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World Series of Poker: First Impressions

Ken Weeks

For some reason, Activision's $40 poker title, World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions has yet to garner a single review on MetaCritic, despite being the first game to showcase the Vision Camera's Digimask facial mapping technology. That's a shame because right now it's the best reason to pick up a Vision. I'm not an expert when it comes to poker (either the real or video game variety) but this game is a worthy upgrade from the bare bones XBLA version that most people downloaded for free, if only for the chance play with yourself.

Point blank, the Digimask tech just works. You snap a pic from the front and side profile and the game takes a couple minutes to map your face over a 3D frame. I tried it under mediocre lighting conditions and it worked on the first try. Speaking as a geek who spent hours painstakingly building my virtual doppelganger in the last Tiger Woods (long the Cadillac of create-a-character modes), poor, forgotten WSoP presented me with most accurate representation of my own handsome face I've ever seen in a game, It does warp your lower face a bit, but the eyes, ears and nose were spot on. I've only slept about 6 hours over the past couple days and it was awesome to see the same black under eye circles I saw in the mirror on my newly created me. The 3D modeling is a vast improvement over previous attempts at this sort of thing. In fact, the detail was so good that my wife refused to give it a shot without doing her make-up. I tried it again sporting a Mr. T "Pity the fool" scowl to see if it could handle a little emotion and the results were equally impressive.

The Digimask creator gives you a few rudimentary ways to tweak the final product by adjusting the width/height of your head, etc. which will have to do until they combine facial mapping with Tiger-style sliders. I can definitely see Digimask becoming a must-have feature for every create-a-character mode hence forth.

Of course, I immediatley took my evil twin online to test my bluffing abilities. WSoP lets you switch to in to a first person mode so you can admire the other Digimasks around the table. The guys I played with all agreed that the face creation was remarkably accurate. Unlike, other camera-enabled games, the video window only appears when it's your turn to bet. Ideally, this would give the other players a chance to look for tells. The picture is a little too small to catch your buddies twitching upper lip, but it's do-able in theory. Gameplay wise, it's poker -- but with a enough graphical flourish and animations to keep your attention, even if you're not a degenerate gambler. I was lucky enough to play with a group of people who treated their chips with respect instead of going all in every hand and it made for a realistic round of TV-style tournament action. I didn't get too far into the single player mode, which is hosted by poker star Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, but it looks like it has unusual potential for the card game genre.

Overall, I would say WSoP is the deepest "social" game on the market right now and really deserves to be bundled with the Vision. Pick it up for the Digimask stuff, and play it because you're bored to tears with Uno. Oh, and if all this pretend gambling makes you wish you could play for real MS points, you're not alone.

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