Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Past and Times of Yore: GTA4, The Ballad of Gay Tony, Bringing back the crazy-go-nuts

Title: Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games (Parent Company: Take2 Interactive)
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Multiplayer: Up to 16 players on consoles; 32 on PC.
Release Date: October 29, 2009 on X360; April 13, 2010 (USA) on PS3 and PC.
Rating: MA 17+ (ESRB); 18 (BBFC)

First off I will say I have already done a small review for TBOGT back in April 2011 but having recently played the game again I did want to expand on that as much as I could.

There was a time when I thought that GTA had gotten a bit more serious, that was of course when GTA4 came out. It was so great looking and smooth and the ragdoll and physics effects were awesome and the driving and shooting and overall animation and graphics were much more realistic overall, which wasn’t exactly too hard coming from San Andreas. While this newfangled animation did resolve with some ragdoll fun, most of the time I found myself trying to play mildly realistically even so much as early in the game and sometimes when I felt like it even abiding to the local street signs and traffic lights. With the release of the “Lost and the Damned” expansion this didn’t really change much, the biker gang story was just as gritty as the main GTA4 storyline. But I enjoyed the realism and playing properly though I couldn’t help thinking there was something missing.

GTA was based on gritty realism, TBOGT is safe to say is not in most regards.
When the newest expansion for GTA4 “The Ballad of Gay Tony” (TBOGT) came out thats where a lot of things changed. In contrast to the gritty underground life that was the Lost and the Damned This ‘episode’ focuses on the glitz, glamour, money and business of the Algonquin (aka Manhattan) night life, the game introduced new weapons, new vehicles, new radio tracks, new interiors, and new missions that offer a fresh way to explore Liberty City. The story starts off quite simple (in GTA terms), you are Luis Lopez, a hispanic American who has had a troubled childhood with both his friends and his family and has been through some rough times with drug gangs and jail and has just recently survived a bank robbery as an innocent bystander in which we all would know which bank robbery it was and who the culprits were. I love the fact that the main characters of the expansions have missions that intertwine with the ones from Niko who was the main protagonist in GTA4. So anyway Luis is now in a business partnership with Tony Prince aka “Gay Tony” who is a nightclub entrepreneur with links to the Ancelotti Crime Syndicate. Gay Tony operates two nightclubs in Algonquin - Hercules and Maisonette 9, he is also a drug addict, with many debts to pay off, and he relies on Luis as his bodyguard/business partner.

Tony and Luis hold a tenuous partnership
The first mission started out pretty normal, you drive to the two clubs and see Luis and Tony together and got to know the two personalities. I did notice that Rockstar had added new “clubber” citizens with the appropriate clothes and I have to say they did a pretty good job of simulating a nightclub, the music was there, the new radio stations and tracks were especially good in the club scene, the alcohol, the people, the vibe there was even people outside the venue drunk and throwing up. It became apparent in the second mission that this was not going to start off slow at all, you travel with Tony to the golf driving range where you take shots at a union official who is tied to a golf cart before his mafia friends arrive and you jump into your own golf cart for a short guns-blazing-golf-cart-chase through the city. After that things quickly spiral out of control and you’re doing jobs all over the place for eccentric millionaires, annoying pricks and powerful criminals alike to save Tony’s skin, things that involve blowing up speedboats with sticky bombs, stealing armed helicopters from luxury yachts, skydiving out of planes, jumping off buildings and stealing a moving train carriage using a skycrane.

Just a usual day at the office
All the side missions this time around are all just as crazy, they involve helping your friends Armando and Henrique steal drug shipments, base jumps from buildings, cage fighting and triathlons involving helicopters, speedboats and fast cars, you can also enjoy the clubs if you with, either by doing the dancing mini-game or working there as the manager occasionally being called out to do a favor for a celebrity of some sort. One of the main things that adds to the action is the introduction of some fairly ridiculous new weapons and vehicles which include:

Like Planet Rock!, we just don't stop we gonna drive you nuts!
  • A longer more silly looking handgun.
  • The AA-12 automatic shotgun with explosive rounds no less
  • The P90 Assault SMG
  • A Golden SMG that has a ridiculous 1000 rpm fire rate
  • A heavy M249 machine gun
  • A chunky looking advanced sniper rifle with laser sight.
  • The return of the sticky bombs and grenade launcher from the Lost and the Damned as well as an armed helicopter with chainguns and rocket launchers and last but not least a SWAT tank with a full on assault cannon. If that doesn’t spell chaos then I don’ know what will.
Budda budda budda budda! kablamo! wachow! badda bing bong!
When playing GTA San Andreas it was hard to believe CJ went from a low-life gangster in LA to being a part owner of a Las Vegas Casino and The Ballad of Gay Tony does seem a lot like the time CJ spent in the Nevada desert doing seemingly secret-agent style missions. I’ll always love the whole “starting out in a new city with nothing and working up to something” style of story, but it was somewhat fun to be “starting out with lots of things and trying to stay alive” sort of story and throughout the missions there were a few times when I did think to myself “wow how are we going to get out of this one” as Luis struggles to deal with all the problems he has going for himself with his troubled mother, his friends Armando and Henrique, his suicidal stalker ex-girlfriend Margot, and not to mention all the people Tony has either pissed off or borrowed money from with his drug-fuelled antics.

Luis' friends Armando and Henrique aren't exactly supportive of him trying to reform his life though either does he the way he's looking with that fully automatic shotgun "Grrrrrrr"
I had only one occasion where I could experience the multiplayer and it was fun, but not as fun as it could have been, I played a bit at a LAN we we used the Simple Trainer to spawn cars, obstacles and generally cause some ruckus but what I really wanted was to do multiplayer base jumping and skydiving. I was really interested to see if they had a game mode where you could do the triathlon race with the helicopters, boats, cars and nitro with your friends but looking at the multiplayer modes unfortunately this wasn't the case though as you'll see below I did find some press screenshots of it so I don't whether it was originally in there or what.

"This ain't checkers" Triathlon Mission with Mori

Why wasn't this a multiplayer game moooooooooooode!

Overall I found The Ballad of Gay Tony a pretty fun experience, it brings back a few of the crazy things from San Andreas that were missing from GTA4 and really finishes off the game with a bang (literally!) It pays tribute to what the original game was built on freedom, chaos and thoughtless crime. This ‘episode’ has vice, sex, action and explosions out the wazoo and would satisfy anyone who was disappointed with the simplification of the original game. Sadly the multiplayer was never very active on PC at least though I thoroughly recommend for any fans of the GTA series.


The Ballad of Gay Tony Debut Trailer


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