13 things we already know about GTA IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony

While Bulgarin at first seemed like he’d be Niko’s primary antagonist in GTA IV, we ended up seeing very little of him. He’ll likely be a much more prominent figure in The Ballad of Gay Tony, and killing him could be a big part of the episode’s final act.

Also, if we were to hazard a guess - based on the fact that he’s convinced Tony and Luis stole the diamonds from him - it’s probably Bulgarin who sends the protagonists out to buy the diamonds in the first place. That would point to him possibly being an overarching antagonist throughout the game – the kind that starts as a mission-giving boss and ends as a corpse.

The same could be said of Ray Boccino, who sets himself up from the start to be antagonistic toward Tony and Luis. It’s Ray that orders Johnny to snatch the diamonds at the docks, and orders Niko to hand them off at the museum and then kidnap Gracie to get them back. We know Luis won’t kill him – that task falls to Niko – and we’re not even sure if Luis will be aware of Ray’s machinations. But one thing is certain: he’ll be out to make your life miserable.

Expect cameos from Brucie, Bernie and more of GTA IV’s supporting characters.

Two stories into GTA IV, we know that Liberty City’s underworld is smaller than you’d think. Although Niko and Johnny didn’t exactly run with the same circle of friends, there was considerable overlap with the characters that showed up around them. Meanwhile, Gay Tony is a club owner, and club owners know a lot of people. Here’s who we’re almost positive we’ll see again:

• Brucie Kibbutz: Not only does Brucie know Gay Tony, but his affinity for clubbing means their paths will almost certainly cross more than a few times over the course of the episode. We could totally see him going to Tony for certain legally questionable items (like bull shark testosterone), in which case Luis would likely be ordered to go and acquire them for him.

• Bernie Crane/Florian Cravic: As one of the only other prominently gay characters in GTA IV, it’s pretty damn likely that Bernie will make another appearance in the Ballad of Gay Tony. Also, he’s an admirer of Luis, as you’ll learn if you wiretap Deputy Mayor Bryce Dawkins’ car in The Lost and Damned. At this point, we’re willing to bet he’ll show up in more than a few of the new episode’s missions.

• Bryce Dawkins: With the near-certainty of Bernie’s reappearance comes that of his boyfriend, Liberty City’s closeted deputy mayor. Considering that Luis’ boss is apparently a prominent figure in Liberty’s gay scene, we expect we’ll finally see Dawkins as an onscreen character. In fact, we’re ready to peg him as this episode’s obligatory corrupt political operative – you know, the one that always needs a henchman? Think Congressman Stubbs, U.L. Paper, Mike Toreno and Donald Love. Dawkins has plenty of skeletons in his closet, and it’ll probably fall to Luis to make sure they stay there.

• Ashley Butler: The Lost and Damned’s most tragic meth freak will probably show up in The Ballad of Gay Tony at some point, if only because of her apparent relationship with Ray Boccino. At this point we doubt you’ll have to put up with her junkie antics like Johnny did, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see her show up briefly to be depressing.

• Gracie Ancelotti: This one’s a no-brainer - we already know Gracie’s close enough to Tony for him to try and ransom her from kidnappers, so if she isn’t a near-constant presence during the new episode, we’ll be surprised.

The settings and scenarios will be more like Vice City.

Based on the logo alone, we can expect The Ballad of Gay Tony to be a lot more colorful, glamorous and over-the-top than GTA IV or The Lost and Damned. You’re a bouncer at a glitzy nightclub. You’re a bodyguard and assistant to man deeply involved in the entertainment business. You’re working for the Italian Mafia, not the Russians or Puerto Ricans.

Speculating further, you’ll probably be asked to drive gleaming limos and shiny sports cars. You’ll probably be dealing with strippers, heiresses and cokeheads. You’ll probably hear a lot of dance music.

In other words, this could be a small taste of current-gen Vice City. Who knows? Maybe they’ll throw in jet skis, porn studios, golf courses and a much older Candy Suxxx as well.

The underlying themes, however, will still be pure GTA IV.

Luis may work for and hang out with a bunch of rich, hedonistic, superficial socialites, but Rockstar is pretty adamant that he’s not one of them. From the press release: “Players will struggle with the competing loyalties of family and friends, and with the uncertainty about who is real and who is fake in a world in which everyone has a price.”

Expect a story of complex duality, grounded in harsh reality. Luis is likely nothing more than a street hood and drug dealer, plucked out of obscurity by Gay Tony. He may mingle with the wealthy and famous, but he may also remain loyal to his original friends in the North Dominican Drug Dealers. He will probably earn good money, but will probably still live in a ghetto and still support an impoverished, recently immigrated family.

At least one of Luis’s close allies will die.

Near the end of The Lost and Damned, after attacking Gay Tony’s gang, you can surf the internet and find the following news story. We doubt its inclusion was an accident. The only question is: Will Luis avenge his friend’s murder? Or is Luis the murderer?

Rockstar revealed all of this over a year ago.

Most of us were surprised by the announcement of The Ballad of Gay Tony, as well as by the identity of its hero. Some savvy fans, however, have been putting the pieces together for months now. Obviously, seeing Luis pop up in mission after mission – as described previously – was something of a giveaway. The biggest clue, though, came from a single Achievement / Trophy.

Rewarded after beating the Museum Piece mission, “Impossible Trinity” seemed like a strange choice of words at the time. Now we can see that Rockstar was leaving us hints. This is presumably the only time – in all three storylines – that the trio of protagonists come together at once. An impossible trinity.

Crazier yet, you can see all three heroes escaping the museum during the end credits for The Lost and Damned. See for yourself in the video below:

Rockstar had the whole thing planned from the very beginning. If not, then they are some damn good improvisers

May 28, 2009

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