The Great Melting Pot is Back
By Carlos Macias
Rockstar Games dropped the finale to the GTA IV saga with The Ballad of Gay Tony a few weeks ago and, amongst plenty of competition, concluded with a mere whimper.
It’s not a bad expansion pack. On the contrary, it’s actually rather good and one deserving the Rockstar insignia stamped on it, but compared to GTA IV proper and The Lost and Damned expansion it can only ever hope to hold up as third place.
Things you can expect are: high-strung action sequences, Buzzard military grade helicopters, bus stop line dancing, waking up from hangovers in middle park, explosive new weapons, organized fight clubs, drug wars with the homies, casual sex in the club, and parachuting off skyscrapers.
Ridiculous missions, such as one involving the hijacking of a RAILROAD TRAIN, are abundant in Liberty City. And it’s clear that Rockstar went the GTA: Chinatown Wars route with TBoGT by making the objectives you take on as colorful as possible — fitting into the overarching replay system.
What you shouldn’t expect, and personally most important, is the lack of charm personified by all the previous GTAs. The characters are as vibrant as ever — especially Yusuf and Brucie’s brother — but none of them seem to fit well with each other. More than anything, all the characters seem to be have been thrown together from leftover story threads at Rockstar HQ and appear simply to move the story along.
GTA IV, while flawed, brought you into the mindset of an immigrant from overseas and his attempts at escaping his former self. The Lost and Damned intrigued players with a modern gang story of loyalty and betrayal in a tightly-knit story. The Ballad of Gay Tony showed promise with the atypical homosexual portrayal of Gay Tony and Luis and his mother’s troubled family bond quickly devolved into showing you more bang and less development.
Online play doesn’t fare much better. You can take the single-player additions — i.e. nitro boost in cars, souped up weapons, and attack helicopters — to free mode with friends or competitively with foes. But the problem is finding anyone to play with. The matchmaking system carried over from GTA IV continues to be borked and without a proper interface overhaul the grand hysteria of GTA multiplayer is doomed to be forever overlooked.
Final Thought: The Ballad of Gay Tony gives you more than your $20 worth of extra content — putting to shame other game’s DLC — but mostly as an “action” bonus missions package. It’s not as flashy as it comes off being and the story dissolves almost immediately. Even so, TBoGT adds enough drugs, sex, and violence to satiate the thirst of fans missing the wackiness of GTA: San Andreas when it all went to the Saints Row series. Now, you can get your precious parachute back.
Things to look up while in Gay Tony’s neighborhood:
* Club Management – This series of side missions are what you do if you want to see the grimy side of downtown Algoquin. Help celebrities avoid the paparazzi and get their favorite takeout to them on time. Really, what the main story should have expanded on.
* Drug Wars – Help your friends sell, steal, and chase down “la merca” in this mode that has you running around town staring up their own drug trade. There’s only 4 different variations on the missions you go on, but if you liked the police missions in GTA IV these will be right up your alley.
* Parachuting – Cause mass hysteria downtown as you freefall around the sky line landing on random checkpoints. Some can be challening, but always fun — see the city as it was meant to be seen.