18 November 2010 | bob the moo
Really captures the glitz, fun and chaos really well which, with other improvements, makes for a really great game
Years ago I played a top-down view GTA game on my old PC. The graphics were basic and the idea was simple. Years later I picked up GTA4 after it had been out for a while, having not taken part in the other versions since my PC days. I really loved the scale of it and the story and, once my tenth prestige on Modern Warfare 2 was achieved, I picked up a disc with the two downloadable chapters on it. The first of these was good but it had some problems. The base for your character was the island playing the part of New Jersey – a terribly dull and grey place in the game. The gang wars were cool but required biking it for long distances. The Xbox achievement points were mostly down to "finish the game" and not spread out and generally the game seemed to be trying to be gritty and downbeat, while still allowing you to run amuck like in the main game. I liked it as an add-on but there were things about it that could have been better.
I almost wish that I had played Lost & Damned when it came out, because then i could convince myself that Rockstar listened to me. Sadly, as it was my comments came long after both chapters were released – which is a shame because The Ballad of Gay Tony is a massive improvement and pretty much everything I had pause over in Lost & Damned is addressed in this second download. The home base locations are all on Manhattan and, although you cover all of the boroughs and Jersey, it is great to be mostly around this area. The story is one of club lifestyles, drugs, wealth and excess – we still have junkies but now they are very wealthy as opposed to infected and waiting for death like they were in Lost & Damned. The weapons are souped up (AA12 and of course the wonderful sticky bombs), the vehicles are generally better and of course the buzzard and the tank being available makes "messing around" a lot easier and more fun. The parachute was new to me and I did find the base jumping challenges very hard but generally they were fun.
The cage fighting and drug wars are just two other extra things to be done outside of the main story and wisely the game achievement points have been spread across all of these so that they are more than just side activities but necessary to 100% the game. Even the dancing has achievements associated with it – an activity that I hated until I understood the instructions then I loved it – doing the bus stop was great fun. Back to the main story though. As before, it dove-tails into part of GTA4 in regards the theft and repeated theft of the bag of diamonds. This is good stuff and is satisfying to see things come together. The alternative view on Brucie is an example of the story being pretty clever and I did respect it for working with that character a little. Luis is one cool character and I enjoyed playing that role a lot. Of course in terms of characters all come second to the addition of Yusuf Amir, who is hilariously over the top and very well voiced by UK comedian Omid Djalili. His cut scenes are among the best and his missions are generally the most outrageously over the top (stealing a subway train and airlifting it out of the city!!). All of the missions are fun though and most of the cut scenes get the balance right between being entertaining and instructional while not running too long to make you feel like you're not being allowed to play the game! The Ballad of Gay Tony is not only a great downloaded extra, but it is easily a great game if you pick it up for itself. The many little distractions give it life, while the exaggerated action and glitzy characters give the game a real sense of OTT fun that the Lost & Damned didn't manage. Even after all the time I'd spent in Liberty City by the time I started this game, it still managed to be fresh, fun and entertaining.