The Grand Theft Auto IV Swan Song

After playing The Lost and Damned, I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Ballad of Gay Tony. While the Lost and Damned did a lot of things to separate itself from the core Grand Theft Auto experience, I don’t think all of it was worth while. I really loved the characterization in The Lost and Damned, but there was a very distinct point where the focus gets taken away from the main conflict and when you finally come back to it, the conclusion doesn’t give you the payoff you were hoping for. All the while, I was struggling to get re-acquainted with the Grand Theft Auto controls.

I’m currently about 8 missions into The Ballad of Gay Tony, and it’s starting off on much better footing for me than The Lost and Damned did. Controls are no longer a factor with me, now that I’ve had the entirety of the TLAD to get used to them. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but I’m not thinking about them any more when I play. While this game is currently lacking in innovation in comparison to TLAD, where it has it beat hands down so far are the missions. The game doesn’t really have any “warm up” missions and goes straight into the crazy stuff. The second mission features you hitting golf balls on a driving range into a guy tied to the vehicle that picks up golf balls. From there, it’s been increasingly bombastic and awesome.

My only gripe so far with Gay Tony is the plot and the characters. The story of Luis and Tony is probably the weakest of the three GTA IV stories, even though both characters are very likable. The main story arch is built around one person having to clean up another person’s mess, which kind of has been done to death in this series. This even happened in TLAD, but it was offset by a great tension between Billy and Johnny. The antagonists in TBoGT just aren’t as strong.

Thankfully, Rockstar got the missions right, which is the most important part of any GTA to me. TLAD had some missions that felt almost broken in design to me, which upset me more than anything else in that game. Everything so far in Gay Tony has been smooth as butter. I can overlook a somewhat weaker story when I’m busy driving away from a biker gang, the cops, a tank and a low-flying helicopter and throwing remote sticky explosives at them all.

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