If Rockstar's upcoming GTA release isn't enough to keep you entertained this year, then you want to keep a close eye on Midway's first open-ended sensation, based in the heart of Sin City. While Vegas, which coincidentally is where the publisher loves hosting its annual press events, delivers an exciting free-form style that seems to echo the GTA series, everything about the direction and focus puts the game in a class by itself.
In Vegas, you assume the role of a young kid hoping to make it big due to his gift of counting cards, aided by Kevin Spa... wait, that's the movie 21. Actually, you're not really great at anything in the beginning. You've only got $50 bucks and unless you've got the skills to prevent a local rich snob from converting Sin City into the next family wonder of the world, it's game over man!
"Live your outrageous fantasy..." - Alan Patmore, Surreal Software Executive Producer
It leaves a lot of the imagination, doesn't it? Well, don't get too attached to those risqué images in your head because this production isn't going past an M-rating. That's not to say sex appeal, violence and the typical nuances which we've come to expect from GTA aren't in full effect; Vegas delivers in spades. Surreal Software wanted to ensure the foundation of Vegas provided players had a rich, fun interactive environment to explore. Yes, you can steal cars, beat people up, and flirt with the local hotties (complete with deliberate sexual innuendos), but for me the real deal was getting your groove on the dance floor. During club-related missions, you need to keep the club bumpin', the drinks flowin', and the lowlifes out. Anyways, the dance sequence pays tribute to the legendary John Travolta where you get to see the lead character literally do the Saturday Night Fever and if I recall correctly, Michael Jackson's "Beat It" steps are in full effect here. The key is to correctly time the button sequences with the on-screen dance indicator, finalized by simultaneously hitting both triggers for a classic finish. Chaining the moves together takes some work, but as I got to see in the demo, savvy dance moves gets the crowd involved, pumped and ultimately raising your reputation as a major social club icon!
Then there's the bartending sequence which I found to be quite amusing. Players must properly hit the correct buttons that corresponed to the respective icons on the screen (i.e. Y = Yellow, R = Red, etc.) The actions range from pouring drinks to giving someone a light, or if you want to be a jerk - knocking a patron's head on the deck. Ouch!
There's a huge focus on the gambling part which personally doesn't do a whole lot for me (mainly because I haven't had the best experience gambling in casinos). Fortunately, for those of us accustomed to losing their winnings there will be able to utilize a "cheat" that the player can execute when the need arises, which should definitely add some flair the game. Don't read into that too much, everyone on the development team has stressed that the game doesn't take itself too seriously. The atmosphere has been described as a mix between Talladega Nights with the action tone of Ocean's 11.
With that being said, the game wouldn't be complete without a few signature moments true to Sin City's credo of "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." If the gratuitous wet T-shirt sequence is all that's being rolled out, Midway will be in the clear from experiencing their own "Hot Coffee" fiasco. No official rating has been set on the game just yet but it's pretty obvious to see that this production is totally geared towards mature audiences.
Vegas is aiming to make its debut this 4th Qtr, which many of us will have moved on from GTA4 in search of the next action thrill. Based on my initial impressions, I'd say Midway's got your ticket. Naturally, there's still a lot more highlights being kept under wraps by the developers till E3, so stay tuned for future updates at that time.