This is Vegas

Worth a punt?

Some people think Vegas is a Mecca for pleasure. Me, I'm the archetypal misery guts. Honestly, this - home to Midway Gamers Day - is my worst nightmare. Being greeted by a giant video wall blaring out a montage of Cher classics. The sight of perma-tanned plastic surgery dreamboat Barry Manilow spread eagle across a 100-foot billboard. In a place where the prolonged absence of Siegfried and Roy is sincerely mourned, you already know that a game called This is Vegas is going to be the most random collection of ideas possible.

It is, Midway says, "Openworld evolved", as well as "glitzy, indulgent and outrageous...a believable simulated Vegas" with the "tone and style of a Will Ferrell movie" that's "all about materialism" where you "gamble, race, party and fight" in a place where squirting tits with a soda gun and punching guys ten feet up into the air with your Buzz Bomb special move is standard-issue. This, dear reader, is Vegas, and don't you forget it.

In development over at Surreal's Seattle studio for the past three years, the premise is that you've "gotten off the bus with fifty bucks in your back pocket" on a mission to make sure Vegas isn't turned into a "family-friendly tourist trap" by a fast-food entrepreneur Preston Boyer. Presumably by squirting soda over lovely breasts and dancing like a loon. Somewhere, at some point, this probably all made sense. Probably at 4.30am after 12 double-vodkas.

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It was only after examining CCTV footage of his defeat that Gary realised he'd been beaten by a ghost. Spooky and humiliating.

In what looks more akin to a hedonistic Sims than Swingers-inspired GTA, we're given a whistle-stop tour around some of the key elements of the game. Executive producer Alan Patmore beams that the game is built around the idea of creating "Vegas moments" with your adventures: "It's like when your buddy goes to a bachelor party and tells this wild story," he says. What goes on in Vegas, stays in Vegas: a game world with random over-the-top fun awaiting you around every turn.

With the greatest emphasis given over to the Party section of the game, our man enters a rather quiet-looking nightclub. Improbably dressed Jet Set Radio escapee DJ Lara handles the decks, and you can chat to her and activate a mission. Given the task of "keeping the drinks flowing and the losers out", you obligingly wander off to get the party started.

As soon as you head to the dance floor, you enter a dance-off mini-game, which mixes the combo element of Tony Hawk with the beat-matching Dance Dance Revolution. So you must pull off combos in time with the music to nail the coolest moves, and attempt more complex manoeuvres for a greater reward. Billed as "one of the most ambitious elements of the game", hitting button prompts in time with the music performs the requisite moves, such as the "Liquid Combo" Running Man, and seemingly dozens of others. The better you perform, the more strange neon effects squirt out of you, and the more curious ravers join the throng.

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Shall we dance?

From there, you can choose to play bartender for a while, in a nod to Midway's 1983 arcade classic Tapper. The mechanics are pretty much identical, with the added layer of having to match the customers' requests with the appropriate face button on the pad. Moving left and right across the bar, an icon appears next to the customer with their request, be it a beer, a cocktail, a light for their cigarette, or perhaps the need to smash the head of a drunken lout on the counter. For a game based on maximum fun, violence is never far away.

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