|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Surreal Software||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Midway||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: TBA||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jason Lauritzen
July 28, 2008 - Vegas has its own debauchery-laden identity. The neon-drenched mecca revels in activities that many other major cities would consider a blight. Gambling, strippers, and all-out partying are bullet points on a bizarre tourism pamphlet that attracts a certain class of visitor. Instead of shying away from those umbrageous activities, Surreal Software (best known for The Suffering series) is embracing them with their latest open-world game: This is Vegas.
Like a re-telling of a rags-to-riches story, This is Vegas puts you in the role of a poor nobody who arrives in Sin City with very little money ($50, to be exact), but a lot of ambition - he wants to be more than ordinary. You meet up with a local businessman that plugs you into the local Vegas scene, netting you your first bit of work. However, all is not good - a heavy-handed investor is looking to turn everyone's favorite party city into the number one family tourist spot in the U.S. This new economic and cultural direction doesn't sit well with you or your employer, so it's up to you to stop his plans.
To help push along the narrative, the game's mechanics are broken up into four areas: gamble, party, fight, and race. Of the four areas, racing is the only one the developer is keeping close to its chest, so there are little-to-no details on it at the moment. The most fleshed out gameplay element seems to be the party system.
A typical party mission might start out with you meeting a friend at a club and from there it splits into a series of party-related mini-games. You can hop between bar tending, dancing, and drinking - all with the goal of building up a certain number of points. Tending bar involves doing everything from serving drinks to lighting cigarettes, as well as roughing up drunks that harass the clientele. Should you want to hit the dance floor, you can try you out moves by playing through a rhythm-centered, match-the-button game. If your dance moves start to attract attention, fellow clubbers will imitate your style. But, if your dancing is too embarrassing, you can always knock back a few drinks. Be careful though - one or two drinks should be okay, but if you go over-the-top, your vision blurs and you'll start to wobble around the dance floor. For a quick sober fix, you can run to the bathroom and relieve yourself. If, after all that partying, you rack up enough points, you'll be given a bonus objective like a wet t-shirt contest. Sure to offend female gamers, this "bonus" boils down to an interactive chest spraying game.
All that partying can be exhausting and you can kick back with a game of cards at one of the local casinos. You can play a game of blackjack that mirrors the actual game (in some sense). Surreal sticks to the real game by allowing you to hit, stand, or option for insurance. But, there's a twist: you can pull out a pair of shades that gives you a cheating edge. These glasses allow you to see a special dye on the cards. This dye comes in three shapes: minuses, circles, and pluses. Each sign corresponds to a different value. For instance, if you see a card marked with a circle dye, that means it's between a seven and a nine. This keeps a nice balance on the cheating side of things; you're given an edge, but the shades won't result in an instant win. The temptation to put on your trusty card counting shades should be scaled back; wear them too long and you'll attract the attention of pit bosses.
With all the drinking and partying, the occasional fight is bound to happen. And while fighting is a core area of the game, Surreal has simplified to it to keep it accessible to a large audience. Once you learn how to attack, block, grab, and break throws, you're good to go. You can hold the attack button to do charge attacks, and if you build up a special meter, you can perform a finishing attack. If your fight attracts police attention, you'll have to deal with the game's wanted system.
Since the game is being published by Midway, it's no surprise it uses the Unreal 3 Engine (we've already seen it in Stranglehold and it's being used in the upcoming Mortal Kombat vs. D.C. Universe). Surreal is using a modified version of the engine to better replicate Sin City, and the results look impressive so far; neon lights saturate the screen, character detail seems high, and the visual filters (for things like the drunk effect) look great.
Details on certain areas like gang affiliation (there are supposedly four you can align with in the game), weapons-based combat, and racing are still forthcoming. Surreal definitely has a unique property on its hands, but it would be surprising if the game can find an audience beyond its somewhat juvenile antics. This is Vegas was set to come out toward the end of 2008, but it has been pushed back to the first half of 2009. Maybe that extra time in the development oven will do it some good.
CCC Freelance Writer