The Damned Ballad of the Lost Gay Tony

Both The Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony are set during the main story arc of GTA 4. Indeed, players of the original game will find their memories jogged to the various occasions that you meet the protagonists of these stories in that story, much like how the Opposing Force and Blue Shift expansions ran parallel to the original Half-Life.

There are even times when you’re actually playing alongside Niko in scenes that you will have played as Niko in the original game. It’s a touch confusing to try and explain, but in game it makes for a fantastic and memorable moment that really helps breath more life into the world of Liberty City than a motion-capped Ricky Gervais show ever could.

It’s worth stressing that the two stories are distinct though and aren’t really episodes in that Half-Life, continuing story sense. The Lost And The Damned sees you cast as Johnny, a biker in The Lost Motorcycle Club, usually referred to as the Lost MC. Johnny is the second in command and has to adapt to the release of the club president, Billy, from prison at the start of the game. Billy, it has to be said, holds the distinction of being one of the best written and best acted characters we’ve ever seen in a video game. He’s ruthless, violent, greedy and a racist sociopath, but also a scarily compelling leader. Johnny, by contrast, is reasonably level-headed, though that’s not saying much considering he’s a biker in a GTA game…

*GTA IV: Episodes from Liberty City PC Review The Damned Ballad of the Lost Gay Tony
My name is Billy and my interests include long walks in the park and shooting people

The set up of the Lost MC and how they go about their daily business is implemented as well as can be expected within the game, but there are a couple of conceptual problems to deal with. These problems stem from the dissonance of putting a biker gang into an urban setting. There’s precious little opportunity to enjoy the freedom of the road, as mostly you’re dodging traffic and you spend most of your time doing drive-bys and turret sequences, rather than getting stuck into bar brawls. Certainly fun, but fitting for a biker gang? Not really, no.

The big bone of contention with Lost and the Damned though is strangely that you have a bike in it. This bike is great and all, but, well, it’s yours. You own it. Something feels off about actually owning your primary mode of transportation in a GTA game, rather than just stealing the first set of wheels that gets near enough – it’s contrary to everything GTA has taught us so far and can take a while to get used to.

The Ballad of Gay Tony is a substantially stronger story and places you in the shoes of Luis, bodyguard, go-to-guy and business partner of the titular Gay Tony – a once iconic Liberty City nightclub owner now approaching middle age and losing the plot. Tony has debt problems, Tony has drug problems, Tony has relationship problems, but to Luis he’s like a father and so you have to fix things. Luis alternates helping Tony with looking after his mum, helping his boyhood friends run drugs, managing Tony’s two nightclubs and womanising.

*GTA IV: Episodes from Liberty City PC Review The Damned Ballad of the Lost Gay Tony
Long walks and shooting things, you say? Me too!

Over the course of the game you’ll have to do a lot of all of this, running between tasks like the low-level henchmen you are and being generally underappreciated and used. You’ll also have to fly a fair few helicopters which bears singling out mainly because helicopter controls on mouse and keyboard are horrible. On the plus side, the missions are easy enough to do even if you are barely in control of your flying machine.

Where The Lost and the Damned has, at least on its primary story arc, a very dark tone, The Ballad of Gay Tony is a fabulous, neon lit adventure into the lives of the rich and shameless. Drugs, sex, clubs and diamonds are all here in over-abundance. The interplay between Luis and Tony is nicely balanced and Tony for all his faults is a likeable foil to Luis’ engaging yet flawed protagonist.

Both the stories themselves feature great characters and writing across the board, from almost throwaway parts like the radio stations and peripheral characters to the plots and protagonists. It’s a shame you’re effectively rolling through the story with no control over the plot like you’d have in an RPG, but as linear stories go these are some of the best you’re likely to find.

Although GTA: EFLC is using quite old technology it still looks amazing too and the core gameplay at the heart of it is all good. The missions you encounter vary in type from low key brawls to crazy acts of urban warfare and the experience between the two stories is varied enough that it’s almost like playing a different game. Each story is scaled back a bit from what you’d get in the original, but together you’re getting a lot of game for not a hell of a lot of money. It’s still one to avoid if you outright disliked GTA IV, but this expansion improves on the original across the board.

*GTA IV: Episodes from Liberty City PC Review The Damned Ballad of the Lost Gay Tony

GTA IV: Episodes from Liberty City - Recommended

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