In a further bid to make TBoGT feel a bit different to previous GTA offerings, Rockstar has thrown in a set of simple diversions at Tony's clubs. You can shake your tail feather on the dancefloor (a simple rhythm game), join a champagne drinking competition (which involves rapidly rotating the right thumbstick), or go on management duty - a job that requires little more than walking around the club to keep an eye out for trouble. Every so often you'll be sent out on a mini-mission to help one of Tony's clients, but aside from these moments the club games are slight. Still, that's the point - they're just another little way in which Rockstar has tried to give a TBoGT a fun vibe.
It's also worth pointing out that there's a lot of sex in these club-based activities, and indeed in the game as a whole. The first time you go for a dance, you'll end up banging a girl called Tami in the toilets; she'll subsequently hit you up for booty calls from time to time, (although this happens far less often than was the case with the girlfriends in GTA IV). One of your female colleagues at Maisonette 9 has a habit of calling you into her office for a "special reward", and several of the missions find Luis hammering away at some lucky lady's fairy garden. None of these sex scenes are particularly explicit, but it's unusual to see so many of them.
Surprisingly, the game doesn't make a big deal of its gay characters. Compared to the borderline cliché of GTA IV's Florian - who was nonetheless likeable - Tony himself is a restrained creation. He's a classic GTA screw-up who just happens to be gay. I'd hesitate to call TBoGT progressive, but it's still refreshing to see a game feature a normal homosexual character... well, as normal as a drug-addled corrupt club owner can be.
Unfortunately, Luis is a significantly less interesting protagonist than Niko, or even Johhny Klebitz. You warm to him with time, but he's never as engaging as the better characters in this episode: Tony, the excellent Yusuf, and Mori - the hyper-annoying brother of Brucie Kibbutz. Rockstar does its best to set up some tension between Luis' high-roller lifestyle and his past in Algonquin's housing projects, but we never care enough. It doesn't help that Luis' old homeboys, the dealer-duo Henrique and Armando, are an irritating pair of sods - although they do at least offer yet another set of decent side-missions based around drug wars. The most interesting aspect of Luis' character stems from his habit of sleeping with anything that moves. You'll eventually run into one of his troubled exes, a girl deeply hurt by Luis' cold rejection; if you pursue this plotline, you'll be rewarded with a particularly good cutscene that I won't spoil here.
Still, TBoGT's narrative arc is satisfying - especially in the many moments where Luis' path intersects with the adventures of Niko and Johnny. If you've played the previous two outings to Liberty City then you'll probably get quite nostalgic as you play this, and Rockstar has certainly done a grand job in wrapping up their epic storyline. Perhaps more importantly, the Scottish developer has finally implemented a system which allows players to re-visit missions they've finished. Once you've finished the main storyline, which should take you a good eight to 10 hours, you'll be able to go back to any past assignment you like. Each mission now has four secondary goals, ranging from completion times to a required number of headshots, and if you meet these targets you'll be able to compete against other gamers via the Rockstar Social Club.
There are other bonuses of course - more TV shows and tunes for the radio, and new multiplayer modes, including base-jumping competitions and tank-based high jinks. However, it's the mission design that remains the real star of this final add-on. I consider GTA IV to be one of the very best games of this console generation, but I know that many gamers felt let down by what they felt to be a lack of fun, following the carnival of insanity that was San Andreas on the PS2. Even if you were one of these people, you should seriously consider picking up TBoGT, as it features some of the most enjoyable moments of the entire series. In parallel with the superlative Chinatown Wars, The Ballad of Gay Tony restores a sense of playfulness to the GTA franchise, cementing Rockstar's status as King of the DLC.
VideoGamer.com Score9 Score out of 10
- Excellent variety and value
- Omid Djalili is ace as Yusuf
- Some of the best GTA missions ever
- The engine shows its age, at times