E3 2008: This Is Vegas

We cheated at cards and got in a fistfight in Vegas.

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E3 2008 isn't in Vegas, so this year Midway brought Vegas to E3. This Is Vegas, that is. If you aren't familiar with Midway's play-in-progress, it's an open-world sandbox game set in Las Vegas, among all the casinos, palm trees, danger, and fun that city has to offer, without the hangovers, debts, or professional football players gnawing on your ankle. Finally, this is a piece of Vegas that you can take home with you, or at least, will be able to sometime in 2009.

At a previous event, we played through a giant party; we danced with girls, beat up dorks, tended the bar, and generally had a great time. At E3, a couple different experiences were on tap: fistfights and cheating at cards. We got into a fistfight because we'd stolen and wrecked a car belonging to some dopey goons. They wanted payback, but our fists put them only deeper into debt. To settle the score, we tapped a button (jab), held it (strong punch), chained strong and light attacks together (combo), and eventually built up enough power to unleash a devastating slow-mo haymaker, hitting one of the goons so hard, he backflipped. When he hit the cement, his chips spilled everywhere. It was like hitting a jackpot.

After beating up the goons, the hotel security arrived. This hotel, by the way, looked exactly like Caesar's Palace. However, the guards who accosted us were dressed like they belonged in the Excalibur: One bore a strong resemblance to the Burger King, and the other was a knight riding a dinosaur (it was like a Halloween costume). Despite their merry getups, they asked for no quarter and were given none in turn. We grappled one at the push of a button, and then pounded our fist through his costumed face. Once we'd sent them back to the circus, the real security guards showed up. These were burly dudes in pink berets with pink nightsticks, and they hit a lot harder than the guys in the costumes. Fortunately, we already had haymaker juice built up, so we were able to knock one out right away. As you can see, the combat was extremely simple. It should be easy for anyone to pick up this game and immediately start kicking butts in Vegas.

After our fisticuffs, we went inside the casino for a game of high-stakes blackjack. Now, we could have played fair and square, but it just so happened that we knew the dealer was a crooked chap who was marking his cards with invisible ink. Fortunately, we had glasses that could see the marks. Here's how it worked: When it was our turn to play, we could either make our decision or hold a button to examine the dealer's cards. If there was a dash on them, that meant that the hidden card was anywhere between a two and a six. If it had a circle, it was a six to a nine, and if it had an X, we knew it had to be a face card or an ace. That way, we were able to avoid some bad hits, and chose to stay at less than obvious times. However, every time that we scrutinized the dealer's hand or made an unusual decision (hitting on a 17?), our suspicion meter would rise and the pit boss would pay closer attention to us, so we had to be careful.

That was all the gameplay that we saw at the event, though we were able to ask a few questions, and we learned some interesting things. For instance, at one point we saw coins pouring out of a slot machine while the non-player character in front of it celebrated. So we had to know, could you go karate chop that winner and take all of his newfound riches? The answer was an "Of course!" We also learned that at certain points in the game we'd be able to throw showers of money into the air. When asked why we'd ever do that, we were told that the strippers seemed to think it was a really cool thing to do. However, we could not get a definitive answer on exactly what the "strippers" would strip down to. It seemed fairly certain that they would go topless (which is pretty rare in video games), though a Midway representative said that things still had to be ironed out with the ESRB. In the meantime, stay perky. All will be revealed when this game ships for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC sometime in 2009.

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