IGN Review of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas
PC gamers feel some bit of ownership when it comes to franchises like Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six. It's no wonder considering what awesome games the originals were on the PC. They were tactical and exciting and were about as realistic as you could get at the time. Since those glory days Ubisoft has made the decision to make console skews a higher priority. It's unsurprising considering sales numbers on those systems but it tends to leave PC gamers looking to revisit yesteryear at a bit of a disadvantage. Expensive to create games like Rainbow Six: Vegas have to appeal to as large an audience as possible, which means the niche market for hardcore realistic tactical shooters is left out. Niche fans are likely going to be pretty pissed about Rainbow Six: Vegas because it's definitely not the Rainbow Six that was. Does that mean it's a bad game? No, not at all. It's just way different than it used to be. Are we sad about the change in the PC version? Very. But even through the tears it's pretty clear that Rainbow Six: Vegas is an accomplished action shooter. It's packed with gunfights, full of excitement, looks good, and provides plenty of mindless entertainment. If only the framerate was steady and multiplayer stable we'd be much happier.
Team Rainbow's newest mission finds the team at arms with Irena Morales, a Mexican terrorist that is smuggling bad guys across the border into the States. Intel puts her in the small border town of San Joshua del Mosquiera. In Mexico, Six learns that a major assault is being planned in Las Vegas at which point the game switches settings to the glitzy and bright neon of Nevada's hottest nightlife. The story is presented via briefings and overheard terrorist conversations. All of the voice-overs are well done here so it's a pretty decently presented plot. We'll leave the rest of the story to you, but take note that there is a decent storyline in place, and that Ubisoft's latest effort is setting the stage for future entries along the same storyline. Unfortunately for fans of the original tactical Rainbow Six it's likely this means the series is never going back to its challenging and thoughtful roots.
This is not the Rainbow Six PC gamers have wanted to see return. The tactical planning sessions are gone as are teammates who can be killed. The original Rainbow Six games were tense affairs that pushed methodical action from room to room with a real sense of danger. Rainbow Six was also six people back in the day each soldier could be given commands to make sure that all angles were covered. The Rainbow Six we have in Vegas is a straight fast action shooter. It may not be run and gun like Halo or DOOM, but it's certainly not going for the realism of old. Is this a bad thing? For players that would love to see the old planning sessions make a return, the answer is obviously yes. But that doesn't make Vegas a bad game. It's absolutely entertaining. There's so much combat and gunfire over the course of the game in well designed close quarter and large area levels that it's hard not to have plenty of mindless fun through the single player story mode.
The change to a game that has an easier entry level and milder learning curve has been coming for a while. The dwindling number of AI teammates made that pretty clear. It's just hard for a lot of people to control that many teammates while staying in the action themselves. Rainbow Six is now down to Rainbow Three so only two AI teammates are around to help out with tactical situations. They can be given orders, though both are given the same orders at the same time, and are restricted to room clearing scenarios and "go here". For some reason there's no "target this guy" mark or "throw grenade" commands when not breaching a room, which would have been helpful with the fast pace of play. It's definitely easy to give the commands that are there however, including special commands to stack up at doors or use certain equipment like the repelling ropes.
Overall, friendly AI is pretty decent at taking down enemies without hogging all of the kills. They're best used as distractions however. Running them to one side of a level through enemy fire allows for flanking and cutting down enemies from behind. Sure, you get them shot to high hell, but it doesn't matter in this game since they're easy enough to heal. The hitpoint system has been taken out for the player character as well, moving instead to a Halo-style regeneration technique. It's another addition that pushes the game from good tense tactical to good fast action.
The control and cover systems are really what set this game apart from previous Rainbow Six games. It's easy as hell to play on a 360 controller (which is compatible following the installation of the first patch) as any Xbox 360 owner can tell you and is just as easy on the PC. Default key positions are pretty strange in some cases but can be re-mapped if needed. The control system is actually pretty brilliant in some ways, especially the cover system. Almost any wall or cover object in the game can be hidden behind, though some objects are curiously left out. The thing that will certainly bother veteran RB6 players is that when in cover the camera immediately pushes to third-person allowing players to see around the obstacle. Subsequently, the first-person view lean that had been in previous titles has been removed. It detracts from the realism of not knowing enemy movements when hiding behind cover but once again is nice for entry-level players. We would have liked to have seen an option to set up multiplayer servers with first-person only settings and a lean function even if that functionality may not have worked very well with the way the levels are designed in the single player story mode.
One thing that's definitely improved over previous RB6 games is the artificial intelligence. The games (along with the Ghost Recon Clancy products) have had notoriously stupid AI. Most of the issues have been fixed here and enemies will take cover intelligently, recognize when they or their friends are under attack, and try to out-flank player positions. It's not always perfect and terrorists slip back into their idiocies every now and again, but it's a satisfyingly improved experience. There are enough enemies firing enough bullets intelligently that the cover system mentioned above becomes a central part of the game.
The weapon selection used to fire back at the enemy is fairly diverse, featuring a number of assault rifles, submachine guns, shotguns, light machine guns and pistols. Enemy weapons can be picked up on the fly as well so it's nice to be well versed in how each of the guns reacts in the odd occasion that ammo runs out. You are able to carry two large weapons and a pistol for three different firing solutions. Each of the weapons can be modified with a silencer as well to keep the enemy alertness down as much as possible and the rate of fire can also be set for increased accuracy. Along with those slots, you can carry two gadgets, such as frag grenades, C4 explosives, non-lethal flashbangs or smoke grenades to mask your movement. While weapons in each category aren't hugely different in most cases, they're different enough that players will adopt favorites to their style of play.
Visually, the weapons are modeled pretty accurately as far as we can tell from real photos. The game in general takes pretty good advantage of the Unreal Engine 3 tech with environments filled with objects and lighting. Character models are very good as are their textures. The issue isn't really how good the game looks but how well it runs. There are definitely some issues with performance. Turning the shadow quality down offered the best boost without degrading the quality of the visuals too much. On a 3ghz machine with 2 gigs of RAM and a 7800 we were able to pull out a decent and very playable framerate at 1280x960 with shadow and blur quality on medium. However there seems to be a pretty wide array of results at the moment after checking around the forums so be forewarned. It should also be noted that widescreen isn't supported, which at this point in time, especially considering the 360 version has widescreen, is just crazy.
One place that framerate doesn't seem to be an issue is in multiplayer. The visuals are scaled down pretty heavily in this portion of the title to accommodate the 16 player cap. While framerate hasn't been an issue in the games we've played online, stability has been. We've dropped from almost every server we've played on. One moment we'll be running down stairs and the next we'll either be stuck in an animation loop or dropped to the desktop. It's interesting as the single player has yet to pop us out of the game at all. Even using the crappy consolized search functionality for games yields tough love. Trying to find a list of all game types has been impossible for us as it drops us to desktop on every attempt. On top of that, there's no search functionality for re-spawn games, which can be aggravating when joining an attack & defend mission. Sometimes you'll enter a level and be waiting for 10 minutes for the last two idiots to find and kill each other before a game can begin. I've also been stuck spectating after a game has restarted creating an even longer wait time to play.
It's really too bad because the multiplayer can be a lot of fun as we've seen on the 360 version. There are several modes of play ranging from deathmatch to objective based modes like the afore mentioned attack & defend. Though we have to mention that those types of missions can be more fun on 360 at the moment thanks the game's inherent voice-over-IP functionality. Getting PC players to plug into one of the third-party systems is a crap shoot. Hopefully the adoption of Live! Anywhere in 2007 will have an impact, but that's a different discussion.
Like the 360 version, players will be able to customize their character's look and armor selection before heading into a game. Unlike the 360 version, your character doesn't gain points in the persistent elite system and all of the equipment, armor, and clothing styles are available from the get-go.
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