December 13, 2006

Game Dork

Violent Vegas Vacation

Politics is silly. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman acted in Casino, which depicted murdering mobsters in Vegas, and he guest-starred in "C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation," which portrays Vegas as a den of killing every week. But he thinks a video game set in Vegas is bad for business?

The game is "Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas." You play it as a highly armed, anti-terrorist soldier who runs through casinos and city streets, taking out hundreds of terrorists who have holed up in parts of the city. You are the good guy.

When I lived in Vegas, I liked Goodman because he's a character. He served as guest photographer for Playboy. He endorsed a brand of alcohol while in office. He used to be a lawyer for defendants in organized crime cases. The role he played in Casino was of himself as that lawyer.

Goodman is a "card," so I still can't imagine he was serious this year when he said "Rainbow Six: Vegas" could economically hurt Vegas and "it may be something that's not entitled to free speech," because it shows terrorist violence.

For the zillionth time, listen up, you politicians who dismiss video gamers as a bunch of voteless 12-year-olds:

The average age of gamers is 33. We have the disposable income to spend $60 per game. Don't you think you should court our votes and campaign contributions instead of making enemies of we who make games a $10 billion industry?

Think about your legacy. Someday, history professors will judge quotes by Goodman and other anti-game crusaders as parallels to anti-movie people of the early 20th-century who said films were the downfall of civilization.

As for "Rainbow Six: Vegas," it's a bit of a tease. It's got "Vegas" in the title, but you start in Mexico, shooting your way through a phalanx of terror hoodlums.

Then, you're dropped into Vegas by helicopter, from which you can see the pretty Strip. Hotels look like Strip hotels, particularly the Paris featuring its Eiffel Tower, and the Bellagio, Venetian and Aladdin.

But the hotels aren't the real things. A source tells me the game had to portray no more than 70 percent of Vegas to stay legal, minus permission and real hotel names. I'd bet if the hotels and the city got money from the game, it would be catching less grief.

"Vegas" is close to a simulation game. It's not a fantasy Schwarzenegger adventure. The physics of death is more realistic — like in Casino.

You turn a corner, a guy shoots you once, and you're dead. Worse, you have to start the level over from scratch, and it could take you 20 minutes to get through the underbelly of a hotel. It's beautifully drawn and plotted but too difficult, either solo or against others online. After much hype, this complexity is daunting.

Honestly, the premise isn't realistic at all. Would an anti-terrorist agency actually send three guys into all of Mexico and Las Vegas to slay several hundred terrorists who sneak by Vegas' crack security forces?

Goodman would understand this game-fakeness if he played games. He hadn't even seen it before he passed judgment, just as protesters picketed The Last Temptation of Christ without seeing the film. And now, "Vegas" is on track to gross more money than most movies this year.

Congratulations, mayor whose reelection I supported. You gave a little marketing aid to a slightly disappointing shooting game.

"Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas" for Xbox 360, PS 3 — Plays fun when it doesn't feel like work. Looks fantastic. Extremely challenging.

Rated "M" (blood, intense violence, strong language, suggestive themes). Three and one-half stars out of four.

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