Sadly, unlike so many who were caught within that 2008 hype train, I never loved GTA IV. I know that it delivered on so many promises with the return of Liberty City, a truly next-generation Grand Theft Auto experience, and the best immigrant story in a video game. But my main takeaway from playing the game properly a couple of years ago was its excellence in acting as Taxi Simulator 2008.
For the first four or five missions, all the game asked me to do was drive. Now, I understand that an experience has to pace itself and not blow everything within the first two hours, but at the same time, driving around, even within the addictive and innovative playground of Liberty City, was boring. Very boring. So, I gave up. I stopped playing the game – vowing to never revisit Niko’s adventure. However, despite the initial bad taste left in my mouth, I had heard great things about the second DLC for GTA IV: The Ballad of the Gay Tony. So, I tried it. Boy was it not like GTA IV… in the best way possible.
Where I found GTA IV slow and boring, The Ballad of Gay Tony (TBOGT) was exciting, frantic and addictive. With characters full of obscene vocabulary and mental issues, such as Anthony “Gay Tony” Prince himself, and action-packed sequences which kept me playing after I completed the main story, there’s a reason that every GTA fan should’ve checked out TBOGT if they haven’t done already.
You play as Luis Fernando Lopez, bodyguard or, ‘business associate’ as Luis prefers to call himself, for Gay Tony. Helping to assist Tony with the financial and moral issues that come with owning a night club in Liberty City whilst owing money to mafia families, you’ll be stealing diamonds, jumping from planes and getting lap dances through this second episodic adventure of the GTA IV saga.
This DLC was developed before Rockstar North had decided to focus their post-launch content on multiplayer efforts only. A great time to be alive if you can remember the joy of playing through Red Dead’s Undead Nightmare which, similar to TBOGT, felt like a small game in itself. With the full city at your disposal and various new activities to participate in, including managing the night club for Tony, you can easily fall into the world of Luis Lopez and his dealings with the fake highflyers.
This DLC recaptured my love of GTA: San Andreas as a playground waiting to be explored and exploded. With many tools and vehicles at your disposal, and the expected excellent dialogue between characters as you drive through the night-filled Liberty City to protect Gay Tony, which is more probable than not considering his favourable streak to get along with pretty much no-one, this expansion easily stands out as one of the best. And that is from somebody who didn’t even play through the entirety of the core game.
The story does loosely relate and tie-in to the main GTA IV story, but not to an over-saturated point. Which is good for players like me who played TBOGT on the ‘Episodes from Liberty City’ disc, which features the two expansions for GTA IV; not the original game. The other expansion ‘The Lost and Damned’, didn’t quite hit the heights though, running in a similar fashion to that of playing through GTA IV: the characters weren’t engaging enough, the colour palette, while creative and matching of the atmosphere, was dull, and the missions were too boring. Think of it as Motorcycle Simulator.
Overall, though and The Ballad of Gay Tony is a great expansion for a game which I, unfortunately, didn’t fall in love. But I can say I fell in love with TBOGT and had a blast playing through it. If you fancy some GTA nostalgia, and/or want to dive back into the GTA IV package in its entirety, I would say that if nothing else strikes your fancy, The Ballad of Gay Tony should.