This is Vegas Exclusive Hands-On - First Look

We take a brief stroll through Midway's upcoming action game that lets you live a virtual life in Las Vegas.

This is Vegas is the upcoming action game from Midway that drops you into a stylized version of Las Vegas and lets you live a virtual life. The game is being developed by Surreal Software, of The Suffering fame, and takes an open-world approach. While this may sound like a setup that's been done to death (albeit not set exclusively in Vegas), Surreal's going in a unique, ballsy direction with the game. Rather than try to outdo the cinematic take of the gold standard for the genre, Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto games, This is Vegas is taking a humorous, tongue-in-cheek approach. Surreal has tapped writer Jay Pinkerton, a former Cracked magazine editor, to help craft the game's story. Surreal representatives say the result falls somewhere between Ocean's Eleven and a Will Ferrell movie. As far as gameplay goes, we got a general overview and the chance to try out three short sequences from the game that gave us an idea of where it's headed.

Yes, gentlemen, this is Vegas.

The game's story follows you, an unnamed nobody, as you arrive in Vegas with 50 dollars in your pocket and hazy goals. As luck would have it, you'll cross paths with Joey Nissan, a local "entrepreneur" who winds up working to get you in with the Vegas crowd. From the sound of it, this bit in the game will be your license to be decadent as you play. Of course, all good things don't last forever, and soon you meet your nemesis: Preston Boyer, a fast food tycoon bent on cleaning up Vegas to be a family-friendly tourist trap. This doesn't exactly fly far with you and your new crowd, so your goal will be to stop Boyer and preserve the town's special atmosphere.

The game's story and the action surrounding it will revolve around four pillars Surreal is focusing on for development: fight, race, gamble, and party. The playable demo we tried showcased three of these, fighting, partying, and gambling. Before we tried it out, Surreal Software studio head Alan Patmore filled us in on what we were seeing, the open-world element, and what to expect. Based on the map screen we saw, virtual Vegas is a stylized place that comprises the whole strip. You'll be able to visit a variety of casinos, which feature different activities and missions to undertake to earn money and improve your standing in the world. You'll find four "crowds" to roll with in the game: the diamonds, or high rollers; the hearts, old-school Vegas types; the clubs, hip clubbers; and the spades, edgy rocker types. The missions you undertake will improve your reputation with them, which will afford you certain benefits in the form of unlockable rewards. At the moment it doesn't sound like there's much bad blood between the four groups, so getting in good with one won't alienate another. Besides the missions you take on, some of which will progress the story, you'll be able to engage in side quests called "gigs" that have five difficulty levels--they'll get progressively tougher. Clearing them earns you various bonuses on your quest, chief among them being cold, hard cash.

We doubt anyone will be surprised to hear that money is a huge deal in Vegas, as you'll be able to use it to buy clothing, accessories, and hairstyles to customize your virtual self. In addition to allowing you to personalize your character, the cosmetic tweaks are key for accessing certain casinos--what would a Vegas game be without dress codes, right? Besides the small stuff, you'll eventually be able to pick up a home base to work out of. You'll need a base of operations, because not all your activities are entirely lawful. The game will feature a "wanted" system, as we've seen in many other games, and you'll have to contend with the law enforcement that will show up. The system doesn't sound like it's going to be too hardcore, as cops won't have terribly long memories; but you'll still have to be careful.

In Sin City, you can't be afraid to get your hands dirty once in a while.

As far as what we could play goes, the demo offered the three samples of gambling, fighting, and partying. The gambling sequence had us guiding our guy over to a table and hitting the B button to get started. You'll sit down at the table and play blackjack, with a slight twist. The game plays as it would in real life; you have a dealer and cards in front of you, and you choose to hit, stand, or get insurance--all the usual stuff. However, if you're feeling like you want a leg up, you can put on some "special" sunglasses and check the cards in play, as apparently one of your associates has marked them with special dye. The catch is that you'll have to manage your level of suspicion, which you'll gauge via an onscreen meter. If you spend too much time using your glasses, folks will get wise and you'll get booted. To keep things interesting, the marked cards don't make for a total cheat. Three types of marks denote their range. So a minus sign lets you know the card is between a two and a six, a circle is between a seven and a nine, and a plus is a 10 or higher. So you'll still have to do some guessing, but the glasses help a little. To move things along you can hit the X button and "fast forward" to your decision. The only other trouble spot is suspicion. You'll have to keep an eye on your surroundings to catch any roaming pit bosses, who will kick up your suspicion gauge much faster than normal if they're around you while you're using your specs. Besides blackjack, you'll find Texas Hold 'em poker and slots to let you gamble the night away. You'll also be able to get some "help" while playing the slots via a hacking minigame, although we weren't able to check slots or the minigame out.

The fighting demo was pretty straightforward and had us busting heads in front of the Olympus Casino, the TIV equivalent of Caesar's Palace. The simple system uses the X button to attack, the Y button to grab and break holds, and the trigger to block. Holding down X lets you perform charged-up attacks. The short sequence had us busting heads with obnoxious bachelors, some of Boyer's mascots, and Boyer's questionably attired goon squad. The combat worked well, with combos coming off easily. An extra factor in combat is the "buzz" meter, which fills as you fight. When it's full you can tap the right bumper and perform a powerful one-hit finishing "buzz" attack. The sequence also teased a bit of the open world, which you could see just beyond the fight sequence, and the way crowds will gather and cheer you on when the action heats up.

Expect to enjoy the nightlife.

The party demo was the most complex of the three demos. The demo is taken from an actual mission in the game and finds you heading over to Club Aqua, a local hot spot, to meet with a lady friend. Upon arriving sporting your party attire, you'll meet your friend, who'll kick off a series of tasks you'll have to perform that function as a tutorial for the party mechanic. Your first task is to tend bar, which is a button-matching minigame. You'll serve drinks, light cigarettes, and smack drunks as they approach the bar. The next task is to bust a move on the dance floor, which kicks in a simple rhythm minigame that has you hitting the face buttons on the controller in time to an onscreen rhythm meter to build up a combo; you finish it up by hitting the two shoulder triggers. Once you have that sorted, you're tasked with earning 1,000 party points in 10 minutes. You earn points by dancing, tending bar, and beating up unsavory jerks harassing the patrons. The trick to earning points is to deal with the jerks ASAP, as they leech party points from your total. It was interesting to see the club become more animated with people and activities as we earned points. We were also able to use the buzz meter boost on the dance floor, which has you leading a mob of patrons in synchronized dance moves that earn you big points if you pull them off. We got a taste of the interactivity Surreal is going for when we interacted with waitresses to get drinks. Drinking alcoholic beverages also boosts your buzz meter. However, as in real life, too much liquor can lead to some trouble. If you drink too much you'll get drunk, which will cause your vision to blur and your walk to be pretty embarrassing. (It also leads to some chuckleworthy animations when you stumble on the dance floor.) Thankfully, if you've had a bit too much to drink, you can sober up by hitting the men's room to pee that drunken stupor away. The last bit of the demo, which came up as a bonus task after we earned the requested party points, was to get a wet T-shirt contest going, complete with interactive chest spraying. Yep, it was about what you'd expect--somewhere between funny and cringe-inducing. But we can at least say it's not something you see in a game every day.

The visuals in the game are coming along well, courtesy of the heavily modified Unreal 3 engine Surreal is using to develop the game. There's a respectable level of detail in the character models already, and the environments have a nice layer of polish with the glitzy flash you'd expect from a virtual Las Vegas. The game is also using a variety of filters for the various vision effects, and they work well. The game's art style is a mix of straightforward designs that re-create a real-world feel and goofier elements as evidenced by some of the more eccentric characters. The animation is looking good thanks to a lot of contextual bits that kick in as you go about your business. For example, your walk changes to bop you to the beat when you're walking across the dance floor in Aqua, and it gets good and sloppy when you're drunk.

Audio in the game is still coming together, but the demo had its bases covered with ambient sounds that fit the street, casino, and club locales we were in. You'll hear the expected non-player character chatter, which includes goofy one-liners, and the ever-present clang of the slots. We're also liking some of the little touches Surreal is dropping in, like the way the music sounds when you're moving around Aqua.

Counting cards will help you line your pockets. Just don't get caught.

Based on what we played, This is Vegas is aiming to carve out a unique identity. The tongue-in-cheek tone is a smart way to differentiate itself from GTA. The gameplay should be a good mix of covering the bases players expect from a third-person, open-world game and original elements that haven't been tried before. Surreal's also looking to try some different things with downloadable content for the game postrelease, like adding new casinos and missions that come to life within the game as you download them. We're very curious to see how the elements we've seen and heard about all come together as development progresses. At this point, we see promise that could go either way--the game could wind up being either a goofy, fun adventure or a hot mess. We're hoping This is Vegas could be the former, since the bits we played were already fun, but time will tell. Look for more on This is Vegas in the months leading up to its release this winter on the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.

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286 comments
DarkStreetDev
DarkStreetDev

Great, I cannot wait to play this! I hope it will have DLC for PS3.

jcopp72
jcopp72

I think this game looks interesting, but not sure if i'll spend 60 bucks on it.

rohr2
rohr2

THIS IS VEGAS! we all knew that this would happen

richardzzz777
richardzzz777

I hope it is not like GTA because GTA is the same game repeated over and over again just with a small differents

Ghost223
Ghost223

Eh might be a little hit or miss. If anything I'd rent it first but I doubt it'll grab my attention as much as the absolutely brilliant GTA series. The concepts just dont feel like something I'd 'want' to do...kinda dumb imo. I could just go to Vegas and do the same stuff... I wonder how they will integrate all their ideas into it. If it turns out like the previews I've read on some websites, I will bill it as rubbish. The screens are kinda trashy compared to some other games I've looked into. It seems also a bit complex as far as story, its not like a fun sandbox type game, more of a attentive game with alot of annoying nuances. We'll see.

Achaurn
Achaurn

This game looks horrible. Where do they get the money to make this crap?

XanderKage
XanderKage

Sounds like another True Crime. When will developer learn to stop trying to knock off GTA.

H_U_R_D
H_U_R_D

This game looks like i took a dump then packaged it into a dvd case. Other than that this game looks like it could be one of the worst games of the year, if not all time. Way to go Midway u suck ass.

tehfireballer
tehfireballer

Looks boring.... I could get the same entertainment from watching 21. =p

kishmish
kishmish

Can't say it looks cool but... it's by midway!! Another question will it be in strip or entire vegas?

Hurvl
Hurvl

I don't know if this has mentioned before, but I would rather have a "This is Sparta" game where you can take control of 300 spartans and go to war.

wilmepe
wilmepe

Just go to Vegas and do the real thing. MUCH more fun.

enoenoy
enoenoy

Now what a pile of c**p over more and more f***ing c**p. WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE THINKING? There is a lot of possible stories that can be used to make a game, an you choose to do this? don't expect any non-retard to play THIS. Keep with your mortal kombat thing, at least is kind of cool.

ShadeZ
ShadeZ

"THIS IS VEGASSSSSS!!!" I guess Gamespot censored me last time when I called this game the biggest load of *#&$ since that ET game hit the Atari. So if you want to be a yuppie or act like one my bet is on this game. Midway you guys suck @*&! ;) #**$&(#$

dodow1234
dodow1234

To the guy below me: "I'll play with you"

AfroManiacJr
AfroManiacJr

Wow. I'm not even gonna lie. This game looks retarded. The graphics are amazing, but the gameplay and modes seem pretty rediculous. I'd rather go play with my Legos, personally. =/

petersuars
petersuars

BAD GAME . look Very boring. GTA + boring.IDEA = This is VEGAS

KilRag
KilRag

Clubs hooters fights how im going to spend my nights yeah yeah

Slimfishy
Slimfishy

this game would be fun enough for a chinese kid like me who has never been to vegas, and recently being annoyed by distorted reports from western country : D

saadxxx
saadxxx

this game is so fuken cooool:D

centuryslayer
centuryslayer

sounds like a gta/shenmue game set in Vegas xD hopefully it´ll be leaning more to shenmue or even way of the samurai in it´s set up :D

KingBahamut
KingBahamut

Meh, looks rather boring the concept is interesting mind but doesn't appear all that fun

Da_Bacon_master
Da_Bacon_master

this looks really cool i just hope i can play it sometime when its out..i doubt it though PC wont be good enough =[

sivasiva
sivasiva

Looks good. Well, we shall see in the future previews of the game. Can these game do dirty stuff with girls?

cyw1988
cyw1988

Looks good... but i never expected such a game to garner much hype. Not a type of game i will consider epic. Still, it gives me a feeling that it's a cross between the sims and GTA. Also sorts of reminds me of the movie 21 I caught a few weeks ago... lol

T070Y
T070Y

what happens in vegas stays in vegas!!

Raynever
Raynever

i don't live too far from Vegas, so they'd better get it right. it's be cool if you could go browse through the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace (i think that's right) or go see Blue Man Group at the Venetian.

DaSlyOne
DaSlyOne

What about the "Chicken Ranch" add-on pack?

las42
las42

Well up too now it looks good as Game Spot said the demo was good. And to all the people saying that if you buy this game you have no life, don't listen to them... not everybody has 10g's to spend on hotels,casino's and a flight to Vegas. So if your curious I guess this can be a decent game. But I won't get my hopes up. By the way people the only reason ill consider buying this game is because that I saw a movie that is be pretty much alike. It recently came out. It is called 21 and it is honestly a great movie. And this is my opinion so don't front.

manapsal
manapsal

this sounds really interesting and i dont know why...

Furry_Fox
Furry_Fox

This way I won't have to go to Las Vegas for real ^^'

Furry_Fox
Furry_Fox

Hmm... This will be interesting to see how it turns out.

edpeterson
edpeterson

This game looks like it'll have great gameplay, but the graphics are kinda crappy (but they'll probably fix them before it ships :) )

Hero4Nothing
Hero4Nothing

Dang This game looks rely good cant wait to see if u can get naughty in this game!!!

ShadeZ
ShadeZ

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

ARSENALNO4
ARSENALNO4

could be brilliant but could be the worst game ever

BKCANNON
BKCANNON

this game really looks horrible

Rattlesnake_8
Rattlesnake_8

Concept is good, but this is just looking REALLY bad. :(

werc96
werc96

deviant-kid: Yes your character is customizable with money you earn in the game, There is tons and tons of stuff to buy and places to stay.

joeythemachine
joeythemachine

This looks ridiculous. It looks like a sweaty GTA engine without any of the wit. But hey, maybe Grand Theft Auto is too complex for today's market.

Maveus
Maveus

Looks pretty good actually. I might pick this up based on the review.

deviant-kid
deviant-kid

one more thing, anyone know if ur character will be customizable in this game?

deviant-kid
deviant-kid

looks good. drinkin, drivin, fightin, gamblin n girls. what's not to like? hopefuly they'll up the graphics a bit but other than that it looks decent

TRISTLUV59
TRISTLUV59

It seems like a good idea, but we all know that good ideas can mess up quick. They should make a next gen playboy mansion. That game was nice for PS2 so imagine the girls on BLU-RAY LOL