Thursday, December 6

Grand Theft Auto IV The Ballad of Gay Tony

I played on: PS3, PC
I paid: £7.99 (GTA4 Complete edition)
Available on: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Notes: As with the original game on PC you may find some issues with Games for Windows Live. These can be modded out but it’s good to be aware that this might be a problem before buying. My original GTA4 review can be found here.

The player takes control of Luis Lopiz throughout this expansion to Grand Theft Auto IV. The Ballad of Gay Tony tells the story of Tony Prince from the point of view of his business partner and bodyguard Luis. Gay Tony is the heart of Liberty City’s nightlife, he owns the two biggest clubs in town. Hercules is the height of the gay scene while it’s sister club the Maisonette 9 entertains the straight crowds. Both of these clubs are fully modelled with the player being able to enter them any night. Getting drunk at these venues lets you stumble around the place and can be very funny. Luis is able to work shifts at Maisonette 9 where he will have to perform tasks for more well-known clients or just deal with those getting too drunk and violent. As far as distractions go this is one of my favourites from the entire series. If you want to just enjoy the scene yourself then you’re able to take part in a dancing mini-game at both clubs. Unlike the dancing in San Andreas, I don’t think this is much fun though. Also despite Hercules being a gay club aimed at homosexual men you’re unable to dance with a man. This was a wonderful opportunity for Rockstar to introduce a bisexual player character. The advantages of this would be that those uninterested in dancing with men could just ignore Hercules instead dancing with women at the Maisonette.

I guess the idea of letting the player be anything other than a violent very heterosexual man worried Rockstar too much. This is a shame because for the 12th time in a row we have been presented with the same basic character in a Grand Theft Auto game. You always play as a cisgender, heterosexual man that is some take on a self-interested criminal trying to profit from violence. I am so tired of this worn out archetype throughout this series and desperately long for something that feels fresh. Instead, Luis is just another take on the same character we have seen copy and pasted since Claude Speed in GTA2 a decade prior.

The driving, shooting and general gameplay remain the same as both Grand Theft Auto IV and the Lost and the Damned. I won’t be focusing on that too much here as I would just be repeating myself but I’ve linked my GTA IV review above. Removing all the story, characters and general context from the picture leaves the Ballard of Gay Tony with a lot of enjoyable missions. These are a lot more explosive than the missions founds in the base Grand Theft Auto IV experience. This is a lot of fun with the addition of the swat tank, buzzard attack chopper and parachutes making for a more over-the-top game. Sadly these missions do not exist in a void and that’s where I have problems. You find yourself doing horrible things to both decent and monstrous people. The worst of these being when you beat up a blogger before throwing him out of a helicopter all because he gave your clubs a bad review. Rockstar go out of their way to make this blogger look pathetic and then continue to keep bringing it up throughout the story for no reason. I’m not sure if this is them being upset at the response people had to their games or just general bitterness at people who run blogs. Considering how much it’s brought up after the event it does feel odd and very mean-spirited. Removing this foulness I did enjoy experiencing the other side of events from the main game. Seeing the diamond exchange from Luis’ perspective was a particular highlight.

This horrible framing and context to all the missions extend to almost all of the characters in this game. They will constantly use slurs, insults and just have general ugly personalities. Rockstar took steps forward by having Tony Prince, an openly gay man take the centre stage next to the player character. This seems to have scared the writers, however, because everyone that meets Tony will call him a number of homophobic slurs. This happens to the point that despite having an openly gay lead character The Ballard of Gay Tony is one of the most distastefully homophobic GTA games. I want to remind you that this is a series that includes a mission where you gun down the entire population of a gay bar in Vice City Stories. Every male character goes out of their way to assert their masculinity including Luis Lopiz who you play as. Now and again Luis will make a token effort to defend his friend and boss saying that he’s an okay person but not once does he defend the man’s sexuality. In fact, Luis will use homophobic insults himself when Tony is not around and will even agree with people’s gay bashing of the man on other occasions. The Ballard of Gay Tony makes it clear that although Tony himself may be okay, his sexuality, is most certainly not.

The general content here is impressive with fun missions, entertaining new additions like parachutes and the explosive shotgun but it’s all covered in this grotesque overshadowing homophobia. I want to say I enjoyed my time with this game but it’s not that simple. I think of times free-roaming in the Buzzard or working shifts at Maisonette 9 and yes I do enjoy these. But then I think of most the missions, pretty much all of the characters and the general story and it makes my skin crawl. All in all despite certain parts being much better than Grand Theft Auto IV the overall package is much worse in my opinion. I can’t enjoy something when every time I step back and look at the context and world it inhabits I see something so uncomfortable and ugly.

Recommendation Rating: 4 out of 10.

1 comment:

  1. Recently I have downloaded this game from here. Still I'm playing it on my phone...