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Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony (Xbox 360)

89
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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.4
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5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Kadath Bird (706)
Written on  :  Dec 02, 2009
Platform  :  Xbox 360
Rating  :  4.43 Stars4.43 Stars4.43 Stars4.43 Stars4.43 Stars

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Summary

Hello class. Welcome to DLC 101. Today, guest teacher Rockstar Games will be your teacher on how to make good DLC.

The Good

I'm not so sure about this whole DLC fad. Although it has evolved from stupid crap like "Horse Armour" to small mission packs, I feel that they are often rushed and short. In my mind, DLC was supposed to be a new front for the ever growing digital market in which developers could release digital expansion packs. Yet almost every DLC pack out there is simply too insubstantial to count as an "Expansion pack" and it saddens me because a truly good expansion pack can keep a game alive if it has enough quality and content. Bethesda Studios and their Fallout 3 DLC are one of the prime examples, while not all their DLC is bad, they maybe take 1-2 hours to beat and only add maybe 4 missions and a couple new guns or tools.

But then Rockstar graces us with The lost and Damned & and now we have today's topic, The Ballad of Gay Tony, both of which are what I was hoping DLC would be all along. These are expansion packs for GTA IV and are exclusive to the 360; Sorry PS3/Windows owners :( I know, despite 360 being my primary console I'll still admit that its lame you don't get a piece of the pie.

The Ballad of Gay Tony follows Luis Lopez rather than the eponymous Gay Tony, but Gay Tony is still a very large part of the plot and his story is just as interesting and involving as Luis' as it unfolds. Luis is a very likable protagonist. Johnny was an "OK" character, but he had inconsistencies. He was trying to play like he had a good man inside, but some of his actions simply scribbled it out. Luis doesn't have these, and like Niko, he's really not a criminal at heart. He's done a stint in prison already for dealing, and he doesn't want anything to do with it anymore. After leaving hes become a respectable business partner to Gay Tony, as well as acting at one of Gay Tony's 2 clubs; The Maisonette 9. Maisonette 9 is a club for a straight demographic, the other club Gay Tony owns, "Hercules" is for a gay and lesbian demographic. However, after the infamous bank robbery from GTA IV (Much like TLAD, this games plot is concurrent with GTA IV's rather than set before or after) he is given his first taste of blood and his family, particularly his brothers, and a few other players suck him back into a life of crime. This is the worst city in America, and you won't last long on the straight and narrow.

The story is excellent thanks to Luis being a great character. He's even more well fleshed out than Niko, and another step up from Niko's story is that a lot of his story revolved around back plot in Niko's past and Luis' story gets straight to the point and while it gives him a basic 'past,' the game lets you get a bit more acclimated and comfortable in his shoes by focusing on the present and letting it unfold from there which is a more graceful and streamlined method of story telling. The story also benefits from the usual top notch writing and voice acting that Rockstar puts into their games. Every dramatic note hits, and every funny note hits too. GTAs vitriolic take on American culture and society is more acidic and vile then ever, bordering on perfection, and every message Rockstar wants to get across they get across well; whether its serious or done in a lighter, more satirical manner.

The core gameplay still shines. There are a few new cars and weapons, to be expected. My favourite new gun is the shotgun that has explosive shells. There is a P90, but its useless, although I'm actually NOT complaining because it seems that of all the games to have a P90 in it, Rockstar is the only one that seems to have actually done their homework and realized that the P90 is a complete and utter PoS in real life. I haven't really noticed much new music, but that's because I'm picky and only listen to Liberty Rock and the Talk shows. Speaking of talk shows Rockstar has answered my prayers and have brought me a gift from the heavens... NEW LAZLOW MATERIAL! YAY!! *claps in childish glee* :B Sorry, I really, REALLY like Lazlow. My wife and a few friends tell me there is some new music, but mostly in the electronica stations and at the dance clubs.

There's also new side missions where you get to parachute off stuff and on to other stuff. At first, I was skeptical. I felt that the underrated classic of the year, Prototype had perfected this and I was kinda worried Rockstar put these in just to compete, much like they nicked the GPS system from Saints Row. However, I was wrong. These are even better. The excellent graphics as well as the great camera and realistic field of view, jumping off buildings is as awesome and yet utterly horrifying as one would hope it would be. I have a MASSIVE fear of heights, but games that challenge that fear of heights always attract me so that I might face my fear and quick it square in the nuts even if its only in a virtual manner. They are fun and well thought out, not to mention challenging, particularly when trying to land on a moving vehicle like a taxi or a boat.

The mission design is superb and very lengthy, there is enough content in here to last you a long time. There are times where you keep expecting the game to end, but it continues on full steam ahead.

There is a new feature that gives you stats at the end of each mission and goals to beat. Rockstar has added the ability to not only upload said stats, but replay the mission if you wish to improve your score. This is nice for people who want to go back to their favourite mission without starting a new game and waiting for it. This stat feature also gives you reason to replay missions and beat your previous high score. Another new feature are checkpoint saves in missions, meaning that if you die or fail a mission, when you hit the replay button it will take you back closer to where you left off rather than making you restart the mission either from the driving stage or the actual action stage. This really helps ease some of the frustration.

The game portrays the high end club lifestyle in a good way as well as does a fairly good job satirizing it. I also had to respect the way the game portrays homosexuality, as it does it in a much more mature manner than its predecessors (Even the base game; Bernie was a walking talking gay stereotype that kinda bugged me) or games in general. Most games seem to deal with the subject negatively, often "spoofing" gays by relying on stupid and offensive stereotypes, and while there is still prejudice shown towards this topic from certain characters, the game clearly frowns on said prejudice and I respect it for its realistic and respectful view on the subject.

The Bad

All the problems wrong with the base game are here as well. I don't think I need to go into too much detail because you can simply look up my review of GTA IV and find them out. The only one I'm going to yell at are vehicle controls. Specifically the new helicopter controls. The helicopter controls in TBoGT are atrocious. Easily the worst I've ever, EVER encountered. There is a mission that puts you on a brand spanking new attack helicopter... and I want to strangle and possibly castrate what thick employee designed that mission. That missions is downright evil, it asks you to destroy a yacht and then its 4 rescue boats. Sounds simple enough, and kinda fun, right? Well, Rockstar somehow managed to figure out how to suck the fun out of blowing up boats in a helicopter with the worst helicopter controls ever. Seriously, I replayed this mission, according to my stats, 45 times because it is impossible to control your altitude, control your direction, control your movement, and fire both rockets and the machine gun all at the same friggen' time and half the time I kept losing the boats or trying to aim my gun, which required me to dip forward, and then losing altitude and ending up in the drink.

Club management isn't all that fun, but if you don't do it, Gay Tony, your girlfriend, and your best friend will all bitch you to death with their cell phones if you don't do it. It's a boring chore and all you do is stand in hallways, and if you see a fellow acting stupid you just walk over to him and then a cinematic plays of you throwing him out. It might be fun if you could actually control a fight or throw the guy out yourself, but just walking around the halls of the club watching other people have fun is dull.

Speaking of girlfriends; if there is one inconsistency in Luis' character its his treatment of his girlfriend. Unlike in the main GTA IV game, there is only one and her character is important to the plot and to the character, and sometimes Luis will be allowed to have sex with random women in front of the camera that his girlfriend is monitoring and it kinda saddens me when this happens because it usually happens when I'm simply trying to do a dance but instead of doing the dance it has me go out with the woman, plus it seems out of character for Luis to do such a mean thing to his girl.

While they have been reduced, like in The Lost and Damned there are times where you go through missions from Niko's storyline just from another perspective. While it is a somewhat clever idea and a good way to keep the storyline consistent and concurrent with Niko's and Johnny's stories it shows that *some* rushing was done with the game. It would have been nicer to have more missions that simply tied in or explained certain plot points of one of the other stories than simply rehashing them from another perspective. They do this a couple times, and they did do it once in the last episode showing that it was The Lost that kidnapped Roman. But for the most part, when they want to tie in to the other stories, they recycle a mission and I feel it slightly lazy on Rockstar's part.

The Bottom Line

Did you like GTA IV? If you did, get The Ballad of Gay Tony. Now. It's more GTA IV and it's just as good as the main course. It's a tasty side dish with free extras on top and comes with some free desert too. Not to mention, it also has more cowbell. And more Lazlow. Everything can do with more Lazlow. Whether you buy it off of the marketplace or buy it bundled with The lost and damned (I bought it off of the marketplace as I had points saved up, plus I already owned TLaD so it would be cheaper just to get this off Marketplace) its a great GTA experience and if you've been starving for some more GTA goodness then this is a delight. Did I mention it has more Lazlow?