The Rainbow Six series of console and pc games has always been about realistic tactical warfare. These games are not for the faint of the heart as with any Tom Clancy shooter. In their latest offering: Rainbow Six Vegas; they take that realism and then put it in the anything but real land of glitz, glamor, and high rolling. Las Vegas, Nevada. A town where nobody sleeps and that’s unfortunate because you are going to need all the skills and firepower you can muster at all hours …f the night. The Ubisoft Montreal team have done a great job of providing new and old features for first person shooter fans to enjoy.
Traditionally in first person shooters, graphics are good but however they can be lacking at certain points. In the 360 version of Rainbow Six Vegas; graphics are truly brought to the next level in stunning 1080i (480p and 720p are also provided). Realism is great here as expected from the way your character looks onscreen to the detail provided in the smallest objects. The locales of Vegas look accurate, from the casinos to the infamous strip and even downtown. In particular, your character can be customized to great detail by using your XBOX Live Vision camera and importing your face so that it shows up on screen. (This feature does take a little bit of practice and that final picture might take multiple shots, it does net you 30 achievement points). When your character gets shot or flashbanged, expect the screen to start to slowly fade to black or sheer white as it simulates dying in a whole new painful way. Another good feature is that when you speak on your headset, you will see another character’s lips actually move. Brings taunting to a whole new level. The only downside is that there is a blockiness to the characters and you can still get the occasional character facing collision detection; appearing in the floor or oddly placed once they die. This happens more online than offline but it is still present. Especially in terrorist hunts where the 5 or 10 terrorists can appear in the same spot, expect a interesting bloody pile.
The usual 5.1 Dolby Digital audio that Xbox provides is equally entertaining. Footsteps on the floor boards and gunfire are among the best examples of how sound effects can change the course of this game. In certain situations if you have a good ear, you will be able to hear somebody down the hall but you will also be able to sneak up to somebody and cut them down if you act stealthily. The familiar assortment of vegas sounds can also be found here including our favorite: the slot machines (it’s a shame you can’t play them). This game also uses your xbox headset for team voice commands in single player. This feature still feels new as this is one of the first crop of games to really offer this. It works most of the time; I have watched others and experimented myself and your team won’t always follow your orders (cursing while performing the commands doesn’t help either). Also if you were familiar with some of the old commands in previous Rainbow Six games, some of them made the transition and others didn’t; be sure to read your manual. There are also the usual assortment of audio glitches but these are very few and should not detract.
The story in Rainbow Six is relatively simple. The Rainbow Six team is tracking Irena Morales, a mexican terrorist who is smuggling people across the border. It starts out in the border town of San Joshua del Mosquiera and then goes directly to Vegas baby. Your team comprised of leader Logan Keller coupled with Alpha (Gabriel and Kan) and Bravo (Jung and Michael) squads must infiltrate various locales as they gather clues and stop the threat. The first thing you will notice is that this is squad based gameplay as is the norm in Rainbow Six. You control a team of three as you move from mission to mission. (the 4th was removed from previous games due to clutter in the workplace, downsizing happens to all of us) Movement is quite varied here as you can do all sorts of things including taking cover by crouching or hiding behind walls only to pop out at the right time with a well aimed shot. Your gunfire depending on your gun can also be controlled, from one to two shots to a continuous stream of ammo. A couple of things do seem to be missing that would have been appreciated, mainly rolling and running. Now these guys are in full combat gear so I don’t expect Logan to bust out some kung fu but a simple roll or dart to the other side would have been a welcome addition. More important however, there seems to be no run function. There is two speeds, crouch walk which is understandably slow (it’s more like a crawl of death walk) and the normal walk which is not bad but even with the left analog stick dialed in there is no put that sucker into gear and get out of the casino run. Some stages will crawl (no pun intended) and take you a long time to complete even once you conquer the difficulty because of the vast space you must overcome.
Your squad can be controlled via voice commands (xbox headset or right directional) and will respond fairly accurately. They tend to hold their own in battle and keep up their side of the mission without dieing or getting hurt too often. Thankfully you can also heal your fallen comrades provided they aren’t dead. This brings up another point; the health system in the game. There is no magical life bar or hit points that you can keep track of. Mainly because one or two well placed shots can and will kill you. If you do get hit and not die; the screen will start to change in color and contrast to simulate your pain. Slowly if you can back away or get behind cover your health will replenish. This is actually really useful but does not detract from the fast gameplay. The gameplay is equally enhanced by the vast amount of real weapons provided in the game. Real? Yes, these are the same weapons that you can find in the battlefields and testing grounds in the real world. The game includes many pistols, submachine guns, light machine guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles and shotguns to acquire even before you get to the gadgets. The various gadgets are insane here from grenades (smoke, frag, flashbang, and my favorite incendiary) to breaching charges and C4 explosives which can be used from remote locations. There are also in-game gadgets such as the great snake cam which can be positioned under a door to show you what is going on the other side. There is also the option of a fast rope and rappelling. Rappelling is one of the best visually looking ideas brought to Vegas. You simply grab onto the rope and rappel down, slowly or with a more rapid pace by jumping from spot to spot. Breaching by breaking into windows is also a fun option here or you can invert yourself and shoot upside down from the rope. It is as entertaining as it sounds. Since there is gunfire in darkness and smoke; the game has also provided thermal and night vision goggles which will open up your eyes and give you a clearer path forward.
The biggest complaint in this game is still the difficulty. According to many, it has been toned down but casual gamers or people not adept in first person psychology will find it rough here. Playing in first person mode, you will die plenty of times. In Live, it’s even worse as many of the participants seemingly graduated from the Tom Clancy school of tactical warfare and will leave you laying in a pool of your own blood (and probably feces too). The good thing here is that the difficulty does not come from inadequate controls or crappy gameplay. It is just that hard. Furthermore, there are only two modes of difficulty in the single player; normal(hard) and realistic (im-freaking possible). The team you command has to be carefully strategized and placed in a position to win. Don’t expect your team to be the equivalent of Rambo, even though they do hold up their own. An addition of a third difficulty level would have been appreciated, something of an easy or pansy. Even if this was made so that no achievements could be gained from it; it would have brought the learning curve down some so that just about anybody could pick this up and play and not just the tactical specialist folks.
The story mode in this game will take 10-15 hours depending on how times you die (many) and how quickly you can move through a given map. There is also the option of the single player where you can take on a single mission in story mode or play a terrorist map where you must kill all the terrorists within a given time frame. In most first person shooters, these tend to be throw away modes but these are very useful and even though the computer can be predictable at points it gives you a great introduction before you even get to Live. The Live portion of this game allows for up to 16 players (depending on mode) to try your hand at co-op or adversarial type situations. Attack and Defend is the old idea of capture the flag where two teams have an objective where one team capitalizes on a situation and the other team defends it. There is also the interesting mode of Retrieval where two teams locate biohazard canisters one at a time and then take them to their depot to score points. Finally for adversarial mode there is Sharpshooter and Survival with a team or no team aspect. Sharpshooter is simply racking up the kills with respawning while Survival is the last man standing. In Co-Op you can take on the story together or participate in a 4 way terrorist hunt. A personal beef, but I would like to see a 6 player terrorist hunt; even if they had to decrease the experience one was given. That brings me to Live-experience, you start off at Private Second Class and make your way up the food chain. Experience is gained by completing missions, whether living or dieing (as long as somebody makes it). This also unlocks guns and customizable features to your character which will give you that special look. Keep in mind, that in addition to Live you can also set up a System Link (with up to 16 Xboxes on the same network) to let you participate in these modes too. Lastly, there is 1,000 achievement points for you to collect via 36 different achievements. These range from the simplistic to the extremely difficult. However, some of them can be collected via use of a very close friend (stand a little bit closer to the window would you?). But this gamer would never recommend cheating *halo*.
Rainbow Six Vegas is something everybody who loves Xbox Live should get. There is no shortage of games on-line at this current point in time and should not be at least until Halo 3 comes out (and probably even after that until the next installment of Rainbow Six). It has great graphics and gameplay that is not always found in first person shooters. Whether you want to shoot, take cover or throw a grenade right at them, you’ll find many options for you to explore. Realism is in full aspect here from guns to gadgets to the beautiful look of Las Vegas (you will notice Paris, Mirage and even the Stratosphere). Be warned, this game is not for the casual gamer as the steep learning curve would suggest. Be prepared if you are one of these players to die often until you get the hang of the adventure. (Friends playing with you, especially at first is encouraged). I enjoy this game a great deal (I have bought three copies, (christmas and group birthday gift before getting my own)) and have no problem recommending it to anyone who likes first person shooters or games to play on XBOX Live. So grab your MP9 and be sure to toss a frag if you see me coming in your direction. One final thing, don’t be like a lot of live gamers, ditch the shield. Shields are for pansies, I don’t care if you like the pistols or not. Take care and be sure to experience this game to the fullest.