Review by james2
"Nothing unexpected, just refined and updated."
Shooting games always used to be filled with running and gunning like Rambo until Tom Clancy came along with his tactical espionage titles. Sure, at first there wasn't much to sniff at, but when Rainbow Six 3 released on the Xbox, the Tom Clancy name was suddenly enshrined in console gaming for many years to come. The follow up, Black Arrow, was a particular favourite of mine, because its new guns and maps had me hooked in frantic online matches for months on end. In fact, I only stopped playing that title when I eventually became the owner of an Xbox 360 and another Tom Clancy game, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. The tension of players not respawning and only being able to take a few hits before dieing, the miniscule amounts of ammo having to be conserved instead of just gunning it through a level and the importance of using cover and not giving away your position, were just a few gameplay elements. The game had you sweating on the end of your Internet connection, the air waves becoming more lonely as your friends got killed and had to sit in the lobby watching, unable to communicate with words of advice or encouragement.
On next generation systems the series took a back alley diversion away from the storylines of many first-person shooters, which seem to nearly always reside in either the future, one of the World Wars or Randomistan, and base itself squarely in Vegas. The premise was that terrorists had grabbed several key world delegates and armed themselves with bombs. It was your job to storm various locations such as casinos, warehouses and parking lots to rescue as many hostages as possible and defuse the situation. The whole idea worked, Rainbow Six became a household name again and we now stare expectantly at the sequel, Rainbow Six Vegas 2.
Pass me my shooting stick
On the surface, not a lot has changed since we last stormed building after building in Vegas. It's still set in the gambling capital of the world, there are still gun-totting terrorists and you'll still be stacking your team at doors whilst you take a sneak peek with the snake cam. After a few hours of gaming though, Vegas 2 is a much more refined shooting adventure that appears to take advantage of hardware capabilities. Environments show off typical Hollywood destruction, with plaster flying from pillars as bullets hit and cheap concrete walls blister in attacks. During the campaign mode you'll frequently witness explosions that block paths or disadvantage you, causing a re-group of the team whilst you plot another safe route round the level.
Graphically things are much the same as we've seen, although that's not a bad thing entirely. Whilst lacking the vibrant details and clever shadow play of Bioshock you'll still hastily take cover and peer nervously over the top with your scope, only to find the figure shape that caused the alarm was actually the shadow from an object, and not a threat. The many different levels have architecture that can conceal enemies and even distract you for moments at a time, such as big flashing signs with which a dark clothed terrorists can easily hide behind without being seen. Often enough it'll be the muzzle flash that'll give away their position, though sometimes you'll be too slow to react and find yourself killed in action.
The action remains as tense and straightforward as always, with the sole intention being to travel from point A to point B gunning down anything that handles a firearm. The difference with Rainbow Six is that you'll find yourself taking time to consider plans of action, often sitting behind cover and directing your team-mates to flanking positions whilst giving covering fire, or camped behind a door, silently scanning the area and tagging bogeys with the snake cam. You've got the option of going in all guns blazing or sneaking in by changing the rules of engagement. Assault mode means your team-mates will fire on sight, ideal for quick take downs but also attracts attention, making that quick run through a warehouse into a half-hour shoot-out. Infiltration means your two disposable operatives will report sightings of enemies to you, and only return fire with silencers on. There's no right or wrong way to play Vegas 2 and players will find themselves switching between the two modes as they see fit to get past certain points in a level.
For some the repeated nature of being shot in between running for cover will be too much and therefore will resign themselves to being a navigator, directing their squad through a level to dispose of the bad guys. Whilst this tactic works, these types of players will find themselves becoming outflanked, as the enemy AI appears to take a dim view on campers, dispatching a team around the outskirts of an area to hunt you down. Therefore the game keeps you on your toes, frantically switching cover whilst trying to keep an eye on enemy movement in relation to your squad. This makes gun battles incredibly tense, and if you couldn't aim for toffee at the start of the game, about halfway through you'll be able to hit foes from a good distance away with a short burst of fire, given the need for quick reactions and a trigger finger.
Whilst the AI reacts in a pleasingly realistic manner, occasionally they'll be too eagle eyed for their own good. If one of the team spots you, the entire lot will dive for cover and then start shooting, scuppering your plan. In an early mission for example, the player is encouraged to have his team stack at a door whilst you run around the back and start firing through windows at the rear of the room. Sadly, the very nano second that you appear at the windows the mission is failed because you were spotted by the enemy, which begs the question as to why I was told to go there in the first place. Luckily, you can just storm the room and pump lead into the bad guys at your disgression.
Compared to Black Arrow the pace in multiplayer is too fast for my liking, with opponents often gunning it through a game than the "slowly does it" approach that I accustomed to way back when. There are 8 modes to partake in, ranging from your usual deathmatches to objective based gun slinging and terrorist hunts too. It's here where the inter changeable attire and equipment comes more into play than in the single player mode, with the more tactical favouring teams using the heavier yet more durable armour and those pesky Rambos wearing what seems to be nothing more than a robe with a flight helmet on top.
As a more recent Rainbow Six fan I was initially disappointed with Vegas 2 in what seemed nothing more than a rehash of the previous game with some tidier graphics and a few more guns. But it's after an hour or so of room storming that the new effects and refinements begin to show themselves, and soon all that bitterness will wash away with every bullet you fire. The online mode is similarly straight forward as before and yet feels more streamlined and ready for the onslaught, with better connections times and, from my experience, easier to get into games. The single player co-op is welcomed, even if the split screen is horrendously executed and only one player has control of the AI team-mates. But at the end of the day, taking down a handful of terrorists through meticulous planning with the snake cam and order issuing is as rewarding as ever.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/08/08
Game Release: Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2 (EU, 03/20/08)
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