Review: Play the slots, see the showgirls, kill some terrorists
For those of you who only know gaming through your series of beloved consoles and have never experienced the history of PC gaming, Rainbow Six was originally born on the PC platform in mid 1998. It had its faults but was an instant hit with fans of more realistic and tactical gameplay. Rainbow Six was the antithesis of Doom and the style of frantic shooter that has become so popular on both PC and consoles.
?R6' was slow, deliberate, required planning and didn't allow much room for error - a quick burst from some terrorist's sub-machinegun and you were dead. All this changed after part 3 of the series, Raven Shield.
?R6: Lockdown' was released on the various consoles and then ported over to PC.
The beloved mission planning and briefing screens were gone and PC gamers just couldn't get over the fact that their beloved, exclusive franchise had been ?hijacked? and stripped down in favor of the arcade loving console jockeys. Ubisoft tried to placate the angry masses by making ?Lockdown' play and look more like a standard PC shooter, when they ported it over, but without the realistic planning sessions - it was a lost cause.
Many in the PC crowd thought they had yelled loud enough and Ubi would reverse course and eventually give them back their baby. Sorry to say, that has not happened. ?Vegas' does not have mission planning and briefing screens akin to anything in installments 1-3 of the PC series. Sure I could demolish R6: Vegas on the sole basis that it's not the tactical shooter PC fans used to loved, but that would be patently stupid.
Instead, you need to look at it with fresh eyes and consider what it accomplishes rather than what it's missing. The truth is, it accomplishes a lot and is a very good tactical shooter on its own merits, you just need to stop trying to compare it to older games in the series.
Ubisoft Montreal really does a fantastic job of utilizing the powerful Unreal 3 game engine here. ?R6: Vegas' recaptures most of the feel if not the features of the original (more on that in the review), it definitely backed away from the arcadey ?Lockdown' and that's a good thing. So, when I say 'Vegas' puts the series back on track, I only mean that it's going back in the right direction, giving us more realism and much less ?run and gun?.
As I stated above, much of the spirit of the original R6 games is present in ?Vegas'. Headshots work very well here and you can die very easily, score one for realism. You can direct your team and execute precise tactical maneuvers and room takedowns. This time, however, your team is reduced to a 3 man squad (including yourself). This doesn't limit tactics or options as much as you might think, in fact, it easier to only direct 2 teammates. In the missions you play through, it would make much more sense to send in a small, specialized 3 man unit, rather than a full complement of operatives.
The control scheme for the 360 is laid out very well. It's intuitive and precise. Through a series of graphical icons, you can select between 2 different types of main weapons and your trusty handgun. Your main weapons can be set to fire on full auto, 3 round burst for higher precision or even single shot if you think your elite. For stealthy infiltrations, you can also screw on your silencer, for either a main rifle or handgun.
2 different vision enhancements are available, NightVision and Thermal Imaging. Of course, your team control is also present. You can have your team set up on doors and prepare for various modes of entry or position themselves anyplace you need them, to provide cover fire or diversion for your movements. Employing your snake cam under a door, also gives you the ability to assess the tactical situation and mark target priorities for your team. A cool feature for the 360, you can plug in your headset and give a few voice commands. A mini-map further aids planning by letting you see the immediate layout of the building /streets where you are operating.
There's nothing like the feeling of executing perfectly timed room assaults. Order your team to set up on a door and prepare to open and clear, throw a grenade or flashbang in there. Then you can go to another doorway or, in some cases, rappel down a wall and prepare to smash in through a window. Give the order and your team swings into action. In a matter of a couple of seconds ? with some good timing on your part, the plan works brilliantly and the terrorists are all dog meat. The feeling of satisfaction is unlike anything you get from faster shooters like Gears of War or Halo 2.
The best feature in the game, however, is the cover mechanics. I have to say, it really controls better than Gears of War's system, which sometimes has your character doing things that were unintended. In ?Vegas', with the press of a trigger, you'll quickly grab some nearby cover and enter 3rd person view. From there, you can easily blind fire or pop up and take some precise shots. Peeking out from corners and doorways also adds appreciated control. It's hard to explain why it controls better than ?Gears', just trust me when I say it does. You'll know why when you try it.
The single player campaign is not too long (around 8-12 hours) but is replayable mainly because of interesting locations, tactical situations and difficulty settings. You can set the difficulty to standard or realistic. ?Realistic' will cause you character to take much less damage before death. This means you have to plan out your movements and attacks with much more forethought.
The save system is done automatically at predetermined checkpoints, so you won't be able to save wherever you want to. This brings some hair pulling into the game, especially when you get almost to the end of a section only to get nailed by some unseen foe, forcing you to start all over again from the beginning of that area.
To offset some of the difficulty and lack of quicksaves, you do get a regenerating health system. Yes, it doesn't sound like a good thing for realism fanatics but it's not all that bad. It doesn't come into play when you take a few shots to the head or chest because you die. For those times, however, when you just happen to get grazed in the shoulder or take some shrapnel from a nade, you'll get a chance to limp away and slowly get your health back up. This cuts down the frustration levels without totally making the game an ?Arcade? shooter.
What can you say, Rainbow Six: Vegas is one of the best looking games on any platform, period. Both PC and 360 versions are basically identical visually. It can hang with Gears of War or anything else you can think of. When you first fly over the city of Las Vegas, by helicopter, you'll be loving life. The landmarks along the strip are all present, complete with neon lights and all the glitter that is Vegas. The levels are just as detailed and make you feel like your operating in a real environment.
The developers could not have done a better job. Multiplayer graphical detail is slightly less impressive for the sake of smoother gameplay but it's still great. The only thing I have a problem with are the levels that take place outside Vegas, they just aren't as engrossing, but that's just a minor gripe.
The visual splendor while you're in Vegas though, is just stunningly satisfying. The effects like gunfire, smoke and explosions are done with the appropriate realism. There isn't much to complain about in the graphics department, so sit back and enjoy.
The attention and loving care spent on audio detail is evident with the sound effects in R6: Vegas. The standard gunfire effects, grenade explosions etc.. - are all what you would expect from a first class next-gen title, meaning they are superb. The environmental sounds are also worth a mention. Whether it's a baby crying in the distance, the wind blowing through the streets or the cheesy PA music playing on the casino floor, you'll be pulled into the gaming world like few games have done before.
Despite, its excellent single player experience, ?R6: Vegas' will really grab you with its online play. The game ships with 10 expansive maps that are well laid out and conducive to tactical, exciting play. Up to 16 Xbox Live players can operate at a time without a hitch.
Customization options are plentiful. You choose what your online persona will look like, you can even map your own face to your character via the Xbox Vision Cam. You can accessorize your R6 operative with various weapons, equipment, head gear, pants, tactical vests, body armor pieces and eyewear. Some of the accessories are only available at the start, a lot of it is locked. The PC version is different in this aspect, as all the gear and accessories are available to all players at the start. This is a better way of handling customization in my view, because it means no one has an unfair advantage when they begin.
Multiplayer modes are plentiful, the 8 types include Attack & Defend, Survival, Sharpshooter, Team Survival, Team Sharpshooter, Retrieval and the wonderful coop modes ? Coop Story and Coop Terrorist Hunt. Coop Story allows 4 players to go through the single player campaign via Live, a feature you and your friends will come to enjoy more than almost anything else is your game collection.