Grand Theft Auto IV can be considered a sort of ‘coming of age’ title for the sandbox action series. While the last few entries on the PlayStation 2 seemed to take GTA3’s open world and litter it with ludicrous challenges and having fun with mental vehicles and weapons, Niko Bellic’s adventure in Liberty City seemed to focus more on fantastic storytelling and creating an award-winning piece of interactive entertainment. In other words, GTA IV was serious business.
As players, we have seen many different sides to the world Niko lives in, via spin-off titles such as Chinatown Wars
and downloadable content in The Lost and Damned
. The final chapter in the GTA IV
saga, The Ballad of Gay Tony
, looks to not only create a closure point that helps round off all the dark corners of Liberty City, but also reclaim some of the more light-hearted insane moments from the likes of San Andreas.
Centring on the nightlife of Algonquin, the character you take control of in this episode is Louis Lopez, a chap who had nothing to live for until taken under the wing of the ‘Queen of Nightlife’, Tony Prince (aka Gay Tony). Louis is so grateful that he has become Tony’s go-to guy for any work that needs doing. Such work begins to intensify soon into the story, as you discover that the nightclub owner has run into some trouble, owing debts to gangsters and watching his back for rivals who want to surpass him.
So, additional missions, weapons and vehicles it is then; and the ones I saw were all pretty tasty indeed. Because Louis works in the prestigious nightclub scene, cash is no object in this part of Liberty City, if you want something, Tony can get you the money for it. That includes helicopters and parachutes, which make a return to the series in this episode.
In fact, one of the first missions I experienced saw Louis jump in a 'copter, fly as high as possible in the world map (and without let-up in textures or rendering, you can see an amazing amount of Liberty City hundreds of feet high), parachute out and onto a rival nightclub owner’s building, infiltrate to the boss’ office and assassinate him, gunning down countless goons in the process.
I was armed with a new P90, a machine gun that can fire 900 rounds a minute, using surroundings like pipes and hydrants to distract my enemies. Bombing down the sleek, whitewashed office floors I had reached my target, giving myself ample time to sort out my escape plan. Another new weapon introduced is the sticky bomb, which I slapped on the walls before killing the rival boss; the bomb detonating when reinforcements arrived behind me. The only means of escape was through the window, at which point I was able to re-use my parachute and land on the designated moving truck to complete the mission.
There were various things that went wrong on my play-through, of course, but this is where it gets interesting. Rockstar have introduced the ‘Replay’ system (first seen in the DS Chinatown Wars
- reviewed here
) into The Ballad of Gay Tony
, meaning if you screw up or you complete a mission, you can try again to make a perfect run. Apparently 100% completion is only possible replaying missions to perfection, so there’s plenty of meat here for die-hard players to sink their teeth into.