I’ve finished a round of playing the story campaign of ‘The Ballad of Gay Tony’ (TBoGT) since playing it from the official release of 29 October 2009. According to the in-game stats, I’ve played for over 12hours so far. There’s about 26 missions altogether (27 if you count the first introductory/refresher mission).
I’ve also finished a round of ‘The Lost & Damned’ months ago, which puts you in the shoes, or rather boots of Johnny Klebitz, Vice-President of the ‘The Lost MC’ biker gang. And of course, I’ve completed the story campaign of Niko Bellic from the original GTAIV.
So, what do I think of TBoGT?
Well, let me say first that the stories of each of the above characters portray a unique journey on their own, and the branching and intersecting missions complement each of the individual stories because they add depth to the overall story, character profile and gameplay.
Niko Bellic’s allows you to follow the adventures of an immigrant looking to fit in in a ‘land of opportunity’, Johnny Klebitz’s lets you experience the exploits of a small biker gang in a big city, while Luis Lopez’s fills you in on the life of a reformed ex-con working for an eccentric employer named Tony Prince aka Gay Tony who struggles to maintain his business in the nightclub industry.
Apart from getting your hands into the dirty work of your employer’s and his partners as you play through the missions, TBoGT also allows you to experience the ins and outs of the nightlife in Liberty City, where you get to meddle into the duties of a club bouncer or engage in nightclub activities like dancing and drinking. As you meet other colourful personalities, new activities such as base-jumping, racing, engaging in drug wars and fighting in a cage are unlocked.
Without giving away much spoilers, TBoGT is filled with many over-the-top missions in which many of your missions go wrong, requiring you to improvise. There are many sessions of shoot outs and the situations are more varied than in previous stories. Shootouts allow you to try out new weapons and vehicles, and while they can be frustrating if you are not deft in the controls, none of them are boring. One shootout scene borrows the wanted formula from Grand Thef Auto Chinatown Wars in which if you take down more cops, it will reach a point when the rest of the Force gives up and backs away, as opposed to the usual inverted formula.
One thing about TBoGT is the missions consist of a lot of ‘air time’ and you will encounter a variety of ‘flying machines’, but not all is for you to control. On another perspective, this allows you to experience the skies and tall buildings of Liberty City.
Mid-mission checkpoints makes its return from TLAD, preventing many frustrations of having to restart from the beginning when you fail. But there are some differences. In TLAD, you can immediately recognise a mid-mission checkpoint if a cutscene plays in between your missions. However, in TBoGT, there are often no cutscenes. So if you fail for the first time, you won’t know when you will restart from until the mission reloads. In TBoGT, there are certain targets for every mission, but if you restart, your stats will not be counted. All stats are uploaded into your profile on The Social Club website. This gives a better reason to replay all the missions. Be forewarned that everytime you restart, cash is deducted from your stash (sometimes about $5000 PER RESTART) so if you don’t like that, load the game from your last save and try again. Money is not really important in TBoGT and you can earn some more from mini-games after finishing the story. You can replay every mission to get a higher score, but you can’t replay any of them until you finish the story campaign once. The option to replay any mission will then become available from your in-game cellphone.
If you have not played GTAIV, TLAD and TBoGT, it is recommended that you at least finish GTAIV (with Niko Bellic) once. Otherwise, you wouldn’t feel the magic and irony of the intersecting storylines between the three characters. If memory serves me right, Luis Lopez didn’t look so refined and buffed when he first appeared in GTAIV.
There are two downsides to GTAIV design on the overall. First of all, you are stuck with a standard number of save slots for all three games. I had to overwrite my saved files from previous games (keeping 1-2 saves files from previous episodes) just so to make space for save files from TBoGT.
I know each mission is replayable, but because of a flaw in the game design for TLAD. I learnt my lesson then and decided to save each mission separately in TBoGT. The second downside is that whenever you fail, the game throws you back to a medical facility before allowing you to restart. This causes a penalty to your in-game money as well as taking up a few seconds from the tension of your mission. It would be good if you can choose to restart from last checkpoint any time you want.
After you completed the story mission in TBoGT, you can go back to your minigames so those of you who likes to focus on completing the story first to know the ending would welcome this. This is unlike in TLAD in which some of the minigames disappeared at the end because of the way the story went.
There is no doubt that TBoGT gives the most enjoyable experience in GTAIV’s setting of Liberty City, but if you’re looking for character development and personality, my favourite protagonist has to be Niko Bellic, followed closely by Luis Lopez. Johnny Klebitz appears to the weakest link in the group.
This fact is enhanced when you look at wardrobe options for each character. Niko Bellic has the option to shop from various boutiques and you can customise his top, bottoms and shoes separately. Luis Lopez has no option to shop but his wardrobe consists of a few selections. Johnny Klebitz unfortunately is stuck with his Lost MC biker getup for life. I guess Niko Bellic wins hands down because more content can be packed in a disc, as opposed to digital downloads.
If you’re tired of listening what I said, check out this video review: