sunnuntai 15. syyskuuta 2013

DLC REVIEW - Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony | PS3 | 2010

RELEASED: October 29, 2009 (Xbox 360)
PRICE: $19.99

For the last review of a single DLC pack I'll ever write, I naturally chose the one part of the whole Grand Theft Auto IV experience I haven't covered yet. We're just a day and some away from the release of Grand Theft Auto V at the moment, and a few weeks ago my hunger for some city-sized havoc grew way too strong for me to let this critically acclaimed, but ultimately overlooked, and somewhat unattractive expansion pack pass any further. Grand Theft Auto IV was a magnificent game that I, for one, still considered somewhat of a disappointment after the nearly limitless experience that was its predecessor Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The first expansion pack, The Lost and Damned, offered up a gritty second look at the story, through the eyes of the leader of a downtrodden biker gang. What's The Ballad of Gay Tony about, then? It's yet another telling of the same basic story, through the eyes of an extra you always hardly noticed in the midst of all that mayhem. He's Luis Lopez, the closest ally and bodyguard of nightclub owner Anthony "Gay Tony" Prince, and he actually plays the demanding role of a GTA lead surprisingly well. Make no mistake about it, The Ballad of Gay Tony's a keeper - although it fails to bring anything really substantial to the mix, and has only a couple of them unique GTA moments you really can't afford to miss.

Puto perro, El Diablo!

Mario D'Leon : Luis Lopez
D.B. Cooper : Anthony Prince
Greg Siff : Rocco Pelosi
Vitali Baganov : Ray Bulgarin
Omid Djalili : Yusuf Amir
Jaime Fernandez : Armando Torres
J. Salome Martinez : Henrique Bardas
Jeff Gurner : Mori Kibbutz
Timothy Adams : Brucie Kibbutz
Robert Youells : Evan Moss

Rollin' with the boss man.
Luis Lopez desperately tries to keep his boss and business associate Gay Tony from falling apart by running violent errands for his loansharks, shamelessly ripping dangerous people off to keep their two nightclubs open for business, and moderating his boss' reckless substance abuse in any way he can. At the same time, he has to deal with his naïve mother, psychotic one night stands and his two best friends who just won't get on with their lives. And they say he's being too tense...

I got The Ballad of Gay Tony well over two or three years ago, but just for the sake of completion. It's got a stupid title - nothing homophobic there, I assure you - and as acclaimed it was upon arrival, some even called it the best Grand Theft Auto IV had to offer, it simply didn't interest me. I liked Niko, the gruff, short-tempered war veteran with a sensitive side - he remains by far the most multilayered protagonist in the series. Johnny kinda grew on me as well, being a biker and all - it was quite enough of a draw, even if I found him and his intelligence a little inconsistent. Here, we have Luis, who showed up in the main game as often as Johnny, but he was always in the background, playing a minor supporting role. Honestly I couldn't even remember the guy's existence before the first promo shots of him as the lead star of this DLC pack were published. Niko's primary mission was to save his family from mobsters and avenge his fallen war buddies. Johnny's mission was to restore balance and control to a gang led far astray by its leader, who also used to be his best friend. Luis' primary mission is none as noble - everything you do is for the good of Gay Tony, an annoying, whiney junkie prick who would actually be better off dead. Which Luis himself reflects on by the end of the story, by the way. So, we're not off to a promising start on the outside. On the inside, we have... what else? More sweetness in the Grand Theft Auto IV style, actually a lengthier pack than the last one, and considerably diverse. Some new stuff, and not just cars and weapons, but a few exclusive features. And, evil Mr. Bulgarin might FINALLY get his ass handed to him, after disappearing into thin air in the main game and skipping the first extra episode altogether. Are you in? I'm in.

Of course Rockstar attempts to give something to everyone - and yet again we reach another point why I prefer the main game and especially The Lost and Damned. It's the audiovisuals, and it all comes down to personal taste. The main game had a balanced palette, The Lost and Damned was very dark and greyish, and The Ballad of Gay Tony is all about bright rainbow colours and bling-bling. While The Lost and Damned's additions to the original soundtrack did include some rap and hip-hop, the main focus was on enhancing the presentation of the rock and metal stations; given Luis' background and person, the song additions here are mainly Latino pop, house and dance music, and disco. Meh. OK, maybe I feel a little guilty and out of immersion listening to Liberty Rock or Liberty City Hardcore (fully loaded with The Lost and Damned soundtrack, of course) through this ordeal - thank the mayhemic lords of destruction for many choices of talk radio. It's really the way to go here for me.

There's always time for love.
The most noticeable new feature is the mission scoring system; each storyline mission ends with a total score comprised of mission time, accuracy, vehicle damage, headshots, and unique objectives. If you've played Red Dead Redemption or even L.A. Noire, you know how it's like - but way more unreasonable. It's damn near impossible to hit 100% in any mission on your first playthrough; mission replays are unlocked after you beat the whole game, just like in Red Dead. Friend activities are not forced upon you any more than they were in The Lost and Damned, and to my knowledge, there aren't too fundamental new minigames for you to exploit with your friends anyway, apart from a few different types of nightclub activity and cage fighting you will unfortunately get familiar with very early on in the storyline. Gang wars make yet another return as "drug wars", a few different types of side missions where you need to help your two best friends to gain a monopoly in the city's drug trade. We have crazy base jumping, somewhat standing in for unique stunts; fun, especially the truly challenging vehicle jumps, but being able to base jump raises an important question. Would it really have been so hard to add planes into the mix?! I don't know why, but I was under the impression planes would be this DLC's most important draw, but you can't fly 'em; you fly all sorts of choppers all the time, though. I've loved flying in this series ever since San Andreas - I'm so happy they're bringing it back full throttle in Grand Theft Auto V.

Tony's nightclubs are an important part of the plot, so of course you can expect a lot of investment in them. You can go to one of the nightclubs at any time to get wasted in the traditional way, take part in a drinking game or the dancing minigame, which plays out very similar to the low rider contests in San Andreas. I simply don't dance - my girl can vouch for that, doubly - but I kinda like that minigame. What can I say, I'm into rhythm wankery. Also, after a certain point in the game, you can go to work at the main club as a bouncer any night you wish. This job may introduce you to some hilarious (and sexy) scenes you don't want to miss if your only objective isn't to finish the story for completion's sake. Finally, there's yet another twist to illegal street racing; these aren't regular races, but lengthy vehicle triathlons that start off with a base jump and require you to switch from vehicle to vehicle at key points.

You'll be spending almost as much time in the
air as Johnny did on his bike.
If you've played Grand Theft Auto IV - and preferrably The Lost and Damned as well - you know what the rest is about. A couple of missions are surely familiar to you from a different perspective, and I won't deny that solving the rest of the GTA IV puzzle wouldn't be fun; I think I spotted a couple of plotholes, though, and this perspective is once again the least interesting of the three. Although the storyline and dialogue do definitely have their moments - DEFINITELY, I mean, Brucie returns for starters - it feels like they squeezed the absolute best out of this story and setting before, and even at his prime, Luis feels a bit too familiar, like a Mexican version of Niko. I think I truly started respecting this dude during the couple of side "missions" - more like just confrontations - with his psychotic ex. They're priceless, and luckily you can't really miss 'em, since within the confines of this pack - as well as The Lost and Damned, if I remember it right - you can spot a stranger side mission from as far as another continent.

Finally, the Trophies... those damn Trophies. Considering the length of The Lost and Damned, five Bronze Trophies were hardly sufficient. Well, there are ten to be collected in The Ballad of Gay Tony... BRONZE ones. God damn it, huh? Well, God damn this: you need to beat every mission to 100%, complete all the drug wars, complete all base jumps, and pull off a couple of crazy stunts that will take you at least 50 tries - basically, and utterly, waste your time, for ten Bronzes. They've given out Golds for less impressive feats. A Bronze for 100%... gimme a fucking break...

The truth is that anything I say about this DLC pack won't make a stinking bit of difference. Despite its high price, The Ballad of Gay Tony is a mandatory purchase for anyone who liked Grand Theft Auto IV - you'll want to complete the trinity. It's the weakest link in that trinity, yes, but it's far from being actually weak. The best thing about it, right now in September 2013, is that it goes to show how very little Grand Theft Auto IV has aged in five years, and just thinking about how they claim to have improved everything in Grand Theft Auto V gives me the chills.

< 8.5 >

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