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Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony

Rockstar's Latest Expansion Defies Expectations
by Andrew Reiner on Sep 29, 2009 at 08:58 AM
Platform PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Publisher Rockstar Games
Developer Rockstar North
Rating Mature

From the hot coffee sex scandal to alleged virtual hate crimes against Haitians, Grand Theft Auto is no stranger to controversy. With the next entry in the series bearing the name The Ballad of Gay Tony, some might expect the Stonewall Riots to head east toward Rockstar’s Noho office. While Rockstar’s satirical views of society are strongly conveyed, nothing we’ve seen in our hands-on demo with The Ballad of Gay Tony should drum up controversy. If anything, Rockstar deserves kudos for presenting a gay character in a non-stereotypical way.

Our hands-on demo with the game consisted of three missions that focus on the new playable protagonist, Luis Fernando Lopez, a Dominican-American born and raised in Liberty City’s Algonquin borough who serves as Gay Tony’s bodyguard and business partner. Unlike GTA IV protagonists Niko Bellic and Johnny Klebitz, Luis is on the other side of the velvet rope – he runs with the upper class. This hierarchy shift affects every aspect of the game. Luis undoubtedly finds himself taking out the trash in the same way Niko and Johnny do, but the demands of the people around him are of a much higher billing.

When he’s not keeping Tony’s creditors at bay, Luis works with Yusef Amir, a real estate mogul who isn’t afraid to flash his money and is up front about his desire for more. He literally wants to own all of Liberty City. This crazy idea includes snatching one of Liberty City’s trains. In this mission, Luis finds himself riding on the roof of Liberty’s red line, shooting grenades and new explosive shotgun rounds at helicopters. If Luis times his ability to cling to the train’s roof precisely, players are treated to a cinematic slow motion sequence of Luis ducking a chopper. This mission concludes in style, with Luis detaching a train car, and a transport helicopter swooping in to steal a precious piece of Liberty City.

Each mission ends with a new ranking system that intricately details your performance, such as damage taken, shots fired, and time taken to complete the mission. Like Chinatown Wars, players can freely replay missions with the hope of getting 100 percent. Certain performances are rewarded with bonuses that appear in Luis’ safe house.

Along with an assortment of new cars that reflect Luis’ standing in the world (think Bentley), Rockstar North has implemented new TV shows, songs, DJ chatter, websites, and a slew of new weapons ranging from sticky C4 to an enhanced sniper rifle. More exciting yet, this game also marks the return of San Andreas’ parachute. We used this handy item as much as any of Luis’ firearms. One mission concludes with Luis knocking a target out of a skyscraper window, then fleeing the scene by base-jumping from this window and landing on the flatbed of the getaway truck. Over a dozen base-jumping challenges are littered across Liberty for players to put their skills to the test. Additionally, if you perform well in these challenges, a parachute appears in your safe house, meaning you can use it at any time.

Airplanes are still not a part of this GTA experience, but tank-class vehicles of destruction make a comeback. This APC doesn’t have tank treads, but it packs just as much of a wallop as previous series incarnations and should be an integral part of Luis’ campaign, as well as multiplayer carnage. All of the new vehicles and weapons are available for competitive matches.

We’ve only seen a small fraction of what The Ballad of Gay Tony offers, but it’s clear that Rockstar is going to great lengths to make this experience dramatically different than anything you’ve seen in the series before.

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Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tonycover

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony

PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: