"I'm the only man in the history of this town with the hottest gay and straight clubs at the same time, and I'm about to lose everything!"
The protagonist is Luis Fernando Lopez, a part-time hoodlum from Northwood (Liberty City's version of Inwood) who works as a body guard for "Gay Tony" Prince, one of Liberty City's top club entrepreneurs. As opposed to the slums and poverty-stricken protagonists of IV and The Lost and Damned, The Ballad of Gay Tony focuses on Liberty City's upper-class nightclub culture.
It also marks a return to the completely over-the-top missions of the previous games, with the action growing steadily more insane with each mission. It also marked the final chapter of the GTAIV story (although like The Lost and Damned, it largely takes place at the same time as the main game); the last mission finally ties up what one of IV's biggest loose ends.
As with The Lost and Damned, you can get it either online through Xbox Live or PSN, or at retail in the Episodes from Liberty City two-pack that includes TLAD.
- Aborted Arc: The Ancelotti family's unresolved fate raises a big question. Close to the end of the game, believing that Luis and Tony are to blame for allowing Gracie's kidnapping, they strike a deal with Bulgarin to deliver to him either Luis or Tony's corpse. They have Rocco inform Luis of the deal and goad him into betraying Tony; Luis responds by chasing Rocco off. Their vendetta against Luis and Tony is never brought up again.
- This leads to some possible Fridge Horror, seeing as how Tony is implied to have skipped town, Luis is left in Liberty City with one of the most powerful criminal organizations out for his blood and ready to threaten his loved ones. Of course, that's never been too big of a problem for him, but still.
- Amusement Park of Doom: The final mission begins at Funland.
- Artificial Stupidity: Subverted. While Armando and Henrique can be idiots and wander in front of you while you're shooting during a Drug War, they know how to take cover and use weapons most of the time. The game is also not so cruel as to punish you if they both get themselves killed during a Drug War mission.
- Awesome Personnel Carrier: After a conspicuous absence in the main game and the previous episode, this episode marks the long-awaited return of blowing stuff up in a tank.
- Ballad of X
- Big Applesauce
- Big Bad: Ray Bulgarin
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Gracie Ancelotti. If you didn't hate her in the main game, this game will rapidly change your mind.
- Bling Bling Bang: One of the weapons is a gold-plated Uzi, a gift from Yusuf. He also has a gold-plated attack chopper.
- Book Ends: Not within the game per se, but for the GTA IV era as a whole. The main game's introductory Cutscene features a cook aboard the ship that ferried Niko Bellic to Liberty City holding up a diamond (from the batch the protagonists would later fight over) before dropping it into a cake mix to be smuggled into the city. After Ballad's final mission, Luis accidentally bumps into a hobo who discovers the diamonds in a trash can and examines one the same way the cook did.
- Brooklyn Rage
- Camp Gay: Evan Moss, Gay Tony's boyfriend.
- The Casanova: Luis himself puts it best: "You know me. Quantity, not quality, bro."
- Caught with Your Pants Down: One of Yusuf's missions is named for this trope. During the mission briefing, Yusuf is seen not wearing pants and partaking in cocaine and a prostitute's services. Before Luis leaves, Yusuf's father Abdul walks in, showing disappointment in his son's hedonistic lifestyle.
Yusuf: Father, you taught me not to judge a book by its cover!
- Club Kid: Especially at Hercules.
- Cultural Posturing: Italian (and racist) Rocco sparring with Dominican Luis.
- Deadfoot Leadfoot
- Decapitation Presentation: Bulgarin severs his business ties with Luis when he finds out that Luis and Tony are holding diamonds that were stolen from him. He decides to inform Luis of this by sending Luis to find the severed head of the smuggler who brought the diamonds into Liberty City in the first place.
- Disc One Nuke: The player can get the exploding shotgun, which can blow up cars and helicopters with only a few shots, fairly early in the game. It will appear in Luis' apartment after completing a few drug war missions and Yusuf's first mission.
- Downloadable Content: Or it can be bought retail in Episodes from Liberty City.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Despite ultimately losing the diamonds and nearly killing each other, both Luis and Gay Tony manage to survive, kill Bulgarin, get the Ancelottis off their backs and (presumably) gain new funding from newfound rich friend Yusuf Amir to reopen their clubs. Also, the bum finds the diamonds in the trash at the end.
- Education Mama: Luis' mother.
- Expansion Pack
- Fight Clubbing: Luis can bet on or fight in underground fighting tournament pretty early in the game.
- Foregone Conclusion: In The Lost And Damned, Johnny bungles a diamond deal involving Gay Tony, and steals the gems off of the corpse of an associate of Tony's: a tanned, blond, muscular gay man who attempted to escape via limousine. This pretty much describes Evan Moss. When you play the mission from Luis' perspective, and Evan decides to tag along, you know what he's gonna be in for.
- Freudian Trio: Luis is the super ego, Armando is the id, and Henrique is the ego.
- Genius Bruiser: Mori Kibbutz considers himself one, with his Israeli military training and Ivy League 4.0.
- Genre Shift: While GTA IV was a departure from the over-the-top action of the previous games, The Ballad of Gay Tony brings some over-the-top back into the game by having you steal entire train cars, leap out of planes and helicopters and parachute onto moving flatbed trucks.
- Get a Load of That Square: Most of Yusuf's dialogue.
Yusuf: Let's bounce, baby! ...When I say bounce, I don't mean bouncing literally, I just mean -
- Gunship Rescue: Yusuf in the final mission.
- Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Luis.
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Tony and Luis. Only one side of the partnership is hetero, but it's strictly platonic.
- Hey, It's That Voice! - Yusuf is voiced by British-Iranian stand up comedian Omid Djalili.
- High Altitude Interrogation: One mission requires the player has to intimidate a Shallow Parody of Perez Hilton into not printing anything about Tony, anymore. Part of this involves throwing him out of a helicopter and catching him before he hits the ground, effectively making him crap his pants in terror.
- Hollywood Skydiving: Averted for the most part. San Andreas's parachuting mechanic makes its long-awaited return, and thanks to the new physics engine, behaves much more dynamically, requiring a greater sense of timing and direction when deploying the chute. They haven't averted Soft Water, allowing you to just freefall into the sea without deploying, though this is carried over from the main game.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Luis also serves as this to Gay Tony.
- Hypocritical Humor: Yusuf complaining that his friends are tacky.
- Informed Ability: Gay Tony proudly introduces Luis as his "business partner" so much, even Luis himself has bought into it. However, the extent of Luis' supposed business acumen is limited to making decisions anyone who isn't as melodramatic, gullible, or high as Tony would. On regular days, he's either a glorified hitman when attending to clients, or a glorified Bouncer when managing Maisonette 9.
- Internal Homage: The Eighties Pop station (one of its songs is Hall & Oates' "Maneater", which is also featured in one of the cutscenes) is called Vice City FM, complete with the font on the game's instruction manual being used on the station's nameplate.
- Invisible to Gaydar: Gay Tony. Yes, really. Aside from the name and a couple of odd quirks and rants, of course.
- Jerkass: Mori Kibbutz. How to best describe his Jerkassery? Let's just say that he's largely the reason Brucie acts the way he does in the main game, and even if you thought Brucie was obnoxious, the things you see Mori do to his brother will make you feel sorry for him.
- Karma Houdini: Rocco gets away scot-free at the end, despite being a racist jerk throughout the game. And there are no more expansion packs to find out if he gets his comuppance.
- Large Ham: Gay Tony is such a huge drama queen.
- Lighter and Softer: While The Ballad of Gay Tony retains the darker edge of GTA IV, the story is generally lighter in tone while returning to some of the wacky fun from San Andreas. Golf cart chases, dancing and parachutes are back, baby! Not to mention the fairly happy ending.
- Macross Missile Massacre: The Buzzard is a stealth-attack helicopter loaded with rocket pods that never run out of ammo. If there were any doubt to its ability, in the mission it's introduced, you use it to sink a yacht. The boat needs about a couple dozen shots to go down in a blaze of Impressive Pyrotechnics, but that won't take you too long.
- More Dakka: You can get an automatic shotgun with explosive shells (great for taking down choppers) and a high-powered machine gun.
- The Napoleon: Mori.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Gay Tony, between his looks and his voice, bears more than a passing resemblance to Robert Downey, Jr.
- Non-Action Guy: Gay Tony.
- N-Word Privileges: Yusuf Amir constantly attempts to invoke these, completely ignoring any attempts by Luis to point out that, as an Arab, he doesn't have them.
- Optional Sexual Encounter: You can have sex with female patrons in Maisonette 9 if you ace a dancing minigame, as well as unlocking them for booty calls.
- Parental Substitute: Tony is sort of a father figure to Luis, whose own father ran out on his family, even though Luis is the more rational of the two. In one of the later missions Tony tells Luis that he loves him like a son. He's on who knows how many drugs, but it's still very sweet.
- Percussive Prevention: Tony has to plant a series of bombs around the city as yet another favor to Rocco but is clearly too irrational and under the influence of drugs to pull it off. Luis has to punch his lights out to prevent him leaving.
- Previous Player Character Cameo: Niko Bellic and Johnny Klebitz make an cameo appearance in the opening cutscene and some of the missions.
- Prison Rape: Luis is an ex-con and his friends tease him about it mercilessly, especially since he now works for Gay Tony.
- Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: One string of random encounters has Luis meeting up with Margot, one of his past flings, who had become obsessed with him. When Luis rejects her two more times, she attempts to kill herself. The first instance ends with a potentially fatal dose of sleeping pills being pumped out of her stomach. The second instance which involves jumping off a pier? She gets it right this time.
- Refuge in Audacity: Very much in the vein of the older games rather than Niko and Johnny's more gritty missions.
- Right Through His Pants
- Ripped from the Headlines: Big Bad Ray Bulgarin develops a sudden, intense need to own the Liberty City Rampage ice hockey team, requiring Luis to make them An Offer You Can't Refuse. This appears to be an amalgam of two major stories (though with murder added; it is GTA): mysterious Russian billionaires purchasing the New Jersey Nets basketball team and Chelsea soccer team.
- Arguably the entire plot, which revolves around a man who lived beyond his means and is now deep in debt and about to lose everything. Ladies and gentlemen, Rockstar presents the first video game about the recession.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money: Most of billionaire construction magnate Yusuf Amir's missions invovle elaborate and spectacular thefts of items, such as a military helicopter, a NOOSE APC or a Liberty City subway car. Luis repeatedly points out how much easier it would be to just buy these things using his deep pockets, to no avail (later on, one of Yusuf's associates mentions that, despite his wealth, Yusuf is obsessed with what he can't buy). However, this does come in handy during the final mission, where Amir shows up in his gold-plated attack helicopter to destroy the cars full of Russians standing between you and the airport.
- Brick Joke: When Yusuf sees the helicopter that's transporting the Noose APC over the city, he says he must have it. Luis begs him to buy it legally to which Yusuf says he will consider it. In the mission to steal the subway car, Yusuf retrieves it with the same model of helicopter, having listened to Luis' advice.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: Subverted. Rockstar, apparently having learned nothing from the Hot Coffee scandal (or possibly just thumbing their nose at everyone who made it into a scandal) actually shows Luis railing a random club girl and then getting a blowjob from another, on-screen, during the same mission.
- Shout-Out: The mission "Corner Kids" chains a string of references to The Wire right in the opening scene.
- One mission has Bulgarin's right-hand man Timur accompanying Luis to keep an eye on him. On the way to the destination, Luis tries to strike up a conversation with the gangster, only to be threateningly turned down. Luis' response? '... Total fucking silence...' Try to pan the journey out a bit for the sake of comedy.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Mori.
- Rocco also applies within The Mafia's sphere of influence. He talks a big game and threatens Luis and Tony a lot, but when Luis finally responds with force, he ends up skipping town and no mafiosi are to be found imposing his will. Seems he wasn't as high up the chain of command as he would have them believe.
- Smart People Play Chess: Mori Kibbutz plays and easily wins chess game with his brother while doing a boxing workout. The he boasts about his academic achievements.
- The Stoic: Luis. He just doesn't laugh. Or even truly smile, for that matter. The only bit of emotion that can be discerned from his face is barely noticeable pity for Brucie, which also reappears when he's about to (not) shoot Tony. And that angry grimace after you lose a mission? It's pretty much standard to the IV protagonists.
- Luis' ex-girlfriend Margot calls him out on that, accusing him of becoming nothing but a shell of a person. Luis seems unfazed.
- Although earlier on whenever a loan shark threatens his mother, he is actually struggling to stay The Stoic and not try to beat the crap out of the dude.
- Supporting Protagonist: If you think Gay Tony is the protagonist because his name is in the title, think again.
- May count as Designated Protagonist Syndrome. One common complaint is that, despite Luis being the hero, he's a disappointingly flat character who does pretty much nothing apart from serve Tony, who receives much more character development.
- Throwing the Fight: Luis is told to take one to get his mother out of a debt to a local thug. A debt she only owes because she refuses Luis' money. In a fight you only enter for her sake. If you take the dive, she calls you up to call you a loser afterwards. Gee thanks, Mom.
- Twitter: Mocked with Bleeter. One character bleets as he is being murdered, and another mission involves chasing a guy across town while deciphering the clues in his asinine posts.
- Universal Driver's License: Mocked. If you fly poorly in one mission with Tony in the passenger seat, he will complain about it. Your character will respond that this is what you get when your boss only shells out for the two-week pilot course.
- In a hilarious easter egg, you can find the piloting certificate on Luis's apartment wall.
- Villains Out Shopping: In the main Grand Theft Auto IV, Ray Bulgarin is a mysterious Russian mobster from Niko's past who deals in at least human trafficking and causes lots of trouble from behind the scenes. In this game, Bulgarin is an asshole who collects rock and roll memorabilia, is berated by his sister, and really wants to own a hockey team.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Most of Yusuf Amir's missions are elaborate (and spectacular) schemes to gain the approval of his father, Abdul, never realizing that his extravagance only disappoints his conservative dad.
- Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: Hercules.