Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield Review
PIII 800, 128MB RAM, 32MB Video Card, 1.7GB HD
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Mar 18, 03
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Boy, that Tom Clancy is a busy man. Not only is he an extremely successful writer, he's quite the entrepreneur as well. He has sold the rights for the production of a number of movies (Clear and Present Danger, The Sum of All Fears, etc), and of course video games (Rainbow Six, Splinter Cell) that are either based on his work, or simply carrying his name in the title for an added marketing impact. It is said that Mr. Clancy is actively involved in all of the media products carrying his name. Supposedly, the same goes for Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield - the third game in the very successful game series of hyper-realistic military shooters, once published by Red Storm Entertainment and now the property of Ubi Soft.
I'm hungry boss... Silence in the ranks!
Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Goofy, Goose, Maverick, go, go, go!
Tom Clancy's style of writing is gritty, and largely unsentimental, and so is the gameplay in Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield. There's no beating around the bush when it comes to the action in Raven Shield. For the making of this game, Ubi Soft Montreal has hired the services of one Mike Grasso, Senior Instructor for LAPD SWAT and LAPD Medal of Valor winner who offered real-world tactics and methods from his vast experience in the filed.
The bread and butter of this game is precisely executed game plans, and directly to-the-point gameplay with minimal focus on the drama or the human side of it all. If you decide to bend the rules and break from your plans even a little you'll quickly find yourself in a hopeless situation and your team members will be picked off like flies. Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield is more of a simulator than any of its predecessors ever were. Design emphases are placed on planned and accurate operations, minimal improvisation and perfectly timed team work. Then again, it's discipline, training and planning that keeps you alive when you're a member of an elite anti-terrorist unit.
So much focus has been given to this specific type of gameplay that the team at Ubi Soft Montreal didn't even bother to properly incorporate a story. Of course, there is a story and it has something to do with a group of pro-Nazi terrorists who are using Nazi money from the WWII to fund an operation to release deadly agents, and effectively create chaos and mayhem around the world, blah blah blah, who cares. Naturally, you're a member of an elite Rainbow Six unit, and you're sent in to stop them. The story in this game is ultimately irrelevant. All that matters when the mission starts is There Are Bad Guys Here, And You Must Shoot Them. There are no characters, and no genuine narrative to make the missions more meaningful. You can always gather intelligence and background on a specific operation, but that's not nearly as important as planning the mission, and ultimately going in there and capping the bad guys. As I said, Rainbow Six 3 can easily be regarded as a pseudo military simulator - a game designed to give you a taste of what it would be like to be a part of an elite CT unit. But, even though the developers did a great job of creating a very genuine atmosphere of anti-terrorist combat, one has to wonder if many shooter fans will be enthralled by the sheer "realism" of it all. Some will like this specific approach to game design, but others will be put off by this feeling of detachment and the less than cohesive nature of the single-player action. The underlining story that is supposed to tie the missions together is completely neglected. You just go from one location to another and deal away with potential threats; that's the crux of the matter.
And even that would be OK if the game featured more original missions, or more consistency in their design and difficulty. As it is, they MOSTLY come down to shooting all the bad guys on a map. Of course, there are always hostages to rescue and bombs to defuse, but again, that's hardly what I'd call inventive mission design. After the 10th mission it all gets kind of repetitive, and if it wasn't for the final few missions; which are spectacular; Raven Shield's single-player would've left a bitter sweet taste in my mouth.
Nobody move, he's all mine!
Last one to the loo is a rotten egg.
The enemy AI is slightly more believable than in the previous titles, but it still has its bad moments. On certain occasions, it will still remain oblivious to your presence, although none can tell where and when this will happen, as this is obviously a bug and not an AI routine. The baddies will rarely improvise and they'll always run to the exact same spots to take cover. You cannot save mid-mission, but that's OK. You can simply memorize where the bad guys will run, and that should give you enough of an advantage to successfully complete the mission. On the other hand, your teammates are very good, and pretty darn intelligent. You can usually rely on them to help you out during heavy fire exchanges, and they will quite effectively watch your six as you move through the maps. The good guys use team tactics better than ever, and I must say that on a couple of occasions they played a bigger role during a mission than me.
But the best thing about the newest Rainbow Six game is its clean and easy to use interface, as well as the new and improved physics model and gun properties. By using a relatively simplistic but highly effective icon system, you can now issue orders to your teammates on the fly, making the execution of set operations that much easier. You can order them to open doors, cuff bad guys and move to a location.
The improved physics and gun properties are very important for the gameplay as they offer additional finesse to the combat experience. If you turn the auto-aim off you'll find that the gunfights are extremely realistic, in a sense that they are short and deadly, and usually the guy who panics under fire first will get the short end of the stick. Weapons recoil in a much more believable fashion, and the aiming feels more real than ever before. There are a total of 57 guns in the game and each of the weapons has five ratings: amount of damage, range, accuracy, etc. Needless to say, knowing your weapon becomes essential to surviving a firefight and that especially applies to the multiplayer matches.
Other novel additions to the game include a 3D planning map as well as an advanced rag-doll physics model, courtesy of the next-gen Unreal engine. We've already talked about the impact of the new graphics on the series, so I won't repeat what my fellow editor, Vadar, has already mentioned. I should add, however, that the top-notch sounds and graphics come at a certain price. The game ran fine on my Athlon 2200+ GeForce Ti 4600 1GB RAM rig, but I still consider that to be an "above average" system. The frame rate was at times choppy, but generally acceptable in 1024 with all the details turned on, but without FSAA or antistrophic filtering. Going beyond this in terms of the resolution and graphics options would noticeably slow down the game.
Finally, the multiplayer mode is as fun as ever. The new weapon properties add a lot of subtlety and skill to the combat. Three cooperative modes (mission, terrorist hunt, and hostage rescue) are included, along with five adversarial modes (hostage, survival, team survival, bomb and pilot). The only mode that truly offers any innovation is "pilot," although even that one is similar to TFC's The Hunted. Personally, I didn't much care for the multiplayer mode as it's got a heavy feeling of d'jà vu about it. Still, Rainbow Six fans will love it, and the net code is pretty good, but my personal opinion is that the MP mode never quite grabbed me and gave me the same thrill that I frequently get from playing some other multiplayer games.
Raven Shield multiplayer will most certainly appeal to the fans of the genre, and it might further increase the game's replay value, but I just get the feeling that Raven Shield isn't nearly as good as it could've been. Technically, and in terms of accurately capturing the feeling of anti-terrorist combat, Raven Shield comes second to none. It is a fact, however, that looking at it as a complete project Raven Shield has a number of inconsistencies and downsides that might lessen the otherwise fun and engaging gameplay experience.
Realistic tactical combat, technically superior to its predecessor, a worthy sequel to the R6 series;
Inconsistent mission design, absolutely zero plot, quirky AI.
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