Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony Review

A lot of the downloadable content (DLC) out there is nothing but a rip-off designed to separate gamers from their money. $3 for a new outfit for a character in a game? $5 for a new car in a racing game already packed with cars to drive? Seriously? With so many companies trying to cash in on DLC and bilk gamers with worthless add-ons (why do you think DLC always has a "there are no refunds for this content" disclaimer slapped on it?), Rockstar deserves a lot of credit for giving gamers more than they paid for. Grand Thef Auto IV is in and of itself a massive game, but its first DLC expansion, The Lost and Damned, delivered a new character, new gameplay, and a ton of new content. And they've now done it again with The Ballad of Gay Tony, which comes packed with more gameplay than you find in some full release retail games. If you enjoyed GTA IV, then I'll send you off to download The Ballad of Gay Tony right now, confident in the knowledge that you won't be disappointed (or if you haven't downloaded The Lost and Damned yet, then save some of that precious disk space and go out and pick up a copy of Liberty City Stories which includes both expansions on a single disc).

In The Ballad of Gay Tony you don't play as Tony, but rather as his not-so-silent business partner and muscle, Luis Lopez (what is it with the close-cropped protagonists in GTA IV games?). Tony is a nightclub owner, a multiple club owner in fact, and as he likes to point out he's so successful that he owns both the hottest straight and gay clubs in the city at the same time. Tony is all about style and smooth talking, but he has a tendency to do business with less than savory characters that he has a penchant for angering. That's where you as Luis come in. You're Tony's partner but you're really his cleaner - Tony makes the deals and you clean up the mess afterwards. Luis is an interesting character in that he has done a stint in jail and is determined to turn his life around, and yet he doesn't hesitate to resort to violence in dealing with the violent characters Tony tends to attract with his business dealings. One minute he's trying to straighten out his friends and the next he's running errands for the mob because they hold a note with Tony's name on it. It's due in no small part to Luis' conflicted character that the game's storyline is so interesting and involving. Between bailing Tony out, dealing with the mob, helping Luis' old friends, and even taking care of a few things to help out dear old mom, you're always busy with something and there's a good amount of variety to what you need to do.

Like in GTA IV, you're free to take on the story's main missions whenever you'd like and there are always plenty of side missions and other things to do, such as the new Drug War challenges, when you're not advancing the game's plot. If you've played GTA IV and The Lost and Damned, you'll occasionally spot Niko and Johnny, and even have the opportunity to take on a few missions that cross their storylines. A new feature introduced in The Ballad of Gay Tony is that each mission is scored in a number of secondary categories such as time of completion, amount of damage taken, and a couple that are specific to the mission just completed. Once a mission is completed you continue to move on with the game, but after you've finished the game you can return to the mission to try and better your score or accomplish a few of the secondary goals that you missed the first time through. You can also compare your score against those of other gamers through the mission leaderboards.