Rainbow Six Vegas Review
|Release Date:||December 1st, 2006 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||James Barlow (Malis)|
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six games have always been a different breed of shooter. A more cerebral series than the average corridor FPS, the emphasis was always on heavy tactical planning - so much so that a well formed operation wouldn't even require you yourself to confront any hostiles, just watch your team be ruthlessly efficient. A tribute to the SAS saying 'train hard, fight easy,' well practised makeovers could secure a map in minutes. Sadly this heavy emphasis on planning has never translated well to consoles. In steps Rainbow Six: Vegas from its neon-cast shadows. A much more arcadey experience than ever before, Vegas successfully brings the franchise blazing into next-gen territory.
As you'd expect, Rainbow Six on the Xbox 360 looks gorgeous. Crisp details, stunning lighting (showcased perfectly by the Vegas backdrop) and impressive smoke effects really serve to draw you into the game. Although some of the textures appear slightly blurry in cases, these are easily forgiven simply due to the complexity of environments on offer. Locations vary from Mexican streets to train depots, construction sites and, of course, casinos. Each is beautifully modelled, and packed full of objects, most of which can be blown away or used as cover.
The story kicks off on what appears to be a routine apprehension of a terrorist leader in Mexico. Things soon spiral out of control, with your team-mates caught and Vegas under attack. It's up to you, Logan Keller and your two unit members to save the day of course. One interesting aspect of R6: Vegas is that the story is all told in real-time using the in-game engine. There's no mission screens or cut-scenes. Instead, missions are book-ended by leaving and returning to the assault chopper, which serves as a mobile HQ. As you board you'll be given details of the next assignment while you fly there, and be given the option to change weapons. It's a refreshing and welcome approach to story-telling that works because the game engine is so strong and detailed. Hopefully more next-gen games will follow suit, as it certainly makes the game more immersive.
Once you're in the combat zone, you'll have to wrestle with the Xbox 360 controls. As is always the case using joypads, there never seems to be enough buttons for everything, and you'll have to aim using analogue sticks. It just about works, but there's still the odd occasion when you'll find yourself dieing simply because you couldn't scroll the crosshair over the screen fast enough. As you're no doubt aware, the tactical planning so traditional to the Rainbow Six series has been completely stripped away in Vegas, replaced by context-sensitive squad control. While many fans of the series (myself included) will be slightly annoyed by this, the new system does a very good job for the console generation. Move your crosshair over a door and jabbing the A button will order the team to stack and prepare to clear a room. Aim at a rope hook and you'll order them to 'knot up' and prepare to abseil down, while pointing at objects will make the team move there and take cover. It's a simple system that works well - while in a firefight you can pin an enemy and make your men flank the hostiles, or you can order them to flash and clear a room from one direction while you go in the back door. It's a shame you can't order each of them to do separate things, but on the whole it's all very smooth, thanks to some generally solid AI.
Your men are pretty skilled at thinking for themselves, following your lead and taking cover swiftly when enemies attack them. Vegas utilises a cover system not unlike Gears of War. Hold the L trigger when near a wall or piece of cover and the camera will switch to third person as you press your back against cover. From here you can blind fire or pop your head out for a precise shot. One nice aspect of the AI is that your unit members will also hug cover realistically and have much the same moves as you. Despite a solid framework, there are some definite frustrations with some of the AI behaviour, mainly down to specific situations. Although good at taking cover, your men are slow to react to sudden unexpected enemy appearances, often failing to cover your back and letting you die as they sometimes seem to take too long aiming at enemies who just pop around the corner. This can cause some frustrating backtracking. At other times they'll just sit behind cover, taking the occasional shot but not hitting anything worthwhile until you order them closer.
The game uses checkpoints to save, and for the most part they're well spaced. However Vegas' peculiar difficulty pacing makes for some crushingly annoying sections if you're not on the ball. On the whole, this is an easy game at default difficulty. Employing a regenerating health system, if you take too much damage in a short space of time, you'll die. Step out of the action for a few seconds though, and you'll be back to full health. This coupled with team-mates who can be revived when shot leads to large chunks of the game that can be sailed through. However, on occasion, Vegas throws overwhelming numbers of terrorists at you, often in multi-tiered large rooms. The AI seems to cheat a bit, those with shotguns seem able to snipe you across rooms, when you yourself can barely make them out though potted plants and slot machines. In these rooms it can be all too easy to die, especially if your team-mates decide to have an off-moment.
These moments of overwhelming odds are actually the least satisfying, not least because they feel the most unrealistic and contrived (spawning enemies have no place in a game such as this). Far more entertaining are the moments when you slip a camera under a door, scope out a small room and perfectly execute a room clearance. On some of the larger rooms it almost becomes trial and error on how to approach the rooms, leading to an unwelcome feeling of inflexibility.
Still, the story campaign is only part of the package, and while it's a pretty short single-player game by today's standards, the multi-player side of the game has been truly packed out. As well as the now standard co-op story mode and terrorist hunt game, there's also a plethora of death match options. Before you can begin blasting away online though, you have to create a custom character. The options here are fairly detailed. There's only a few faces to choose from, but it's the clothes that vary. You can pick your camo type, what sort of bandana, body armour and weapons to use, as well as sunglasses and hi-tech gadgets like motion sensors. You gain experience for each ranked game you play, and much like Battlefield games, as you go up in rank, you gain access to better weapons and more unique clothing. This feature definitely adds a compelling reason to go back to death match time and again.
There's a fair few online game types, from survival (one life for everyone) to capture games where one team must capture a vital asset, be it documents or a hostage, while the other defends it. Graphics are slightly toned down online but you won't worry about it too much. More troubling is the community. It's a fact that multi-player games are only as good as the people that play them, and sadly R6: Vegas seems to be populated by idiots. Never have I experienced such a torrid time playing an online game. Racial abuse is common over comms, and often you can't hear the game over the sound of 'wannabe gangsters' talking bollocks down the mic. Join a game while you're at a low rank and expect to be at the end of much abuse, or often kicked from the game as you're perceived as not skilled enough. Much of this pales though, when compared to the griefing that goes on in-game. Due to the nature of the cover system, people often hide behind doorways., hoping for easy kills on people walking down corridors. As such it seems to be customary to spam grenades all over the map. While initially funny, it becomes tiresome to die from grenade spam time and again. Some servers have taken to banning grenades, but it's still a very big problem.
All in all, Rainbow Six: Vegas, despite some AI issues in places, offers some of the best single-player gaming currently on the Xbox 360. At turns thrilling and ultra-cool, double-tapping hostiles in the head while dangling upside down from a rope is as satisfying as you'd imagine it to be. While the multi-player side of the game is fully-fledged and has a nice rank system, the community I experienced was absolutely dire. With only 10% of my games fun, I'd be wary of online games unless you can put up with more than I. Despite this, if you're a fan of military themed shooters, you should definitely pick up Vegas.
- Looks fantastic
- Context-sensitive squad control works well
- Some thrilling fire-fights
- Lots of game modes to go back to
Not so good stuff
- AI can on occasion go AWOL
- Dire multi-player community
- Story mode a bit too short
- Erratic difficulty pacing
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