Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City
Seriously, f*cking eh!
Posted 3 years ago By - Jay Acevedo
Note: Since we already reviewed Lost & Damned back in March, this review will focus on The Ballad Of Gay Tony, the second piece of downloadable content for Grand Theft Auto IV.
When the first trailer for The Ballad of Gay Tony was released, there was no doubt that Rockstar wanted to conclude the GTA IV adventure with a bang. The nightlife, the dance music, lots of explosions, a colourful but obnoxious impresario and a man fresh out of prison looking to do things right. I was sold but expectations were high. How did it pan out? Let’s just say this second and final expansion in the Grand Theft Auto IV saga is simply amazing!
So after playing an Eastern European immigrant and a hardened biker, TBoGT puts you in the shoes of Luis Lopez, a part-time hoodlum who is also the personal bodyguard, business partner and close friend of Tony “Gay Tony” Prince, the so-called king of Liberty City’s nightlife…up until he gets into serious trouble with his investors, some of them being thugs, after selling stakes higher than what they were really worth. Having the feeling that Tony will lose everything including his own mind; Luis comes to his rescue by completing a series of tasks and odd jobs that will take him to places he doesn’t necessarily want to go. Yes, Luis is a troubled character. On one hand he won’t hesitate to get his hands dirty if he needs to step in but he also shows reluctance at returning to his old habits that got sent him in jail a few years ago. This is what makes TBoGT different and much more introspective in terms of character development, much like GTA: Vice City did a few years back. Throughout your missions, you will definitely spend most of your time taking care of Gay Tony’s ass (no pun intended) but a myriad of new characters will also require your help. Among them, your dumb childhood friends Henrique and Armando, Brucie’s (from GTA IV) oldest brother Mori and outspoken Arabic billionaire Yusuf Amir.
In terms of gameplay, without spoiling the game, let’s just say that even though TBoGT’s mandatory missions are much more varied and per consequent, a tad more interesting to play compared to Lost & Damned, it remains a GTA game. From the occasional base jumping, golfing and cage fighting missions, TBoGT still has the extreme high-volatile action that defines a GTA game. To add more flavour, every time you complete a mission you get a detailed breakdown of your completion status. Those stats are automatically uploaded to the online leaderboards. Once you complete your first playthrough, the game gives you the option to replay each mission and improve your score, something similar to what was offered in GTA: Chinatown Wars. While this is mainly for bragging rights, it does increase the game’s replay value.
This "variety" is also due in part to the nightlife/club storyline setting. Activities like champagne chugging and dancing (which can lead you to some bathroom action with a girl, if you manage to impress her) will make you check in at one of the two clubs you and Gay Tony own very often. Removing the undesirables from your clubs is one of the new activities offered as you need to make sure your investments runs smoothly at all times. But what’s even more interesting in the club management aspect is that the side-mission activity turns later in an full-fledged optional mission. Although it’s the only activity to offer an alternate mission after investing some time in it, it definitely opens the door to something that could be exploited into the next GTA iterations. Can you imagine: each mini-game could offer you an extra hidden mission, increasing your replay value by a few hours in the process?
Drug Wars is also a welcomed addition worth mentioning. Alongside childhood friends Armando & Enrique, you will be taking part in different missions (twenty five in total) that will require taking on opposing drug dealers around Liberty City by intercepting their drug shipments or uncovering hidden drug stashes. Of course, pissing off thugs will also lead you to some heated fights in which explosives and guns could be needed. As mentioned earlier, base jumping will be introduced as a mission first but will then offer more as an optional activity. Fifteen spots in total can be found in Liberty City. Base jumping is also offered as a cool multiplayer mode.
Speaking of multiplayer, TBoGT see the return of fan-favorite deathmatch modes from GTA IV only this time, the addition of new weapons, kill streaks and assisted kills brings the experience up a notch. The same goes for Race and GTA Race modes which have been upgraded with nitro available in every vehicle.
Just like in Lost & Damned, the mid-mission checkpoint makes its triumphant return in TBoGT. If Gay Tony is the first DLC you buy, you will thank Rockstar a thousand times for this. Not that you will die often but when you get to the most advanced missions, you won’t cry as much as in GTA IV.
Even though there are a lot of positives, TBoGT isn’t perfect. The weapon aiming issues that plagued GTA IV and Lost & Damned are still present and as I will point out in the next paragraph, the game’s graphics engine is starting to show some age.
Graphics & Sounds
Since this is an expansion to GTA IV, the graphic department needs no true explanation or detailing since it has been built on the same engine as the main game. Textures, animations and character models during gameplay aren’t as impressive as they once were as the engine starts to feel old. Liberty City remains impressive to look at but frequent pop-ins and framerate drops tarnished the experience a bit. However, I don’t think anyone was expecting this expansion to look 300% better than the main game...right? The incredible narrative cinematics still look good though.
Soundwise, the impressive number of radio stations from GTA IV makes a comeback but got a few new tracks to fit the club scene setting. To make things even better, if you buy the Episodes From Liberty City disc, you will get Vice FM, an 80’s music radio station which will really remind you of GTA Vice City. Voice acting is once again top-notch as each character delivers an outstanding performance at making their characters believable. The actors who lend their voices to Gay Tony and Luis do an amazing job but I got to give kudos to the guy who does Yusuf Amir. He’s incredibly funny and awesome.
As I’ve said it earlier, if you plan to download TBoGT, which is priced at 1600 Microsoft Points ($20), you will need to own the GTA IV disc in order to play it. Now, if you don’t own GTA IV but still want to play Gay Tony, Rockstar released Episodes of Liberty City, a standalone disc available at retail that also includes Lost & Damned.
The Ballad of Gay Tony gets you a 10-15 hour campaign, lots of optional missions, new activities and a multiplayer component for twenty bucks! An excellent deal you can’t miss.
There’s no other way to say it: The Ballad of Gay Tony concludes the Grand Theft Auto IV adventure on a high note. Even though the gameplay doesn’t re-invent anything and the visuals aren’t as impressive as they once were, Rockstar manages to give you so much for such a little price that seeing past the little nuisances won’t be a difficult task. Both The Ballad of Gay Tony and the standalone disc Episodes from Liberty City are great expansions and we can’t do otherwise than recommend.
+ Interesting character development
+ Ability to replay missions after beating the game
+ 10-15 hours of gameplay
+ New activities
+ Great pricing
- Clumbersome shooting mechanics
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Release Date : 2009/10/29
System : Xbox 360
Publisher : Rockstar Games
Developer : Rockstar North
Category : Action
ESRB : M
7.0 / 10
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