As one of the most popular franchises in Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy universe, Rainbow Six had a lot of catching up to do. With the lackluster Lockdown leaving a bad taste in gamers’ mouths, and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and Splinter Cell Double Agent both earning high marks, Ubisoft had to make sure Rainbow Six Vegas gave gamers something new and some of the old if the game was to re-live the series’ success.
The first thing you notice about Rainbow Six Vegas is that the story doesn’t begin in Las Vegas at all. Your team is dropped into a desolate Mexican border town, where you learn a crazy female terrorist is plotting to cause serious fear for Americans. After dire circumstances force you to leave one of your team behind, you come to learn that her terrorist group’s target is holiest of all American cities, Las Vegas.
What’s surprising about this outing, and why it’s the first thing you’ll notice, is that the storyline is quite compelling. The franchise used to focus primarily on multiplayer gaming, often leaving the campaign mode as a collection of individual missions that seemed to have no real connection. But in Rainbow Six Vegas there seems to be real cause behind the terrorist group, which adds to the tension that your Rainbow team must succeed.
The game plays and feels like the previous games in the series, which the first-person perspective, reloads and crouching all utilizing the same buttons as before. A welcome addition is the left trigger, which allows you to take cover behind any wall or object. This is a valuable asset, because it gives you the ability to peek behind corners and take out unsuspecting enemies. If you’re not playing the game in Realistic mode, you can also use your cover time to slowly heal your character. You can also fire blindly which behind cover, but don’t ever expect to kill a terrorist while doing so.
Rainbow Six wouldn’t be the same if you couldn’t command your teammates, and Ubisoft has included in Vegas a more efficient system that’s as easy as pointing to a location and pressing the A button. The commands include the standard “open, frag and clear,” as well as a command to heal a fallen squad member. If you are sending them to infiltrate a room, you can also now use the left bumper to adjust their aggression level, or use a Splinter Cell-like snake cam to look under doors and “tag” certain enemies, which tells your teammates the order in which you want them neutralized. For example, if you look into a room and a terrorist has a gun pointed to a hostage’s head, you’ll want your team to surprise the terrorist and take him out first. The tagging is an awesome addition that really adds to the fundamental gameplay mechanics.
Another great addition to the game is the ability to rappel into certain areas. This brings us to a point where most levels have multiple paths and almost seem open-ended. You can literally send your teammates down the rappel line while you take the stairs and flank the enemy from behind. There are many areas in the game where this is crucial to successfully completing the mission. You can also press down on the left analog stick while rappelling to rappel upside down. This is a great way to surprise the enemy with a couple of headshots. In addition, most of your weapons allow you to add a silent suppressor and change the rate of fire from single to automatic. In many ways these new abilities allow you to take a more stealthy to each mission.
Don’t expect these new stealth moves to allow you to breeze right through the game. The enemy AI is fantastic to the point where terrorists call out to one other when cornered and find ways to surround and flank you. You will play certain areas multiple times, and the game encourages you to try different tactics each time, especially in the open areas of the larger casinos. Your teammates also play better than they did in Lockdown, no longer just standing there taking bullets as if they don’t care. In Rainbow Six Vegas they are in the mix and trying their best to stay alive. If things get too heavy they will usually let you know, and you can always direct them to cover or fall back.
With a campaign so well thought out, you might think the multiplayer would take a dive. Nothing could be further from the truth. The creation system from Lockdown has returned, but in top form. You’re now given the option to completely customize your soldier, from sex and outfit to armor and weapons. If you always wanted to attach a scope to your shotgun or add a laser site to your pistol, now you can do so. This is one of the strongest additions to the game, and it really allows players to take ownership of their character. The game is also Vision Cam-enabled, allowing you to put your own face on the character. One downside is that you can’t add any head or face gear to your character. This doesn’t weaken your character per se, but it would have been nice to be able to put goggles or a helmet for aesthetic or psychological defense.
Once your character is created, you can take him or her online for some co-op or adversarial action. One of the best aspects of the game is the co-op, which supports up to four players via Xbox Live. It’s simply an amazing experience to go through the missions with your buddies; the only drawback being the lack of story elements from the campaign. Teamwork is the focus, and you must use it heavily in the new Attack and Defend mode. After playing the game for a couple of weeks, we quickly learned the only way to win in Defend mode is to communicate effectively with your teammates. So, if you don’t have a mic or are afraid to talk on Live, expect to be kicked off 80 percent of the time. The game comes packaged with 10 maps, two of which (Streets and Kill Town) make a return, and all the classic game modes like survival, sharpshooter and retrieval are available as well. Attack and Defend is definitely the best mode of the bunch, though.
For the RPG fanatics, Ubisoft has included an experience system that encourages you and your team to do well so you can move up in rank. Increasing rank unlocks new weapons like the coveted Desert Eagle and armor and camo options. If you are tenacious enough to get to Elite status, you earn the option to customize all your armor and clothing. Pink camo, anyone?
You can thank the Unreal Engine for the game’s fantastic looks. While it borrows from the same engine as Gears of War, the detail is nowhere near the level of that game. But it’s still a beautiful game, from the bright lights to the cheesy hotel decor, you will feel like you are in Vegas. Add in some impressive audio, and there’s no doubt you will feel part of the experience.
Ubisoft clearly listened to gamers’ disappointment in Lockdown, upping the ante and delivering the best game in the franchise. The story is compelling, the additional gameplay mechanics and improved AI are great, and Attack and Defend mode is certainly something to be proud. But most importantly to gamers: Rainbow Six Vegas is pure fun.
- Overall: 9
- The Rainbow Six franchise returns to greatness in every way. Let’s just hope the campaign itself is Xbox Live-enabled in the next outing.
– Jason Thomas