In addition to blasting your way through the story missions, there are a ton of side activities to chase down. These include 15 BASE-jumping opportunities, which enable you to climb to the top of very tall buildings (or be flown very high in a chopper), leap off with a parachute and glide to a target, which may or may not be on the back of a moving vehicle. And then there are the 25 Drug Wars missions, in which Luis has to help his moronic buddies Henrique and Armando (who he can also hang out with and get weapons and cars from) smuggle product and rip off rival dealers. They’re not as addictive as, say, the drug-dealing minigame in Chinatown Wars, but they’re fleshed out enough to be a secondary story unto themselves.
Above: Once you know what you’re doing, this is a lot of fun
Add to that a cage-fighting ring (which is fun), a golf driving range (which kind of sucks, but is more fun than darts), the air hockey from TLaD, a never-seen girlfriend for Luis to booty call and a few interesting new pedestrians with whom to take on missions, and there’s plenty to keep players occupied long past the story’s 8-to-10-hour run time. And if that isn’t enough, there’s another big, varied activity Luis can pursue: his day job. Er, night job. The one that pays his taxes.
Although it’s completely optional, Luis will occasionally be called on to “manage” Tony’s mainstream club, Maisonette 9, which for the most part involves patrolling between strategic points and scanning the crowd for troublemakers. Most of the time, nothing happens, and even when it does it’s usually just a matter of walking up to some guy and then watching as Luis automatically throws him out. The real fun comes at the end of the shift, when Luis will frequently be tapped to run an errand for some harebrained celebutard VIP – which, while not always that exciting, is at least more fun than just walking the floor.
Also more interesting than Luis’ work are the myriad activities on offer in Maisonette, as well as in the city’s other clubs (including Tony’s gay club, Hercules). You can order shots to get wasted, start a champagne-drinking contest in the VIP area, or hit the dance floor for a minigame that’s surprisingly fun – or at least, it’s more fun than the one in San Andreas. Instead of just hitting buttons on cue, you flick the thumbsticks in time with the music, and then occasionally hold them in place while rhythmically pulling the triggers.
Sometimes, this will lead to Luis getting some closed-door restroom sex with whatever woman he’s dancing with, but it’s also possible that he’ll be challenged in the middle to a dance-off by another dude…
Above: Wow, really?
… or wind up the whole thing by leading a synchronized dance, which requires more traditional timed button presses.
The dances are really only worth doing once or twice at each club to see what happens, but the fact that they’re even worth that is kind of impressive. And of course, if they don’t appeal to you, there’s always…
Yes, there’s something a little pathetic about using a game about theft and murder to watch fake TV shows and surf a fake internet, but for players who just want to chill with a brief distraction, passive entertainment has long been one of the most oddly charming parts of GTA IV. And Ballad of Gay Tony brings the passive entertainment like never before. There are a few new websites to visit, most notably The Celebinator, an obvious take-off of Perez Hilton who can be influenced in Tony’s favor. But the real attractions here are on TV. In addition to new episodes of Republican Space Rangers and a couple of other shows, the standout is the slickly produced, repugnantly hilarious anime parody, Princess Robot Bubblegum. Here, check out the trailer: