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PLATFORM: Xbox 360, PS3
ESRB RATING: M
DEVELOPER: Ubisoft Montreal
PUBLISHER: Ubisoft


As a newcomer to the Rainbow Six series, I was expecting a lot from this one. I’d sporadically played the first few PC iterations, and liked the idea of a realistic shooter. (I liked it better as Ghost Recon for the Xbox, though…) But although I had heard many great things about the first Vegas‘ 4-player co-op mode, I never got the chance to try it myself.

Lots of people slam this title as being more of a Rainbow Six 1.5 than a proper 2, but how would it seem to someone who’s never played the original?
 
THE PITCH

The story is one of the most disposable in years. Bad guys are trying to bomb parts of Vegas and you have to stop them. I have no idea who my character was, what my team was, who the hell these people were that were telling me to do things (A SLAVE OBEYS!) and no idea even what kind of terrorists these were. Turns out that there’s a traitor in the midst and you’ve been backstabbed by an old friend, because cliches are video game developer’s friends.

The storyline, such as it is, is mostly given to you over helicopter rides and your HUD. There’s no cutscenes to speak of and by doing this I’m assuming they’re trying to make you feel like you’re part of the game world, but it doesn’t really work. 
 
I understand that I’m jumping into this game without the benefit of playing the original Vegas, but man, they just sorta throw you in this one… and there’s basically no character development at all.

Yeah, I know you’re all groaning at this… (story and games don’t go together!), but take a look at one of the many things Call  of Duty 4 did right. The story was compelling, the characters memorable, and you felt like you were fighting to help them out and save the day. Great, right?

Not here. Course, that doesn’t matter if the game’s good, right?
 
THE PLAY

That’s one thing the game definitely gets right- it controls perfectly. The cover system is pretty amazing, allowing you to easily hide behind objects and pop up from cover in any direction with a push of the analog stick. You can even blind fire at enemies.. with hardly any accuracy, of course.

The game feels solid and the weapons are have a great feel to them. It’s really fun to take enemies out.


“Hey, you guys here to clean the windows? Great, just let me- GRACK!”


Any first person shooter fan will be right at home here. The feature that separates this game from the rest is the fact that it’s much more realistic and that you only can take a couple of shots before you die. This forces you to rely on your teammates, whether they be computer controlled or human. You can play this game 2-player splitscreen or online (no 4-player co-op, sorry Rainbow Six Vegas fans!), but let’s just say you better hope you have friends with this game. The AI for your teammates is pretty goddamn dumb. You’re the team leader and can give them commands easily by pushing
different directions on the D-pad, everything from throwing grenades to
stacking up on a door. For the most part they’ll do what you ask them to but once in a while they’ll get stuck somewhere, forcing you to keep hitting the same command over and over till they figure out what you’re saying. When they work they work well, and seem to soak up an awful lot more bullets than you can.

The enemies fare better, especially on the difficult “Realistic” setting. I like how the enemies don’t automatically zero in on you when you take
one out, but will instead search around for you, or even lay down fire
on an area they think you might be. It adds a little realism that other
games lack.

The game has a new expanded experience system from the first one, this time called ACES, aka the ‘Advanced Combat Enhancement and Specialization” system. It’s also known as the CROCOD4 (‘Completely Ripped off Call of Duty 4‘) system, as fans will know it as from that game as the experience system. Yes, just like in that incredible shooter Vegas 2 now allows you to gain ranks, this time in three different ways; Marksmanship, Assault, and Close-Quarter Battle. Marksmanship is obviously for headshots and long range kills, Assault is for grenade kills and shooting through cover, CQB is for close range and blind fire kills.
 
Each one will unlock weapons for the appropriate way of playing (Sniper Rifles for Marksmanship, etc.) and is a great idea to reward people for the style they like. One cool new idea for this game (that COD4 actually doesn’t have) is that your character is persistent- meaning that experience you gain for your character in any mode (single or multiplayer) all adds up. It’s a great idea for people who will play through the campaign a few times with friends- it’ll allow you to constantly update your character and not feel like you’re missing out.
 
But while the game controls well, it doesn’t have a great campaign to hold it up to. Oh, it definitely has its moments. There’s nothing more fun than setting your guys to breach and clear a room on one door while you wait to storm in on the confused enemies on another one (it seems like every room with enemies has multiple entrances to allow this), and there are a few big moments that’ll make you sit up and take notice. But for the most part the game’s just somewhat… standard.

While I hear that the original was much different, this one hardly focuses on the parts of Vegas you think it would, like, say, Casinos? There’s only one here and it’s over with very soon. The board is pretty small and boring… and it’s a Chinese casino which leaves you remembering Stranglehold’s amazing (and far superior) casino level.

But besides a couple of other big Vegas locations (like their Convention Center, cleverly set up for some Major League Gaming tournament), it seems like a wasted location.

 

No one expected the gamers to put up a fight, but the squad found out that they were wrong. Dead wrong.


THE PRESENTATION

Another beautiful shooter courtesy of the Unreal Engine 3.
 
One of the most awesome features of both this and the last Rainbow Six Vegas is the use of the Xbox Vision Camera to literally put yourself in the game. You take a picture of yourself head on and then turned to the left (feels like you’re taking a mugshot) and it’ll create your own unique character after a few minutes. Pretty great stuff, and really gives the game a different feel when you see yourself in a gunfight.
 


The author, ready to cap himself some terrorists.


The sound design is great, especially with a surround sound system. Flashbangs wreck havoc on your ears and eyes (if you’re looking at them), really making you disoriented. The sound from weapons fire from far away travels differently, like it would in real life. It’s scary hearing bullets hitting behind you and then the crack of a rifle.

The soundtrack, though, is hardly worth mentioning. So I won’t.

THE REPLAY

There’s a whole bunch of multiplayer modes, and that’s where the replay value comes in, because the campaign doesn’t have a whole lot to offer past one play.

One of the best is the Terrorist Hunt. It’s just pure mayhem as you try to take down a number of terrorists with or without your team. You can do this in 4-player co-op and single player as well. I’ve probably spent more time playing this mode than anything else… it’s just all of the beautiful gameplay with none of the problems from the campaign. It requires quite a bit of strategy on your part as well, especially on the hardest difficulty setting. Requires a lot of strategy and luck, and is a ton of fun with your friends.

As for the Versus modes, there’s some good stuff here. The game supports up to 12 player battles, which makes for some good sized teams going at each other. There’s also a ton of maps available from the start (with a few free ones available if you sign up for Ubisoft’s website).


As they stormed the Villa, Chopper Hardy (right) sighed and wondered if he would ever sit behind the controls of his whirly-bird again.


The first couple of days the online multiplayer was pretty buggy, but it seems to be much improved. Not nearly perfect though. There’s still problems, like how you’ll search for matches and try to enter them only to find every damn one is full… even if it says there’s only a couple of people in a lobby that fits 12. There’s also seems to be a ton of lag and dropped connections as well. If you manage to get a good connection things will work great, but it seems hard to find one as it is.  Hopefully they’ll work the rest of the kinks stuff out, but right now it’s more fun to play with friends in 2-player co-op or the Terrorist Hunt missions.

As an extra the game also comes with a bonus disc for Tom Clancy’s End War- which is looking fantastic. Basically it’s a RTS where you’re going to be overseeing a huge battlefield, which will include units from the other Tom Clancy games. It also will fully support voice commands, which if implemented well could be fantastic. But then again, I mumble like a motherfucker, so I’m probably assed out on that feature. The dvd’s just got 3 videos, but it’s a nice little diversion. Not sure why they just didn’t link you to them via the Rainbow Six disc, but…
 
THE VERDICT

All the fans of the original I’ve talked to have stated that it seems much more like an expansion pack than a full-fledged sequel, and while for a noob to the series it’s a very fun and exciting game- the boring campaign and buggy multiplayer just can’t compete with the others FPS shooters. I feel like I’m repeating myself with every review of a console FPS, but you can’t ignore the fact that there’s one big bad game out there that’s got something for everyone.

For the gamer on a budget, this is a rental… although it’s one you’ll want to hold on to for a bit.

7.5 out of 10