Rainbow Six Vegas Review
developer: Ubisoft Montreal
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Nov 14, 06 (released)
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You know that feeling of disappointment you get upon completing a really good game? The small sense of sorrow you experience once it's over? I am not talking about disliking an ending but rather because it was such a great game and now it's over. The sort of game that as soon as you finish you want more, but you know the sequel is years out. It's rare that a game of that quality is released. The question that presents itself to us now is this: Is Rainbow Six: Vegas for the Xbox 360, exactly the sort of game I described above? Read on and I'll let you know.
As far as Rainbow Six series goes, I've never been much of a fan and personally, I thought Lockdown was the nail in the proverbial coffin. After playing Lockdown, my feeling was 'Stick a fork in it, this series is dead and done'. But someone, namely Ubisoft Montreal, got out their shovels and dug it up and you'll be really glad they did. They have pulled a Frankenstein and resurrected a series that appeared to have been beyond recovery with Rainbow Six:Vegas (RS:V).
My first thought was the game sounded gimmicky. Are they so desperate for a hit they are using the Las Vegas setting to try and sell the same old crap? I could just see the marketing guys talking, "Everybody likes Vegas, let's put our next game there! It'll sell millions from the title alone!" so I was surprised at the opening level. The game starts off in some rural area of a foreign country, typical of many other shooters we have seen before: Bland buildings, bland rooms, and Latinos running around screaming and shooting at you. It serves as a training level of sorts and while it works fairly well for that purpose, I was a little peeved. I want to play and shoot the crap out of Las Vegas! Why the hell am I in Mexico? Talk about a let down. But not to worry, the future soon got brighter. Brighter in the way that millions of neon lights of the Vegas strip are bright.
Once I was done mucking my way around Mexico, the real fun began. The Las Vegas environments are incredible and the graphics have been very nicely implemented. Level designs are also very tight and engaging. It's a blast to run around the Strip both inside and outside the casinos and a few other recognizable locales that I won't spoil here. It's always in the details and they nailed it. From the jingling of the slots to dazzling lights, I got the urge to sit down and play a few hands of Texas Hold 'em. It didn't last very long, I was too busy fending off the crazy amount of enemies coming at me.
If you have played Rainbow 6 games before this, then you will find a little bit of the familiar and a lot of the new. The new stuff will completely change the game for you. The whole game has been tuned to a faster, arcade-like pace, but still managing to retain its squad-based roots. If you disliked all the time you had to spend preparing for the mission and all the time you spent planning your movements during the mission (like me), then you will find most of these new changes to your liking. Everything has been sped up.
The cover system you and your squad will be using should be somewhat familiar to many of you, but it has been fine-tuned beyond any other game save one other recently released title. In some ways it actually works better then that other game because you hold the button to stick to the wall and let go to get off it. Simple but highly effective. I never covered unless I wanted to. This is nice, because you will need to use cover a lot. While the game has been sped up significantly, you still need a very healthy respect for enemy fire.
Speaking of enemy fire; when you get shot, your screen will go fuzzy/blurry and you won't be able to see much of anything until you can scramble out of the line of fire and recover for a bit. Or until you die because you couldn't see who was shooting you. Do you wear glasses? Take them off. It's kind of like that times ten. Annoying, but shouldn't getting shot be a little annoying? Either way, this reason alone will make you want to avoid taking even the slightest bit of damage.
Losing health has also been revamped. The game now uses an "over-shield" type health, which we are seeing more of these days. If you don't know what I mean by over-shield (What, you haven't played Halo?), here is the basic idea: After you take damage, if you're able to find cover and avoid dying, then your health will regenerate. No health packs needed. Only, it's a lot more "realistic" here. It takes very little damage to bring you down and it takes a good while to regenerate back up. As a side note, if your teammate goes down, you will usually be able to get to them and revive them.
While many other shooters are much more instinctual and visceral, Rainbow Six is about planning and execution. It's true other shooters have heavily relied on the use of cover just like RS:V does, the difference here is what you do while you're behind cover. In other squad-based games you can run through multiple levels and only issue orders to your squad once or twice. Not so, in Rainbow Six. While your RS:V squad is fairly intelligent and they are good at protecting themselves, you need to be constantly aware of what they are doing and where they are at.
This is where Ubisoft Montreal have managed to pull off the near-impossible. A squad based shooter that not only involves a lot of real-time tactics but also runs at a fast arcade-like pace. The controls are very intuitive, very fast and fairly simple. With the headset you can even issue voice commands (like in early versions of the series). Whether you are clearing a room or sending you squad scrambling down a corridor ahead of you, the squad performs perfectly. Sure, you will use them as guinea pigs from time to time (let's see if they get shot first, then maybe I will follow them), but that's what your squad-mates are for, right?
Despite the good squad AI and despite the regenerating health, you are probably going to die (a bunch if you play in realistic mode). Fortunately, the checkpoints are fairly generous and you shouldn't be breaking too many gamepads in frustration. There is almost a puzzle aspect to many parts of the missions. You will die a few times trying to figure out the best way past a certain group of enemies, but once you do, it is a very satisfying accomplishment.
Great single player campaign. Smart squad AI (mostly). Very smart controls. Excellent cover system. Multiplayer is as good as it gets;
Initial training level drags and it isn't in Vegas. A few minor enemy AI issues. Campaign might seem a little short for some (8-10 hours), Steep learning curve for new players.