I have an idea, let’s completely forget Rainbow Six Black Arrow and Lockdown ever happened. Rainbow Six Vegas is a strong return for a series that has been marred by a few unfortunate misfires. With its exciting level designs, amazing graphics, easy control and robust online multiplayer modes, Rainbow Six Vegas proves to be one of the best games of the year. It’s an amazing accomplishment that everybody should experience … just as long as you can get over the enormously unsatisfying ending.
In Rainbow Six Vegas you take control of Logan Keller, the leader of a three-man counterterrorist team. The game initially starts you out in Mexico, but it won't take long before you're swept away to the colorful streets of Las Vegas, Nevada. As it turns out Vegas is the perfect backdrop for an exciting first-person tactical shooter, there are plenty of loud and colorful things blowing up all the time, there's a lot of diversity in the levels and it all feels authentic. And just as you start to get sick of the anything goes attitude of Vegas, you're transported to yet another state landmark that is just as exciting as the casinos.
But let's not get too ahead of ourselves yet, because Rainbow Six Vegas is a game worth savoring. This is a tactical squad-based shooter that rewards working as a team and calculating the right action for every situation. While that may sound slow and boring, Rainbow Six Vegas manages to offer just enough fast-paced action to keep traditional first-person shooter fans happy.
Early in the game you are on the hunt for Irena Morales, a terrorist hiding out in Mexico smuggling unsavory types across the Northern border. As the trail to Irena winds down we learn about a massive assault on the city of Las Vegas, and just like that you're off to bright lights and high stakes action. As you might guess from the name, Rainbow Six Vegas is all about infiltrating casinos, flushing out bombs in clubs, and generally keeping the streets of Las Vegas safe.
While the story isn't going to win any awards for originality, it does do a good job of taking us from one interesting location to another. Anybody that has been to the real Las Vegas already knows that there's a new experience around every corner, and the developers of this newest Rainbow Six mission took the best of the city and crammed it into one amazing single player experience. You'll be visiting several different casinos along the way, each with their own look, style and theme. Thankfully this carefully crafted Las Vegas is more than flashing lights and promises of big money; you get to take the tour of the city that includes underground tunnels, office buildings, building tops and VIP parties.
The missions aren't quite as diverse as the locations, but they still do an excellent job of adding to the urgency of the situation. A lot of the tasks involve you locating a person, disarming a bomb, clearing the area of terrorists and getting your butt back to the extraction point. Thankfully you can go about performing these missions in a number of different ways. For instance, you will often have the choice between sneaking in behind the enemies by way of the stairs, using your rope to jump down the side of a building and then bursting in, jumping down a fast rope to surprise them, or using your backup team to do all of heavy combat. Along with the game's unpredictable AI, the ability to play these missions multiple ways really adds to the longevity of this title, this is the kind of game you actually want to go back and play through even after you've completed its lengthy story mode.
While the game may be presented in a first-person perspective, Rainbow Six Vegas has a lot more in common with Gears of War than Halo. In fact, people who loved Gears of War will feel right at home with this present-day counterterrorist action game. The whole idea here is to find cover, attack and then find more cover. Finding cover couldn't be any easier, all you do is hold the L trigger and you'll stick to the wall, ledge or row of boxes. And since not everything you use as cover is going to be the same, the new cover mechanic also does a good job of adapting for your specific situation. This control scheme makes it easy to go in and out of cover, open doors safely, and take shots at enemies with some protection in front of you. While Gears of War is no slouch, Rainbow Six Vegas really shows you how this tactical shooter thing should control.
Controlling your squad is also a breeze thanks to Vegas' control scheme. Instead of being able to give excruciatingly complicated orders to your computer-controlled teammates, Rainbow Six Vegas keeps everything simple. Now all you have to do is push a button and they'll do their thing, if it's something more complex (like opening a door) you will have a multiple choice question that you can answer with the D-pad. The rest of the actions in the game are pretty simple, so it shouldn't take most gamers long before they've mastered the controls.
The simplicity of the controls actually works to the game's advantage. Early on there may be a few times when you have to think about what you're doing, but what UbiSoft has managed to do is streamline these complicated maneuvers into just a few button presses. Although it may not seem like it at first, there's quite a bit of depth to the game's controls. Even when you're doing something as simple as using a rope to climb down a building, you have the option of turning upside down and shooting enemies. There are a lot of little techniques that come in to play in Rainbow Six Vegas that you may not even know about until mid way through the game.
The game is not only about using your body to sneak in and neutralize the enemies; you also have a few gadgets at your disposal that will keep things interesting. From the get-go you are equipped with two different goggles, one that detects heat and one that is your typical night vision. Thankfully Rainbow Six Vegas gives you more than enough reason to strap on one of the goggles; there are plenty of levels in the game that require the heat and night visions.
And the goggles are just the opening act; the real fun of Rainbow Six Vegas is digging through its sizable collection of guns and other weapons. The game offers dozens of authentic weapons that look and sound like the real thing. But that's not all; you can also customize these weapons in a number of different ways. Want to see things up close? How about you attach one of the sniper scopes to the gun. And that's not all; you can also add more ammo and attach a laser sight to your weapon of choice. Even if you're not the type of person who gets into modern guns, you'll still have a lot of fun customizing the guns to fit your preferred play style. Best of all, no matter what kind of gun you use as your main weapon you'll still have copious amounts of fun playing Rainbow Six Vegas, no matter if you're long range or shot, there's a satisfying feeling when you take out any of the terrorists in this game.
The good news is that there's enough variety in your tactics and weapons to keep the game interesting from beginning to end. Unfortunately, the bad news is that there isn't much of an end here. I won't spoil anything, but Rainbow Six Vegas doesn't have a real strong last act. It's not just that the action before the ending is so great that you can't help but be bummed to see it end (though, that is certainly part of it), it's more of the lack of any resolution to the overall story. Some games leave the door slightly ajar for a continuation on the story … Rainbow Six Vegas throws the door wide open and puts down signs pointing at it. There is no doubt that this story will continue, it's just a shame there couldn't have been some kind of conclusion at the end of this $60 package.
But whining about the ending aside, Rainbow Six Vegas offers a memorable story that you will probably want to go through at least a couple times after you've completed it. Like Gears of War, Vegas gives you the opportunity to play through the story mode with a group of friends. In what I can only hope is a trend among game makers, online co-op mode is ready for you and your team right out of the box (although it's a bit hidden). Unfortunately the developers had to make a few changes to the story mode in order to get you and your three friends to play together. The biggest change seems to be that there is no actual story in the story mode. Don't get me wrong, you still go through the story mode (from the Mexico streets to Vegas to the unfortunate ending), but you never actually get the story aspects of the game. Before each level you get a paragraph that explains what is going on, but outside of that you are pretty much just going to the marker, then going to the next marker, and then getting back to the extract point.
In some ways this isn't a bad thing, especially when you consider how trite the story really is. But part of me wishes that more could have been done to bridge the story and the co-op. Thankfully the levels offer a lot of ways to attack a problem, so having four people together can really mean something when you're taking four completely different routes. But there are a number of small little problems that could have been fixed, things that other co-op games (like Gears of War) managed to get right. For example, when you're playing by yourself you will have the ability to "heal" your teammates when they die, but if your online friend passes away he's out for good (unless you have it set on respawns). It's also somewhat odd that the online co-op offers no checkpoints; you really have to go through each level before you can rest. This isn't such a bad thing early on, but there are a few levels towards the end (especially when it comes to the casinos) that can take you a good 30 minutes to complete. There's nothing worse than dying right at the end of that level and then having to do the entire half hour over again.
The online story mode is not the only co-op game in Rainbow Six Vegas. When you get sick of chasing after Irena Morales you can hop on over to Terrorist Hunt, a simple online game that drops you into a small area with a bunch of enemies of all shapes and sizes. This mode isn't much more complex than killing a certain amount of bad guys before they kill you, but thanks to your large arsenal of weapons and moves it does make for some fun target practicing. These hunts are a lot of fun because they put you in the middle of some of the most memorable levels in the game, so there's no reason to trudge through a lot of non-story to blast thirty or forty enemies. With the ability to change the difficulty and amount of enemies, Terrorist Hunt proves that it can be a whole lot of fun (maybe even more fun than the story mode).
Believe it or not, these two co-op modes are simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to online game play. Thanks to a large assortment of exciting competitive modes Rainbow Six Vegas is the type of game you won't soon put down. Attack & Defend has two teams fighting over an objective, one attacks the other defends. Survival (and Team Survivor) is your basic deathmatch mode, nobody can respawn and the last man standing is the winner. Sharpshooter (and Team Sharpshooter) is a timed deathmatches that allow you to respawn. And what proved to be the most exciting multiplayer game, Retrieval has two teams racing to locate biohazard canisters and deliver them back to their base. There's no doubt that some of these modes have been done before (in fact, all of these modes have been done before in Sony's SOCOM series), but they feel great when you add in the cool moves and great locations.
Rainbow Six Vegas is one of the first games to use the Xbox 360 Live Vision camera. Before you even start an online game you get to create your custom character, which can be your face if you own that $40 accessory. Although the process is a little tricky (and somewhat time consuming), there's something kind of eerie about seeing your friend actually in the game. Hopefully as more and more games start to use the camera to model characters they will add more features, like being able to add hair.
Rainbow Six Vegas has the unfortunate task of being released mere days after Microsoft's graphical powerhouse, Gears of War. It's safe to say that Gears of War has effectively diminished the visual impact of every other game released in 2006. The good news is that Rainbow Six Vegas still manages to hold its own. While they may not be the most stunning graphics of the year, they are certainly in the running. What sets this game apart from the crowd is how accurate the Las Vegas locale looks. While games like Gears of War can create new and unusual worlds with their own architecture and style, Rainbow Six has to recreate a world that many of us have already been to. Most of us already know what a casino looks like; we know what it's like to be in office buildings and hotels. Yet every inch of Rainbow Six Vegas is not only beautiful, but also interesting to look at. The game is filled with great lighting effects and minor details that are fun to look at even after you've seen them dozens (maybe hundreds) of times.
Also impressive is the audio, especially when it comes to the music and sound effects. The game's score sounds like it was lifted right out of a big budget action movie, something like Clear and Present Danger, The Sum of All Fears or The Hunt for Red October. The sound effects are a perfect fit for this type of game, perhaps even better than the game's actual soundtrack. Each of the guns sounds completely different and you can hear all of the debris hitting the ground after every explosion. Put the effects and the audio together and you have one of the best sounding games of the year.
2006 was a great year for the Xbox 360. After something of a slow start Microsoft's next-generation game console has finally started to show some strength. Although it was released late in the year, Rainbow Six Vegas is one of the best games you can buy for the Xbox 360 this year. It's full of exciting fire fights, amazing graphics and some of the system's best multiplayer content. While I would have loved to have seen a slightly improved co-op mode and a real ending to the story mode, these complaints can't keep me from recommending this tactical shooter. The controls are simple enough for those who hate this type of calculated shooter and there's enough depth for anybody who wants to stick with it for the long haul. Everybody out there that has been waiting for this series to finally be reborn can breathe a sigh of relieve, because this is not just a great new Rainbow Six game, this is one of the best games of the year.