We meet new character Luis Lopez at the wrong end of a loaded shotgun. After surviving a scrape with some argumentative Irish fellas (who Grand Theft Auto IV players will recognise) in a bank, Luis struts through Liberty City to a disco music soundtrack in an opening scene reminiscent of the iconic, jay-walking Shaft. The Ballad of Gay Tony downloadable content for GTAIV is a lot more cocksure, glamorous, sexualised and explosive than previous GTA story lines.
The game is played entirely through Luis Lopez who, unlike like the desperate Niko Bellic is already an established businessman in Liberty City: working as a bodyguard and assistant manager for notorious club owner Gay Tony. Tony is in too deep with some organised criminals and soon enough his right hand man, Luis gets his hands dirty and soon enough players will be back in the GTA comfort zone.
No need to hold off on the fireworks Luis has immediate access to high-end arms: a new automatic rifle, high powered shotgun, sticky bombs and mini-gun-equipped helicopter. New guns are notably more harmful, the new shotgun is particularly enjoyable with a meaty kick and the ability to easily bring down helicopters with ease. Missions maintain the high standard set by GTAIV, now with a greater leaning towards blowing stuff up and getting way with absolute murder. Stealing helicopters, tanks and even train carriages are all in a days work for Luis and his new associates. It should be mentioned that on occasions the added level of action caused some performance issues; bigger explosions pushed the 360 just beyond it's capabilities and resulted in noticeable frame-rate drops.
Nods to previous GTAIV characters are made as they repeatedly cross paths, sometimes coincidently, sometimes as story lines intertwine. Much has been made of GTAIV's living, open, environments but tightly scripted cut scenes are also done with a distinctive flair. New characters are believable and human whilst conducting themselves in Rockstar's absurd world of ultra-violence and corruption. Special mention to character Yusuf Ahmed voiced by comedian Omid Djalili - the billionaire, playboy, wannabe-gangster contracts you the most high-budget and dangerous missions whilst achieving the rare feat of being genuinely amusing in a game.
If you were bored with the slightly lacklustre darts, pool and bowling from GTAIV, you'll be glad to here new activities have been introduced: cage fighting, golf, club managing, base jumping and triathlons (high octane races that involve different modes of transport). Base jumping is even better than falling from height without a parachute and spending time in nightclubs is pretty cool thanks to on-the-money electro soundtrack. Watching Luis swaggering around Liberty City's clubs, taking part in drinking games, hitting the dance floor and more is a truly guilty pleasure. Drinking, drug taking, gambling and loose women feature frequently enough the get the most out of the 18 certificate but Luis' moral code is maintained, at least within the cut scenes. When the player gets behind the controls that is subject to change.
New radio shows and audio are introduced along with a fresh soundtrack accompaniment (if you purchase the Tales from Liberty City disc) which is, as usual, of a quality unparalleled in games. Radio adverts, passing comments from pedestrians, cab-drivers and clubbers again drip with GTA's signature satire that they cram into every possible nook-and-cranny of Liberty City.
More than just extra missions, The Ballad of Gay Tony is an expansion of the Liberty City fiction and the injection of an entirely different personality where more of the same would be enough for most potential buyers. New, daring content that ups the ante at every opportunity is more than likely what most GTAIV players will be looking for from new content and Rockstar have delivered.