The set-piece battles, fought in huge, multi-levelled arenas, are about as big as they come, frequently leaving you wondering how any terrorist force can muster so many highly-trained troops. Most of all, now that your men have the smarts to follow orders and tackle tangos, there’s the warming pleasure of a good plan coming together. You hit from one doorway, they hit from another, and the room is cleared before your enemies know what’s happened.
Are there faults? Well, the art team still doesn’t seem to have the hang of doing people, and there are some truly terrible looking hostages and villains, complete with weird angular bodies and poorly-textured faces. And while the multiplayer modes are fun – based on my admittedly fairly limited experience of them – they aren’t quite as stellar as I expected. Some of the maps are slightly bland or even ugly, and while you get a useful range of lone-wolf and team-based options, there doesn’t seem to be anything really that innovative going on.
You certainly won’t be disappointed, particularly if you’re into Counter-Strike style games, but if you’re already obsessed with Gears of War, Call of Duty 3 or even GRAW, I doubt this one will tear you away. On the positive side, however, you can play through the whole single-player campaign cooperatively with up to three players, or take on co-op specific terrorist hunt challenges. There’s certainly enough going on here to keep you busy.
In any case, jot down what Vegas does wrong – the dull first mission, the occasionally dodgy people – against all the many things it does right and it’s clear which way the scales of judgement lie. What’s more, it’s a gun-nuts dream, with so many real-world weapons, all with satisfying noises, and it even has a rip-roaring soundtrack. For my money, this is one of the finest single-player shooters on the Xbox 360 right now, and the ideal title to follow up with if you’ve already worked your way through Gears of War – it’s not quite as gorgeous or as consistently gripping, but its combination of sin city glitz and tactics makes it damn near as good a game overall. Really, what more could you ask for than that?
Don’t be put off by the first hour – Vegas is one of the 360’s finest moments, and a great example of a tactical shooter that’s not just for the usual hardcore audience.