I love Las Vegas; it’s a place very close to my heart. I’ve been there lots of times with my father (a Casino manager) and feel as though, outside of England, it’s the place I know best. When I heard that there would be a game based around the city of sin I have to admit I was excited. When I heard it was a Tom Clancy I was doubly excited. When I finally received my review copy, placed it in my 360 tray, I could barely contain my glee. I’d soon be killing terrorists in the middle of casinos – what can be more fun than that?
It was probably that anticipation that made me feel a bit let down when I first loaded up Vegas and jumped straight into the story missions. You land in a dusty, GRAW-like village with the orders to help some struggling comrades. My soldier lands, looks around, wipes the Mexican dust from his eyes and screams: “This isn’t Vegas – you bastards!”
It’s not entirely clear why the developers, Ubisoft Montreal, decided to start the game outside of Vegas. If it was for the sake of the storyline then I feel even more bemused, as the story is about as thin and believable as any I’ve seen in a game. No, the decision to start here must have been made with the intention of adding a bit of variety to the game. It’s a decision I think will turn off gamers like me, since Vegas appeals to me because it’s Vegas – not because it’s some dirty Mexican doss hole. I’ve shot terrorists in places like that a thousand times before – I want to kill in a casino.
I leave the campaign game for the time being and decide to enlist the help of a friend. Loading up the multiplayer campaign mission I am pleasantly surprised. Rather than a have to play through each level I can simply choose whichever one I want. I avoid the early levels and jump straight into an action packed encounter on the strip, friend in toe. Now the real action can begin.
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Like Gears of War?
I immediately started having fun now the environment had changed. Gone were the washed out, sandy drab colours and in came The Strip - a melting pot of colours and noise. This level in particular had us fighting on the Strip amidst a mass of abandoned cars. Our objective was to get into the casino the terrorists were using as a base. Me and my friend had a quick discussion of tactics, something along the lines of 'run until one of us dies and then aim at where the bullets are coming from', and then set off.
The mechanics of the game will be compared to Gears of War. A button press sees your man go flat up against the nearest wall or object (in this case abandoned cars and buses). From this position you can either fire blindly or take aim and pick of your targets. I found the system to actually work as well, if not better, than Gears of War for a few reasons. First, the scenarios didn’t feel as contrived as Gears of War - of course the cars had been placed in the levels to provide you with cover, but it didn’t feel as ‘fake’ as the small walls dotted all over the place in GoW. Second, the AI of the enemy seemed a little bit more switched on. They didn’t just charge out and would also use tactical manoeuvrings to beat us – throwing smoke grenades and laying down covering fire were two tactics I was on the receiving end of.
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It is this level of complexity that makes the multiplayer as fun as it is. Co-op in many games can be dull, in that the enemies either don’t provide enough of a challenge or are simply too God-like. Here the enemies felt balanced – each kill feeling hard earned and well deserved. In one instance I laid down covering fire whilst my friend crept round the side of a wall flanking them. The game made us communicate with one another, twanging memories of great gaming sessions in Counter-Strike, and well executed attacks.