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Midway Gamers Day 2008

I recently went out to Las Vegas for Midway's Gamers Day at the Red Rock Resort. They showed a few games: NBA Ballers: Chosen One, Wheelman, TNA Impact, Unreal Tournament 3 Xbox 360, and This is Vegas were playable. They also announced a Mortal Kombat and DC Comics game, which looked like a MK fighter with Scorpion, Sub Zero, Superman, and Batman confirmed as characters. There was a lot of excitement in the crowd about that one. We wondered how the whole fatality thing would play out with the super heroes, for example, would DC want Superman to rip out his opponent's skull and show it to him? They also announced sequels for Game Party and Touch Master as well as Blitz: The League.

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There was a lot of talk, especially from Midway execs like Mark Booty, Interim President and CEO, about how Midway is reaping the benefits of centralization and standardization. The different studios share assets like game engines and design tools as well as knowledge. You could see how licensing the Unreal Engine and then using it to build every game is paying off in terms of how the games look, how complex the game play is, and how quickly they can come to market.

The big focus was on This is Vegas. The game is being made by Surreal Software in Seattle - they've been working on it for three plus years. It's an open world of a likeness of Vegas where you gamble, party, race, and fight. It's an ambitious project to create a world that big. This gives players the chance to live out "their Vegas fantasy." It looked OK, nothing special in terms of graphics or audio. The focus has definitely been on game play. I did the dancing mini-game, the same that was shown during the press conference. I thought that it was fun. I wonder about it conceptually though. My concern is that by offering many types of game play it may end up asking players to play in ways that they don't want to play, for example, the guy who wants to drive around and beat people up may not be the same guy who wants to enter a dance contest. But I talked to Darci Morales about this concern and she said that if you don't want to play a particular mini-game you don't have to. The point of all the mini-games is to build your buzz and gain experience and you could choose to do that however you want. I'm mainly interested in seeing how all of the different games and gaming mechanics translate into a holistic gaming experience. I think This Is Vegas is noteworthy because it looks like it'll be a hell of an achievement for Surreal and Midway when it is done and it deserves merit if only for being a massive effort at establishing an open game play world with lots of variety. I'm not sure whether that translates into being a successful game in an overall sense. I'd get a better idea from a more in depth demo where I could see how the player goes from one mode to the other, how fluid that is, and how all of the different modes combine.

I played quite a bit of Unreal Tournament 3 for Xbox 360. It was a lot of fun. It's essentially the same as the PC version but adapted for the 360 meaning mostly tweaking controls and graphics. I thought that it played a sluggish compared to the lightening fast PC version, but no one else noticed that so maybe it was just me. It was fun, but it's not a genre defining game (at least this version) as compared to recent FPS's like Call of Duty 4 and Halo 3.

TNA Impact! is coming along nicely. A funny thing is that I thought the graphics during game play are higher quality than the full motion video. They've added the X mode which TNA fans know and love. This is a fun to play wrestling game complete with grapples and counters. There was some weird collision detection going on where I stepped out of the ring and then stepped back in but the surface of the ring was at my knees. This is usually the type of thing that gets fixed before the game goes final so it shouldn't be a concern (I only put the detail in there so you'll know I was paying attention). I did not get the chance to talk to Samoa Joe which disappointed me; I wanted to see if he remembered me from the event in Atlanta.
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Wheelman was far and away the most pleasant surprise of the night. I loved it. Then again, I loved The Getaway... They've worked closely with Vin Diesel to design the ultimate car chase game. It takes place in a reasonable facsimile of Barcelona - I swear I saw the roundabout with the statue in it that I got trapped in when I drove there all those years ago. I thought it looked great and the controls had a good feel. There's a strong driving mechanic with a special side-swipe feature - when you're in a car chase you can make the car side-swipe with the right thumbstick. It is quite effective. There are also special moves where you do things like spin around and shoot and your pursuers and then spin back around and keep driving. I thought the driving was solid as was the third person action and shooting. It was a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to playing it this fall.
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