4 Reviews

GTA IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony

Sex, drugs, and violence. Welcome back to the old school...

The gold-plated Uzi comes close, but this game's true signature weapon is the explosive shotgun.

If you fire it into a lamppost, you'll bring it down. If you fire it at the front of a car, the vehicle deforms as if you've driven it into a tree. If you fire it at the policeman who objects to this, he's carried a surprising distance. It's completely over the top, startlingly violent, and huge fun to mess around with. Welcome to the world of Gay Tony.

GTA IV owners can get this second Xbox-exclusive chapter from Xbox Live Marketplace, whereas those who passed on the main game can get on the standalone disc: Episodes from Liberty City.

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And we'd heartily recommend they do, because this is the old-school, full-bore ultra-violence that many people felt was missing from Niko's adventures. It's less a brooding crime epic and more a particularly ludicrous episode of Prison Break.

As Luis Lopez, 'business partner' of titular nightclub owner Gay Tony, you're handed missions that involve base-jumping, cage fighting, and protracted gunfights through the grandest locations in Liberty City. These also form the basis of new minigames, as does the act of managing the clubs themselves - grab a suit and watch the dancefloor for trouble. In your leisure time you can try shotgunning champagne or chancing your arm on the dancefloor by twiddling the analogue sticks in time to the music.

Pull this off and you'll earn a close encounter in the ladies' toilet. There's pulling off of a different variety later on, too - this game doesn't shy away from sex scenes.

Follow-up dates are possible but easily ignored; phone calls are more likely to give you a new toy or spectacular but illogical mission briefing.

Compared to GTA IV's drip-feed, it's almost overwhelming: as if Rockstar wanted to use up all of its leftover set-pieces, and doesn't want to waste time setting them up. You're handed new vehicles and ludicrously powerful weapons at the drop of a girl's underwear, people are thrown off skyscrapers with very little provocation, and every mission ends in some sort of over-the-top gunfight.

It's utterly ludicrous and rather brilliant, unashamedly harking back to Vice City - with these comparisons helped by an '80s radio station of the same name.

Running battles with the police to the sound of John Farnham justifies the purchase all by itself, and there are new reggae and ambient stations as well.

We do miss the more subtle storytelling of GTA IV. While there are still plenty of contemporary zingers - Weasel News reports on the recession, the charismatic President and social networking trend 'Bleeting' - the main story is cruder and Luis is borderline unlikable.

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You do get a glimpse of a troubled background but it's not dwelled upon, and doesn't really get in the way of his day job of being a sex-obsessed, murderous criminal.

Still, there's no denying that you have a lot more fun as a result, and from the start it very obviously joins up the previous tales of Niko and Johnny. Appropriately enough given the content, steroid-crazed alpha male Brucie plays a big part too - although prepare yourself for some surprising insights into his personality.

The ending ties up the diamond heist that links the three chapters, but leaves the main story arcs as they are. That this epic trilogy doesn't end in grand three-way closure is a shame.

But it does end with a lot of shootouts, parachute jumps, and sustained attacks by rocket-firing helicopters to the sound of Hall and Oates' Maneater, which is almost as good. This is GTA doing what it does best.

The verdict

Sex and violence in the classic GTA style

  • Lots of new toys, given quickly
  • Great new radio stations
  • Hours of new content
  • New multiplayer extras
  • Shallower storyline
9
Format
Xbox 360
Developer
Rockstar North
Publisher
Rockstar Games
Genre
Action, Adventure, Racing / Driving

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