The 360 isnât short of shooters. Weâve had GR:AW, CoD2 and 3, F.E.A.R. and countless others. So enters the fray another tactical shooter, trying to get you to part with some cash once again. Does Vegas add anything new to the genre, or is it a same-old same-old, here we go again experience? Scepticism aside, I boarded my helicopter to Vegas.
Well, I figured we would be heading to Vegas, but ended up stopping in Mexico first with my two fellow compatriots, ready to sort out some trouble downtown. Itâs the usual terrorist uprising again that’s featured in all tactical games, and this is no different. The Mexican portion of the game serves as a tutorial for the most part, where you learn all the different manoeuvres and abilities that you can utilise for anyone that either didnât play the demo or simply canât remember. Itâs unobtrusive, and after a while youâre left to your own devices with the ability to make your way to the objective however you please. You start the Mexican map on your own, and finish on your own, as you get captured along with your teammates. After the separation, you learn the teammates you once knew have disappeared, and so it is then that you’re hoisted out of Mexico to trouble-erupting violence in Vegas. Youâre issued two new partners, and you now know that Irena Morales is the woman you must pursue in the hunt for your fellow colleagues, all the while dealing with hostage situations and defusing bombs along the way.
The graphics for the single player are truly excellent, surpassing GR:AW easily. Whilst the weapon models are a bit samey, since they all appear the same shade of grey, the environment and your team mates is lovely to look at, and makes a huge difference to the realism feeling of the game. Couple that with the noise of your gun in surround sound, and you’re almost actually there, right in your living room. The shouts from the AI terrorists also add to it, with âCover meâ, âIâm outta ammoâ, âyou need more ammo?â and my particular favourites âfuck youâ and âohhh shitâ. Your team mates are also refreshingly intelligent. In Gears of War you really had to rely on yourself to get the job done, whereas in Vegas you can send in your men and have full faith in them. If you put a silencer on your weapon, they follow suit, so when you want to get in unnoticed, changing the rules of engagement from âfire at willâ to âonly shoot when shot atâ will help, and your team duly oblige. Some of my favourite moments were getting my guys to âstack upâ on a door, which then gives you three options: they can enter and clear the room, frag and clear the room (throw a grenade, wait for the explosion then clear) or breach and clear, for when there are guards standing right next to a door. Or, if you have the engagement rule set to the sneak variant, you can flash and clear (which throws in a flash bang to disorientate the enemy), or a smoke and clear (throwing in a smoke grenade for cover). Prior to giving the order, you can use your âsnake camâ to see what lies behind the door, a la Splinter Cell. This allows you to âtagâ the guards. For example, in a hostage situation, if you tag the guy pointing his gun at the hostage and the guy close by, your team mates will enter the room and kill those tagged first. And it works brilliantly.
Thatâs not to say that you can go the whole game without firing a bullet of course, since Ubisoft have copied the AI intelligence of your team mates over to the terrorists, who will try and flank you, take cover when under fire and often charge at you. Theyâll also throw flash bangs, smoke grenades, and frag grenades in an attempt to deter you from finding out the story.
All this wouldnât be possible were it not for decent controls. Fortunately, the game has controls that you can use effectively. To move your team mates into position, you simply look where you want them to go and hit the A button. Want to switch the rules of engagement? Hit LB. Need to cover because you’re under fire? Stand next to an object and hold the left trigger, allowing you to poke your head out when needed to get a shot on the terrorists. If you want to bring up your sight for a more accurate aim, click the right stick, with the left stick click making you crouch. When you order your team to stack up on a door, the three options that appear are mapped to the D-Pad. It will probably take a while for some to get their heads round the left trigger doesnât aim part, but it does works really well, and after a while you wonât notice it. B throws grenades and X reloads, with Y switching weapons. The only problem I have with the controls is that if you want a silencer on your weapon or you want to change the rate of fire, you hold the X button, then a menu comes up, with the options again mapped to the D-Pad. Similarly, if you want to switch your grenade type, hold the Y button and another menu pops up, again controlled via the D-Pad. Fine in principle, but it doesnât allow for easy swapping of grenades, and you canât continue to run whilst making the changes as you donât have enough fingers, forcing you to stop for a bit. Minor I know, but it can be frustrating when you run out of grenades and canât switch quick enough. The same can be said for your heat and night vision goggles, mapped to RB. Hold down RB and you choose, via the D-Pad, which you want. After that, every time you press RB you will obviously remove the goggles, then click it again and it puts on your last choice that you made. But, if youâre in a dark room and someone throws a smoke, it takes longer than it should to switch to the appropriate goggles (heat vision allows you to see through the smoke). Again, only minor but still annoying.
However, when you do get in a firefight, it really is exciting. In the casino, loose bullets hit glass which cracks and eventually shatters, as the slot machines break and spurt coins onto the floor. A small touch, but one that again adds to the realism and makes it look good (sadly the coins disappear into the floor though, rather than forming a nice pile). The main problem with the single player is that it is short. There are six missions, each broken down into sub sections. One mission only has two subsections in, which isn’t too time consuming and an easy achievement gain. If you were to play the game solidly, you’d be looking at doing each mission in about an hour and a half, an hour for the shorter mission. So you’re realistically looking at 8-10 hours play, depending on your skill level, which really isn’t a lot.
That is of course if you play in Normal mode. Select Realistic as the difficulty, and itâs a whole different story. For the sake of this review, I switched difficulty mid-way through to Normal for the simple fact that Iâd already tried one bit no more than ten times, with countless different methods, but the result the same: death for me and my squad. Switch the difficulty, and I did it in one go. The difference? Just the fact that you can take more bullets before dying, and the terrorists seem a tad less accurate. Thatâs not to say that youâd never hit the deck in a pool of the red stuff though, since the game is still a challenge at certain points, just not all the time. The story too is the usual; terrorists have captured certain areas, please flood them out. So youâve heard it all before, you just have different objectives and a different narrator.
The game isnât just a single player affair though. The game features up to 16 players online, with the ability to play the story cooperatively or do a Terrorist Hunt: there are 50 terrorists (depending on density setting) which must all be killed for you to win. Story co-op I can only recommend if youâve finished the game before, since, for whatever reason, cut scenes arenât shown. So youâll have no idea what exactly is going on should this be your first run through.
Thereâs more to the online than that, as it features six other competitive modes. You have the usual death match and team death match (âSharpshooter” in the game). Survival and team survival is a mode that, once you die, you’re out for the round, so no respawning here. Retrieval is known as Capture the Flag to everyone but Ubisoft, which we all know how to play, except it features a cannister rather than a flag. Lastly, you have Attack and Defend, and is perhaps the most co-ordinated of them all, since it requires team work on both sides if youâre ever to win. The objective for attackers is to steal a briefcase and return it to the extraction point. Defenders have to defend the briefcase and prevent extraction. If you play with the right people, it can become a tactical and very enjoyable affair, and reminds you of why you invested in ÂŁ40 for a year subscription. You could run and gun, but it certainly isnât the best option.
The multiplayer wouldnât take place were it not for a character to control though. And boy, do you have a lot of control over your character. There are thousands of options for your character, in terms of weapons that can be customised, armour that can be customised, your clothes that can be customised, and, perhaps the potentially best bit of it all, your characterâs face can be customised, with the Vision camera.
Itâs been much publicised that this game is only the second game to offer the ability to put your face in the game. It makes you unique as you know no-one will have your face. Itâs pretty simple to do, as it only requires two pictures. A red box fills the screen, and youâre asked to put your chin on the bottom line and the top of your head be touching the top line. After it does that, you then turn your head to the left and take another photo, then it generates your image. Itâs pretty simple, but youâll have to get the light just right for the results to be perfect. Even then, my face sadly was all wrong. Countless jokes aside, I simply looked completely different and in no way did it look like me. I also tried it with a variety of different haircuts, but it seems that as soon as it registers hair, you get a flat top with a bit of black. Itâs a shame, but other sources tell me that theirs did in fact look pretty good and lifelike. So it does work, you just need to spend a bit of time getting the light setting spot on. Sadly, you canât do too much with it once youâve created your unique head. For whatever reason, you cannot wear balaclavas, sunglasses and selected hats, so youâre left with little option. Again, itâs a shame, because those that donât put their face in actually look better, since they can customise the head with all manner of different things.
Your character also has a rank. Regardless of whether you play in a player match or ranked match, you will receive experience points based on how well your team did, how well you did and whether the teams were balanced or not and the duration of the match. As your character gains experience, he gets ever closer to getting promoted to the next rank. Each rank that you unlock carries with it some extra stuff previously inaccessible, which includes not only weapons but armour, clothes and headgear. Once you reach the top rank you obviously have everything you need to make yourself truly unique. It adds a nice RPG style element to the game, which doesnât include all the millions of numbers usually involved.
Although Ubisoft are striving to put a patch out for some bugs and glitches, I have to say I have encountered the grand total of zero problems, except for when I ordered my team to clear the room and one member was just floating. I opened up a door and everything was back to normal though, so not a big issue. Everything else has all run fine, and Iâve never been dropped from a game because the host changes a map or any other of the listed problems. I might just be lucky, but there are certainly no problems from my point of view.
However, there is one major problem in the multiplayer for me, which currently seems to be a trend running right through Ubisoftâs tactical games. The quality of the graphics has once again been reduced, just like they did with GR:AW. Weâve seen with Gears that this shouldnât be a problem, yet they continue to reduce the quality and make everything look that much flatter and blander. Details are far from excellent compared to the single player, and it really is irritating that Ubisoft continue to do this. Fortunately you can at least cover in multiplayer this time, unlike GR:AW, where meant you had to just get close to an object for protection. Just make sure you play the single player first, or youâll initially be bitterly disappointed with your purchase. And to set up a 16 player match, you have to set yourself up as a dedicated server, meaning you sacrifice yourself for the pleasure of others. There is an achievement for it though, if you’re interested.
So was my trip to Vegas an enjoyable one? Naturally, there are ups and downs, as with any game. The single player is a great game whilst it lasts, and put the difficulty to Realistic and youâre looking at a great single player game which might take you a good 20 hours to finish if you’re anything like me and die constantly. The multiplayer has thousands of options for customisation, which is a great addition, since only the WWE games have ever really featured extensive customisation tools. The gameplay for multiplayer is also an enjoyable occasion, but marred by the fact that the graphics have once again suffered a blow, and stripped back to an Xbox game variant. You will enjoy the multiplayer, but you will always know that things could have been just that bit better. If you went out and bought this game today, you’d be pretty pleased with yourself. Although you know the game isn’t adding much to the genre, the things it does differently are excellent, such as the stacking up on a door, with the ability to tag enemies and watch as they get taken out in excellent style. But if you’re looking for a game to pass the time until Lost Planet, then this is the game for you.
Final Score- 8 out of 10 (How do we rank games?)