james debate
james debate

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Developed by Rockstar North
Published by Rockstar Games
Genre Third Person action
Platform Xbox 360
Release date(s) Out Now

The latest DLC for GTA4 puts the fun right back into this most intricately designed of game worlds. Thank God!

ballad of gay tony

GTA4 was one of the biggest games of last year, or of any year really, and while it may have been criminally overrated, it was still pretty good. Crucially, where many companies in recent years have made ambitious promises of vast reams of dlc to augment the longevity of their products, Rockstar games have actually managed to deliver on such boasts, whereas most companies have not.

Unfortunately, what they delivered was Lost & Damned, which, while being a decent enough game, was so completely uninteresting as a subject matter that it really didn't even begin to stack up next to the other fine products the developers have created. Fortunately they have more than made up for it with the Ballad of Gay Tony, which is not only the best GTA4 episode, but one of the finest GTA settings, period.

The Ballad of Gay Tony owes much of its success to the introduction of 'fun' which was sorely lacking from the last episode of dlc, and indeed had been scaled back for much of the original game in favour of a gritty realism. Clearly this latest episode is more Lethal Weapon than Mean streets, but all in all, it just works.

You play Luis Lopez, the business partner and bodyguard of the titular Gay Tony, who is the kingpin of the most successful chain of night clubs in Liberty City. Much of the game consists of you bouncing around clubs, partaking in champagne drinking competitions, scoring with the ladies and dancing the night away, so clearly this is my type of game. Frankly, it's just fun. It's an electric, flashy, energy filled setting which makes the proceedings all the more gripping, and for college students like myself, all the more relatable.

This new playful attitude comes through in the missions as well, which are far more reminiscent of the all action silliness of San Andreas, with plenty of helicopter based missions and base jumping from various tall buildings onto various moving vehicles. There's a lot more explosions and action, so anyone who felt that GTA4 until now had been too boring will find exactly what they're looking for in this episode.

It also helps that these missions are generally of a very high quality. You still get a few of the typical 'kill these guys', 'steal this car' boring missions, but then you also get the awesome 'blow up this yacht', 'hit golf balls in a driving range into a guys nuts to intimidate him', and the like, it's consistently entertaining and gripping stuff.

As is customary with the GTA universe, the characters and voice acting are impeccable, and simply better than most of what you see in videogames. The main character, Lopez, has a less dominating personality than recent GTA protagonists, but this works to his favour, as he comes across as much more of a relatable and sympathetic creation, making for a far more compelling character than we've seen yet.

Meanwhile, this episode contains a number of new side missions, including the simple, but fun cage fighting arena, and the club management missions. The latter consists basically of Luis walking around the club throwing out trouble makers, occasionally scoring with the slutty chick who works there, and having to tend to various spoilt celebrities in missions that involve tasks like helping them sneak out of the club, to driving them to pick up prostitutes, to stealing a firetruck to hose down paparazzi.

Aside from all this, though, the city is still the star of the game, and even a year later Liberty City in GTA4 remains one of the most spellbindingly amazing creations we've ever seen in a videogame. There simply has never been such a large, detailed, thoroughly unique game environment as the city in this game, and it is truly an amazing piece of work, even today.

Downloading this add on seems like a win-win. If you like GTA4, you'll love it. If you thought GTA4 was a bit dry, you'll love this. If you simply hate the very concept of a GTA game, well you've probably not read this far. So go download it, and enjoy some kick ass gaming while it lasts.

Fun and clubbing
Relatable character

Too short
Some missions fall into cliché
That this is probably the last we'll see of Liberty City

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