So here we are. Playing the final moments of The Ballad of Gay Tony left me feeling distinctly sad. This is it. The last piece of DLC for Grand Theft Auto IV. The last piece of new content in a game brimming with content. After around 90 hours of combined game time, Grand Theft Auto IV is finally over.

All the toys
you ever
wanted in


Same as Lost
and Damned,
The new
club soundtrack
fits well 
still works 
Awful. The
framerate chugs
harder than a frat
bro at a Phish
Decent. There's
a lot base

Rockstar is aware that this is the end, and they do their best to send Liberty City out in style. The Ballad of Gay Tony is a metaphorical (and literal at times) twenty-one gun salute. It is a love letter to the zany style of past GTA games. Everything is about making sure the player has fun. Instead of making you wait for forty hours to get to the good stuff, the game practically throws awesome weapons at you within the first few missions.

The new guns are my favorite part of Ballad. After suffering through so many hours in the main campaign with a semiautomatic pistol, it feels cathartic to blast away with a heavy machine gun. The LMG, C4, and new sniper rifle are awesome toys. However, the silenced P90 has a special place reserved for it in GTA heaven. Killing sprees are so much fun when you've got a silenced submachine gun.

You need some good weapons to complete the dramatic missions in The Ballad of Gay Tony. You get to hijack a tank, jump out of a helicopter (parachutes are back), race across the city in awesome sports cars, and blow up a whole lot of stuff. One of my complaints about The Lost and Damned was that the missions weren't exciting enough. This DLC solves that with aplomb.

That bombastic feeling is what The Ballad of Gay Tony is all about. This time around the story centers on the exotic world of high-class dance clubs and Liberty City's elite. It's a world where style and flash and excitement count far more than substance.

At the center of this world (and standing against it) is the new protagonist, Luis Lopez. He's had a hard life, growing up poor and Dominican in Liberty City. After spending a few years in prison for a friend, he is rescued by Tony Prince, a wealthy club owner. The man known colloquially as "Gay Tony" makes Luis his right-hand man. The two make a good team, with Luis often acting as a calming influence on Tony.

Tony Prince is an interesting guy. Rockstar deserves serious praise for writing a gay character that is treated as a real person, not a stereotype. Granted, he's a drug-addled hypocritical idiot... but so is everyone else in Rockstar's insane version of America. Equality!

Tony and Luis have serious problems. The clubs are unprofitable and they owe money to some scary people. Watching the two of them desperately try to find a solution to their troubles creates a good story. Rockstar seems to delight in themes of opposites, taking on topics like poverty and wealth, homo- and heterosexual, loyalty and betrayal, and new and old identities.

Helping them along the way is the usual cast of morons. Luis and Tony deal with some interesting personalities. That includes a few returning faces. I was especially amused to find my suspicious confirmed about a certain character's sexual preference.

The star of the show, though, is Yusuf Amir. The shortest description of Yusuf is that he's the new Brucie. The Arab playboy is so brash, so obnoxious, and so thoroughly annoying that I actually liked him. Watching Yusuf struggle with the bounds of reality is hilarious. At least he's reliable about letting Luis borrow the assault helicopter.

The Ballad of Gay Tony is a great experience. The new weapons and original story are really cool. I loved blowing up boats with an assault helicopter and jumping out of planes. That stuff is a great throwback to the GTA we grew up with in the PS2 era. More than that, The Ballad of Gay Tony is an excellent way to send off Grand Theft Auto IV. What better way to say goodbye to Liberty City than to blow it up with a tank?

I'll miss this city and its inhabitants. Until we return... here's looking at Grand Theft Auto V.