Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony
At the beginning of Grand Theft Auto IV, Eastern European immigrant Niko Bellic starts his pursuit of fame and fortune at the bottom of the social ladder. It’s only fitting that Rockstar Games ends its latest impressive run of open world masterpieces at the other end of the spectrum. The Ballad of Gay Tony is Rockstar North’s song of excess, showcasing Liberty City’s drug-addled trust fund elite, promiscuous socialites, nitro-fueled luxury sportscars, and military-grade weaponry.
New protagonist Luis Lopez may roll with the elite, but he certainly isn’t one of them; the Dominican ex-convict grew up pulling off petty crimes in the rough neighborhood of Northwood until legendary nightclub owner Tony Prince took him under his wing. Lopez quickly finds out that a two-bit corner boy and a personal assistant to the rich and famous aren’t so different. As Gay Tony’s once-powerful nightclub empire spirals out of control due to his excessive drug use and outstanding debt to shady loansharks, it’s up to Lopez to do the dirty work and keep the clubs afloat.
Rolling with the rich has its benefits when it comes to crime. Forget the slow progression to explosive weapons most Grand Theft Auto games follow, Lopez has almost immediate access to the finest arms dealers have to offer – attack choppers, APCs, explosive shotguns, sticky bombs, and my favorite, the P90 assault rifle. The creative new missions Rockstar North crafted put these destructive new toys to good use; one minute you’re sinking a luxury yacht with the missile-launching attack chopper, and the next you’re parachuting from 10,000 feet to infiltrate the high-rise offices of the crooked Russian owner of the Liberty City Rampage hockey team. The outlandish nature of most of your missions almost always attracts the attention of the cops, guaranteeing more thrills than your typical GTA fare.
Throughout the story, Luis is torn between his allegiance to the lavish new lifestyle Tony provides him and the family and friends he’s left behind in Northwood. Players won’t feel as bad leaving his disgruntled mother and hoodrat friends in their wake. The drug war shootouts Lopez gets into with his childhood friends may be made from traditional GTA bread and butter, but I found myself ignoring them in favor of the more explosive missions from Gay Tony or spoiled Arab playboy Yusuf Amir.
Luis may feel conflicted hanging in the old neighborhood, but he’s clearly in his element when the drinks are flowing and the dance floor is bumping at the nightclubs. In the clubs, players can remove troublemakers, do shots with bartenders, shower friends with champagne in the VIP room, and dance with the ladies on the dancefloor. Show her all the right moves and she’ll likely show you hers in the bathroom stall. Make sure you work at least one management shift at the nightclub as well; your office employee in the short skirt will make it worth your time.
When Luis isn’t taking orders and doing favors for his out of control friends, players can indulge in the fantastic base jumping and cagefighting side missions or go on a rampage with the attack chopper or APC. The multiplayer also gets new content to amp up the action; the frantic GTA races now feature nitro boosts, and the new deathmatch maps focus on close quarters combat.
While I preferred the tight-knit story of brotherhood and betrayal in The Lost and Damned, The Ballad of Gay Tony delivers more explosive weapons, death-defying missions, and off-the-wall characters. Don’t miss your chance to close out the GTA IV experience in style.