Within the last few years there have been multiple major video games featuring Las Vegas. Since I actually live in Vegas — albeit one not already partially destroyed by war — I’d like to give you a few quick thoughts on two of them. I will not be dealing with gameplay, nor plot despite some logic and physics shortfalls of one of the games.
Fallout: New Vegas
When I saw the map to this game, it looked a lot like a real road map of Las Vegas. The actual grid of the city and the major loop around town are clearly identifiable. Sure, the video game map has a lot more roads to the South of town around the real-life mountains; not all of the action is in town and some places have been rendered uninhabitable by radiation.
Nor was this a case of “take a real map, erase a few lines, and draw some new squiggles around the mountains.” A player can clearly identify landmarks such as Bonnie Springs or the curving highway behind Lone Mountain.
Call of Duty: Ghosts
By way of contrast, we have Ghosts. Easily one of the most anticipated titles of 2013, this game let many people down. Ok, it’s pretty-looking. As much as I could write, I will confine myself to one particular section of the game — the one centered around post-mass-driver-attack Las Vegas. Miraculously, the Las Vegas Strip was left mostly intact, but completely reorganized. Now that’s one heck of a weapon. There’s clear damage at the Bellagio, yet the fountains still work! Several scenes take place in a building that can only be the Luxor, although they didn’t even get the interior architecture correct. From inside the Luxor, the characters have a clear view of many Las Vegas Landmarks: the Stratosphere, Bellagio, City Center, the Palazzo, Mandalay Bay, and some others. Unfortunately, not all of these should be visible from the Luxor, let alone from one side of the Luxor! Somehow, all have been mysteriously teleported down the Strip, some by several kilometers. What an interesting coincidence that our ugliest casinos seem to have vanished! This mish-mash was somewhat distracting for me. Could nobody from Infinity Ward have looked at a map?
Nor does the silliness end with the single player. The multi-player maps include a slum that signage would seem to indicate is north of what most people would consider the Las Vegas Strip. The landmarks are laughably bad. Don’t get me wrong, there are some cheap, crappy hotels between The Strip and Downtown. However, if this particular neighborhood exists, it’s to the East, perhaps down Fremont a couple klicks.
The reason this is so disappointing is that the CoD franchise has a history of really great maps based on real locations or at least plausible ones.
Summary: If you like paying for the newest, hippest, hottest game, Ghosts is already on your wish-list if not your gaming machine. But if you are using video games as a map, you’d better dig New Vegas off the shelf. Remember, the super mutants are not real.