protecting you from harm. One caveat, the APC can be destroyed by numerous hits from small firearms. The Buzzard is a chopper that fires rockets along with machine gun rounds.

Of course, this being Grand Theft Auto, expect some satirical commentary from media sources of television and radio. Watch the anime spoof "Princess Robot Bublegum" and the sci-fi cartoon "Republican Space Rangers" to experience some sexually charged comedy. Weazel News makes a comeback as the thinly veiled shot at conservative Fox News. WKTT Talk Radio adds "Conspire" a talk show that features paranoid right-wing fantasies, ala Glenn Beck. Unfortunately, the jazz stations have been removed. But disco lives. Station K100 gets new dance music. Radio VLADIVOSTOK gets taken over by disco. Other missing entertainment are comedy and variety shows.

Not much has changed as far as graphics. Unlike his counterpart, Johnny, in The Lost and Damned, Luis can change clothes. However, you can't buy new clothes from the stores. But, look you don't play any Grand Theft Auto game for pretty visuals. You play for the gameplay.

You can download the game from XBOX Live or buy the game on disc which adds The Lost and the Damned. The difference is that if you buy the game as a disc it will cost you about twenty dollars more. However, according to Rockstar you get an additional radio station in Vice City FM.

The Ballad of Gay Tony is a fitting conclusion to one of the great games of the decade. It's one last great blast of fun from Liberty City. The grade is A.

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