First Impressions: GTA: The Ballad Of Gay Tony
November 7, 2009
I have spent just over 4 hours so far with Rockstar‘s latest expansion in it’s Grand Theft Auto franchise, The Ballad Of Gay Tony, and my initial impression is one of, well… disappointment. It’s been 18 months since the release of GTA IV, and the glorious next-gen realisation of Liberty City – a city I confess to being obsessed with upon the game’s release. But 18 months is a long time in the videogame industry, and GTA is beginning to show it’s age.
My main issue with TBoGT is the control of your character Luis Lopez, bodyguard to the titular Gay Tony, a nightclub owner feeling the pinch of the recession and owing a lot of debt to some rather unsavoury characters. With recent examples of cover-based shooting done so well with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves fresh in my mind (and fingers), TBoGT feels awkward and cumbersome. Lengthy firefights become dull wars of attrition, made even more frustrating by Luis’ reticence to take effective cover amidst a hail of machine-gun fire. Car controls are the same as they’ve ever been – difficult, but ultimately rather realistic, and the addition of nitro boosts in race missions makes driving more fun than it’s ever been.
The GTA mission formula, aped by many other games, such as inFamous and Saints Row 2, feels increasingly tired and predictable. Find an icon on your map, drive to it, cue cutscene, drive somewhere else, kill some bad guys, shake off the cops, return to another location. Wash, rinse, repeat – ad infinitum. In fairness, the last hour of my initial playthrough of the game has thrown up a little more diversity in the mission objectives than the original game; shooting down a tank from a chopper by blasting away the bolts with the sniper rifle being a particular highlight. But, largely, it’s not enough. At least, not so far.
Despite all this, there’s no doubt that I will stick with it. Rockstar’s track record and the excellent voice acting are spurring me on, at least until one of the difficulty spikes forces me to eject the game for good. But it is perhaps for the best that this is the last installment for Liberty City for the current generation of GTA. The inevitable development of GTA V needs to bring some radically fresh ideas to the table if it’s going to remain as one of the premium franchises of the industry.