Meet Luis Fernando Lopez: Hispanic playboy and a bit of a momma’s boy. Drug pusher by day and philandering bodyguard by night. Specifically, protecting one of Liberty Cities most prolific gay socialites, Tony Prince; nightclub owner and aging misogynist. Luis is just the latest in a long line of racial stereotypes created by developer giants Rockstar North. Responsible for single handedly making sex in games mainstream 'The Ballad of Gay Tony' has it in spades, as well as drugs and rock and roll to boot.
To say that there's half a dozen ways to get laid in GTA is hardly an understatement and these days Rockstar knows it. It would seem like an age ago that the 'Hot Coffee' mod made waves with the unlocked 'sex-mini' game hidden as it was within the code of San Andreas. Today even Saints Row has discreetly allowed gamers to put out in the public restrooms of the seaside wharfs, enticing gamers to carefully move the joystick to the point of excitement. It's hard to know whose following who as Saints Row has largely been influenced by the likes of GTA but then riding on the success of the excess and fun in said game, Rockstar have stripped back TBoGT, listening to consumer demand and offering everything that GTA IV did not. If “The Lost & the Damned” was the rock & roll to their magnum opus, then surely TBoGT is the sex and drugs.
It's surprising that the GTA series in general has not tired out or got full of itself as everything Rockstar touches seems to be gold. In The Ballad of Gay Tony though, everything is pink. Even the sexuality of playable character Loui is in question as he goes about helping Tony manage the clubs and push drugs on the side with his brothers. So given this is the technical 6th story since GTA III, what exactly is new:
Let’s get this out of the way first. Rockstar has made its point countless times and now it's just flaunting it. No one is going to censor or ban it so why not just whip it out in full view. The Lost and the Damned went so far as to have old man cock for all to see, The Ballad of Gay Tony rewards dancing with, well sex. Girlfriends from GTA IV and the ability to date or even a single meaningful relationship as in The Lost & the Damned are replaced simply with 'Booty Calls' which result in Luis visiting girls for, you guessed it, sex. This is even worse than the reward for dancing because all it is a cut scene inside, with loud noises. For all the mini games Rockstar have added, seemingly pulled from either San Andreas or China Town Wars, the players control has been taken away, making them boring and unrewarding. The dancing mini game is fun, and more complicated than before requiring to keep in time with the music beat, but dancing in the gay club Hercules with a bunch of male strippers, is- slightly awkward. The Lost & the Damned has arm-wrestling, again pointless but none-the less fun. Gay Tony seems more interested in Champagne drinking encouraging the player to a competition of sculling replant with spraying people with said bubbly. Base Jumping is more practical, taken from the parachutes in San Andreas and has the opportunity for players to get together online and jump off the edge of buildings.
To be fair, if it didn't before GTA should come with a warning: “Contains nudity and explicit use of drugs and alcohol.” Not content with upsetting the status quo, Rockstar really capture the gay culture and at times really make the player uncomfortable in doing something they would rather just not do.
Something that associates, Rockstar Leeds built into the PSP GTA: China Town wars, was the ability to traffic drugs and start turf wars. The Lost & the Damned had Biker wars, and in this game Luis transports drugs around the city not unlike the game Scarface or San Andreas. The relationships between Luis and his brothers is closer to that seen in San Andreas; rather than Nico Bellics coming to America story, except that his mother is still alive and all three of them have been through Jail. This side story though of the recovering youth trying to make themselves in a larger city is at odds with the gay trappings of Tony Prince and provides much needed balance.
Unfortunately drug mulling ends up being a combination of boat driving, car chasing and shooting; nothing new to the world of GTA. Better implemented, this could have been the selling point.
Again Rockstar have taken the more realistic approach to GTA IV and dummied it down to the point of older games. The over angst-y story and long cut scenes are still present but now almost every mission involves blowing something up. This may have worked in GTA III but with better graphics and storytelling, comes greater responsibility and Rockstar have dropped the bomb. Speaking of bombs, on the back of The Lost & the Damneds' auto shotguns and pistols comes sticky bombs and PS90 machine guns. Sticky bombs are excellent and can be detonated remotely, adding 3 types of explosives to the mix at a low price-point to buy. Luis is also; magically a trained expert at chopper flying and the new birds come complete with unlimited missiles and machine guns. Awkward to fly, but a lot of fun against trains, boats, bikes and buses.
Vice City FM
A more welcome addition besides the plethora of gay attitude, is the return of the 80s love guru himself Fernando Martinez. With the addition of Vice City FM there is a distinct 80s Vibe including something not seen, since Vice City Stories on the PSP: Club management. This should have been the point of this game as Tony Prince has a number of clubs which all need to be sorted. There’s a much better sense of day and night as the clubs and Tony himself are only available after hours. Managing them though, is not quite what you would expect.
In Vice City you could literally build bigger and better clubs, and then decide which racket would operate from within allowing access to more elaborate mini games. There were also wars with rival clubs and you could actually destroy each one around the city. In Liberty city though, the beautifully lit palm tree decorated lounge suites are managed with a quick blow job and a squiz around the corners to see if anyone’s causing trouble. If they are then you get to watch a cut scene of Luise throwing them out. Other activities include all those already seen in Saints Row including protection from paparazzi and escort missions. Most of the time will be spent waiting during the day for the clubs to open up, at which point its more fun to practice dancing then it is to do any real work.
For continuing fans of the series the start and end are excellent in crossing over with both GTA IV and The Lost & the Damned. All 3 stories intersect and make you remember scenes you had forgotten now played out from a different angle. It's just too bad the middle of this man-sandwich is basically interactive cut-scenes and sexy mini games.
If you have already plowed through GTA IV and the Lost & The Damned, then you pretty much know what to expect. If this is your first time into the underbelly of Liberty City nightlife, then you're in for a treat. The engine Rockstar uses is one of the best of this generation and although character models look a little less realistic, animation and physics is top notch.
The biggest criticism for all the GTA DLC is that they both follow the same format and story; as they have to meet at the same points in time. This makes the game predictable and samey. Further half the game seems to be tutorials on the controls, as if people didn't already know how to play, for anyone who picked up the disc and didn't download it.
Exploding yachts and trains are epic with some of the best smoke and fire effects around. Detail has also been given to the nightclubs of Gay Tony which make up for anyone disappointed with how Vice City looked. Unlike the Lost and the Damned that had only 1 or 2 new locations, thrown together, a lot of care has been taken to make the new clubs distinct and original along with your hideout and all the characters homes. All around the city as well there are subtle differences with buildings, architecture and locations reflecting a passage of time since the GTA IV last year.
The new Golf range is also a welcome addition, seamlessly integrated onto the wharfs without having to drastically change the map or models. Sticking out over the water is serves to allow the player to drive buggies and shoot balls without the need for an 18 hole green.
In this regard, Rockstar has always excelled, putting in more art and attention to detail than is necessary. Six games in though, it is all starting to blur together and there is only so much Rockstar propaganda emails one can receive. If it wasn't for all the videos, marketing, websites, banners, posters and cover art, GTA would be a lot less than it is but after so much time, it’s all a bit much. GTA IV was a chance to go back to basics and tone it down but slowly and surely Rockstar have gone back to shoving more slogans and made up fictional characters down my throat than I can handle. The subtlety is gone and with it some of the audience. New TV shows are great fun but include the likes of 'Princess Robot Bubblegum' a sex-fetish ninja future warrior of Tokyo that gets raped by giant dildos and trained by her horny pervert master. Never before has one game featured so many giant penises.
The sights and sounds of a living breathing Liberty city are as good as they ever were. In particular Rockstar continues their trend of top-notch voice actors and character driven dialogue. Some of the conversations in the car while driving though can get a little tedious and it may be possible that finally, in GTA we have too much of a good thing. Also the in car conversations mute the excellent radio stations of which there are at least 3 new additions. Even after you bail out of a car the scripted dialogue will continue as your character yells down the street. Sadly, at least one of the previous stations from GTAIV has disappeared, for unknown reasons and it was the best one yet. The eclectic synthetic sounds of The Journey have been replaced, true to form by a 'spiritual lifestyle channel'. The Rasta radio waves from GTA III are back which is a nice surprise as is everyone’s favorite Fernando on Vice City FM.
The biggest criticism to these new tunes and one GTA is becoming full of is that, there is just so much stuff now that the radio stations have become less about the hilarious commentary and more about a mix of licensed music and ads. Trying to ever hear Fernando say something, on his own radio station is almost impossible. Not to mention he is, starting to show his age. The new GTA embrace aging actors and older figures in society and this 80s love doctor is no exception. Fan favorites Brucie are back now with his brother in tow and a few other alumni from the GTA past. Sadly the comedy clubs from the past 2 games are 'closed' which is disappointing as the stand up comedy recordings were a wholly unique idea.
For $50 there is actually a lot of value on one disc. That is, if you haven't already got the Lost & the Damned. Both games come on one disc but include a full manual and map of Liberty City. Nothing that wasn't with GTA IV but a great starting point for newbie’s. Moreover for that price point plus one game already out, Rockstar did not have to include either the manual or map, which contains all new ads and art and details. For the die hard fans, the cover art alone might just be worth a buy.
However, in the same week GTA: China Town Wars shipped for the PSP. Game wise, it is a whole new adventure but with much more original concepts; for hiding guns, losing cops and has 4 different ways to hot wire cars and make money. The whole story is told without any long winded cut scenes and there is not a phalanx in site. Side by side, considering Chinatown Wars also boasts 1/3 of the GTA IV map, The Ballad of Gay Tony seems well gay, old and a little bloated around the edges. There are more new mini games, even more radio stations, new stories, missions and characters- but nothing that hasn't been done before.
Grand Theft Auto will never die, and why should it. With a technical GTA V already hinted at, there’s plenty more where that came from. Rockstar have the stones to do what other developers only wish they could. The Ballad of Gay Tony takes that and rams it up the proverbial ass. This is not a game for minors but for those discerning adults there is a lot of bang for your buck. Clearly, GTA never gets old.
AAG SCORE: 8.5/10
- unique variety of mini-games
- solid story= lots of explosions
- Still one of the best looking games
- More dick than you know what to do with
- Everything = sex
- Player control has been removed
Reviewed & Written By Ian Crane