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Rainbow Six 3: Athena Sword Review

publisher: Ubisoft
developer: Ubisoft
genre: Action Strategy

PIII 800, 128MB RAM, 32MB Video Card, 2GB HD
ESRB rating: M

release date: Mar 09, 04
» All About Rainbow Six 3: Athena Sword on ActionTrip

It only takes a quick glance at on-the-hour report on your news network of choice to realize that the battle against terrorism is only just heating up. In the fight against such an enemy, huge armies and massive assaults simply won't cut the mustard. It's like trying to cure a virus with a shower of bullets. So the world relies on teams of highly trained professionals who execute precise counter-terrorist operations by trying (as much as possible) to follow specific rules of engagement that govern this type of warfare. (Ed. - The modern term for this is the surgical strike, after the precision of a surgeon's cuts. For the pervs, think about the guy who put in Carmen Electra's boobs.) The purpose of these teams is either to hunt down the elusive terrorist leaders or save lives more directly by rescuing hostages. Enter Tom Clancy's fictional Rainbow Six team.

Your task in this game (in case you've never played it before) is to carry out highly coordinated assaults often spearheaded by several teams that rely on precise timing and teamwork in tandem to defuse a potentially catastrophic situation. Essentially, the latest expansion pack for Raven Shield, Athena Sword, is no different from any of its predecessors. This time around your team is sent to the Mediterranean to chase down ringleaders of a deadly terrorist group that's threatening the security and the interests of the "free world." You get the idea. There are 8 new single-player missions to toy with, along with, 5 new multiplayer levels set in locations such as a Chemical Factory, Ferry Boat, University, Italian Back Alleys and Jungle. (Ed. - We need Vegas Casino and Bangkok Brothel mods for these...) In addition to this the pack offers 7 new weapons, including a new handgun, the Beretta M93R, which has a single fire and 3-round burst capability. There are other new guns as well, like the SM4 CQB, a 9mm w/ 40 round mag, the HK G3KA4, a 7.62mm short assault rifle based on G3A3, OTs-14 Groza 9/40 the latest Russian MVD weapon firing 9x39mm shells, M1014 (12g) a modernized version of the M1 tactical shotgun, the M240G Machine gun, a 7.62mm belt fed and finally the awesome HK SL8-1 (SL8-1 5.56mm) sniper rifle.

So are these innovations enough to warrant a purchase on your end? Let's start by saying that the 8 new missions include six all new locations, some of which are pretty darn picturesque, like the old city of Dubrovnik in Croatia. Essentially, most of the missions will still take place indoors and there is not much there to see in terms of novelties, but a few welcomed breaks in terms of exotic outdoor settings present a nice break from the usual. Although level design is fairly solid, I've had a real tough time coming to terms with the mission design. At least two thirds of the single-player missions come down to rescuing hostages, or doing so with a few minor variations. All in all, that's hardly what I'd call innovative and inspired mission design. Aside from the "Granite Cage" mission, in which you get to escort an informant while the clock is ticking, mission design is uninspired, generic and repetitive.

In game's defense, I was VERY pleasantly surprised with how everything worked in terms of the technical aspects of it, like the AI, graphics and sound effects. Before you install the expansion (which is not a stand-alone product by the way) the original game is automatically updated to version v1.54 of Raven Shield, which really does ensure a lot more fluid and polished up gaming experience over v1.0.

I especially liked the much improved AI routines, both of the enemies and of your teammates, which rarely make any bloopers like getting stuck on doors or failing to act at least partially according to the rules of common sense. To that respect, playing Athena Sword was a real joy. The frame rate was smooth and the modified Unreal code still looks good enough not to stain the gameplay in any way. The same can be said about the excellent sound effects and the properly used ambient music that adds great suspense when suspense is needed in the game.

A more polished up gameplay experience is certainly good, but that's not exactly a huge plus for this pack, as owners of the original can simply get that by downloading the latest patch. In terms of the quality and quantity of the added content, Athena Sword seems to lag behind the competition. The single-player campaign is short as hell; experienced Rainbow Six players will play through it on normal level of difficulty in a single afternoon. What's more, the content that was added essentially doesn't add anything quantitatively new to the series. Not even a few nuances that might be considered as novel. If we take Blizzard's expansions as a reference point for how great expansions should be done, Athena Sword doesn't really stack up well. The new multiplayer modes are fun but they don't broaden the gameplay experience in any way; or at least not sufficiently enough to warrant recognition on my part.

In the end, it's worth mentioning that Athena Sword is selling for nearly 30 bucks, which is more than what you'd usually pay for an expansion pack. It is this reviewer's opinion that Athena Sword doesn't justify the relatively hefty price tag. Owners of the original game who are not fanatical about Raven Shield are better off downloading the patches and sticking to the original multiplayer. The single-player in Athena Sword is still fun, but even with the new settings, it isn't really worth the money as you'll finish it in 4-5 hours tops. Rainbow Six fanatics will go out and buy this one no matter what I write here, so you just got to figure out if you're one of them or not.


6.9   Above Average 

Technically perfected, smoother Raven Shield gameplay is fun and intense, level design;

Very short single-player, repetitive mission design, lacks any real innovation and more content to warrant the $30 dollar price tag.



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