Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony-the glamorous side of Liberty City

Many video games out there receive high ratings as a result of stunning graphics or fantastic, realistic game play. However, there aren’t a notable amount of games that succeed in both of those categories and create a compelling storyline. The new downloadable Grand Theft Auto IV episode, The Ballad of Gay Tony, passes all three tests with flying colors.

Unlike the original GTA IV where you’re following a rags-to-riches plot, or the first downloadable episode “The Lost and Damned” where you’re a member of a Hell’s Angels-type biker posse, this time you get to see and live the glamorous, V.I.P. lifestyle that you don’t experience in the previous two stories. You play as Luis Lopez, a personal assistant and body guard to prestigious club owner Anthony Prince, aka “Gay Tony”.

In this episode, you experience the Liberty City high life. You can go to late night clubs and dance all night, or you can party up in the V.I.P. section with all of the Liberty City celebrities. You can also participate or place wagers on cage fights at the new Liberty City Fight Club, or take on several base jumping challenges throughout the city (the parachute made a comeback). Because of this, there are also several new “Triathalon” races you can take part in, where you base jump out of a plane onto a speed boat, and then you race to a land location where you get in to a sports car and race to the checkered flag.

As great as GTA IV was, there were several limitations that are considered unusual for Grand Theft Auto games, including fewer weapons, gadgets and vehicles. The Ballad of Gay Tony took care of this problem extremely well. There are seven new weapons in the game, including a .44 pistol, an AA-12 shotgun with explosive rounds (four shots takes down a police helicopter), two new submachine guns (including a golden Uzi), an M249 heavy machine gun, a DSR-1 advanced sniper rifle (my personal favorite), and satchel charges.

There are several new vehicles as well. The cars include the Buffalo (based off of the Dodge Charger), the Bullet GT (Ford GT), the Super Drop Diamond (Rolls Royce Phantom), the F-620 (Maserati GranTurismo), the Schafter (Mercedes-Benz C-Class), the Caddy (a golf cart), and many other unlisted ones. Other vehicles added include two new sport motorcycles (the Vader and the Akuma), three new helicopters (the Swift, the Skyhook, and the Buzzard, the ridiculous new military chopper), and three new speedboats. There is also the APC, a special S.W.A.T. team tank that you steal in a mission.

The greatness behind this episode’s success is how outrageous (yet miraculously possible) the missions are. In the Ballad, you steal a moving subway car via helicopter, blow up a luxury yacht with the Buzzard, push a man out of a chopper and save him by catching him in midair and parachuting to safety (you’ll learn why), escape about four attack helicopters by base jumping off the Rotterdam Tower (remake of the Empire State Building). None can compare to the epic ending mission of the game, whose details I won’t give away. This is a mission you need to experience with no prior knowledge, that’s how good it is. The old flair of wild goose chases for missions returns abruptly, and it brings back old memories of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and GTA: Vice City.

A solid story isn’t exactly unusual for Rockstar North games. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is listed in the Guinness book of world record as the highest selling Playstation 2 game with 17,330,000 million copies sold for the console alone, and over 21 million copies overall. And before San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City sold over 17 million copies on all platforms. Even before Vice City, Grand Theft Auto III managed to sell nearly 15 million copies.

When Grand Theft Auto IV came out roughly a year and a half ago, 3,600,000 copies were sold in the first 24 hours that the game was available. This totaled to about $310 million in revenue money, which set a Guinness world record. Less than four months after it was released, over 10 million copies had been sold worldwide, putting it on the list of Xbox 360 Platinum Hits. As of February of 2009, the count was all the way up to 13 million. In addition to at least 5 “Game of the Year” awards, GTA IV won almost as many “Best Story” awards, which is legitimate proof of just how spectacular the game’s story is.

Coming from a long line of successful games, Rockstar Games took on the challenge of keeping the GTA IV audience strong for over a year, and with the Ballad of Gay Tony fresh on the market, that is goal that they are sure to achieve.