While the PlayStation 2 is complicated, perhaps even aggravating, to develop for, especially for developers from the PC side of things, Ubisoft has been one of the standout companies who, on the whole, has been able to take its PC and Xbox code and convert it to PS2 well. The PS2 version of Splinter Cell
is the biggest and best example of this process. It appeared early on that the Ubisoft Shangai team, the same guys who handled Sam Fisher's adventure conversion, would be able to perform the same magic with Rainbow Six 3
. But that's not really the case.
The results are decidedly mixed for first-time PS2 owners, and if you're a fan of the Xbox version, more than just a little disappointing. Despite Ubisoft's best efforts to rearrange things, trim excessive code, level area, and unnecessary roads, and to streamline Rainbow Six 3 on Sony's asymmetrical box, the PS2 version is a stripped down, wholly gleaned iteration that will have veteran R63 gamers shaking their heads in disbelief.
So, deciding to buy this game really breaks down into two camps: Those who have played the Xbox and PC version, and those who haven't. If you've played the Xbox version, you pretty much won't want to play this version at all. OK, I'll just say it -- you'll want to skip it altogether. Really. If you've never played any version of the tactical squad-based shooting series, the PS2 game is worth your while, as the difference between this game and say, the ultra popular SOCOM series, is different enough to encourage players to look into it. And there is really nothing at all like this on PS2.
Publishers always ask us to review games based entirely on the singular version they give us, which in this case is the PS2 iteration of Rainbow Six 3. But gamers don't live in a vacuum, and videogame editors such as us guys at IGN play everything, so that request isn't terrible likely here. But it's certainly worth explaining what Ubisoft has changed and added to make this version stand out on Sony's console, enough of which is significant in its own right and that cannot be found on either the Xbox or PC versions.
A tactical squad-based shooter, Rainbow Six 3 is a team-based first-person shooter rooted in the Tom Clancy universe of evil terrorists and the Team Rainbow, a coalition of expert militia sent into dangerous foreign settings to get things done. The single-player game enables a sole gamer to start up a campaign comprising 15 levels, including the additional and exclusive PS2 level, Trieste, and progress in any one of three difficulty levels, easy (recruit), medium (veteran), and hard (elite). Gamers are given an international team of experts controlled by the computer AI, but also designed to follow your commands.
The multiplayer modes offer a few changes, not all for the better. The online mode offers players three adversarial modes, Survival, Team Survival and Sharpshooter. Online play comprises a maximum of six players online, not the eight to 16 potential players from the Xbox and PC versions. So, that's three on three gaming. If you've played the Xbox version, this is not a great experience. Instead, it feels cheapened, weak, and disappointing. If you have never played this game, then you'll never know the difference, but the levels will seems strangely empty. It should be noted that this kind of game isn't like Goldeneye, Red Faction or TimeSplitters. The gameplay is focused entirely in short-burst attacks, storming rooms with your squad, and progressing through using stealth and team work.
For those who've played the Xbox version, the single, squad-based player levels that became available as squad-based levels online are not available online. Sorry, instead, Ubisoft has managed to offer gamers an offline, two-player split-screen mode with all those same levels. In one sense, it's a good option, because players who aren't online can get a taste of that multiplayer feeling. On the other hand, it's a sad substitution that hardly makes up for the minimized online offerings.
Online, the gameplay -- for what it's worth -- is solid. Like all online games, the framerate is simply different, i.e. slower framerate, choppier animations and the strong likelihood the game might just freeze up on you. The opposite side of the coin in the pure adrenaline rush of playing real humans who are quirky, unpredictable and who may just taunt you into a full on shooting deathmatch frenzy. Rainbow Six 3 is still reliable for such a rush, and some of the levels, especially Trieste and Prison are remarkably adept at creating such a feeling. Sandstorm is a disappointment, to be sure. But given the 10 multiplayer levels (four of them specifically created for the PS2 version, Trieste, Prison, Sandstorm, Crossfire), there is fun to be had.
The Ubisoft servers are easy to manage, and the games are quick to set up. Players can use the keyboard or a headset to talk. The things that I like best about the menu setup are the levels are relatively quick to load, starting a new game is also time efficient, and the menu systems are clear and navigable. The initial load time is ridiculously slow, upwards of 45 seconds, as are the single player levels offline. Ubisoft may have wanted to slim down load times, but it did not.
Just like on the Xbox version, there are five commands to control teammates (the number depends on the mission), ranging from open, frag and clear, to the simple open and clear, to the more interesting open, flash and clear. The fifth one is Zulu, which is the loose code name for "enter on my command," which enables players to send in their troops simultaneously from a different doorway. Pressing X calls up the Command list, while L1 switches weapons. Players are given 30 weapons and gadgets, with some balancing issues changed, mostly for the better, on the PS2 side of things. Player favorites are still there, too. The list looks like this: The weapon list hasn't changed a bit; it includes the AK-47, AUG Steyr, FAMAS G2, G36C H&K, G3 A3, GALIL, L85A1, M16A2, M4 Colt, TAR-21, M1 (12 gauge), USAS-12 (12-gauge), MP5A4 H&K, MK5 SD5 H&K, MAC 11 Ingram, P90 FN-FAL, SR-2, TMP, UMP, M249 SAW, M60E4, AW Covert, M82A1 Barret, and the PSG-1 H&K.
While there is one more single-player mission than the Xbox version, the missions themselves are where experienced players will scratch their heads in wonder and dismay. The teams function the same, the framerate barely hangs on to 30 FPS, and the animation seems choppier and awkward, but it's the actual level design that's both jarring and disappointing. Due to RAM limitations and coding issues, the PS2 version offers smaller levels, and with fewer details; and it's the details part that's the key here. The levels have been cropped like a butch haircut, stripped like a terrorist captive, and altered like a not-so-good Michael Jackson facelift. You'll see fewer objects on screen, a slightly less impression texture resolution, and perhaps most disappointing of them all, fewer ZULU points.
The levels do indeed generally resemble their former selves, you can see the similarity. The architecture and general layout is the same. But really, they're mere shadows of themselves. It appears as if each level offers 30%-40% fewer double-door sections, so the whole point of Rainbow Six 3, which is setting up your teammates to storm into a room simultaneously along with yourself, is minimized. Yes, you can still do it, but there are so few spots. Again, if you have played the Xbox version, you'll instantly see these stark changes, whereas if you're all new to the game (and live in a distant island cave in the Bermuda triangle), you won't know a thing.
Rainbow Six 3 is not a game that boasts the visual brilliance of any system. Instead it's highly competent in delivering the basics fast, workmanlike, and without much ado. Its main graphic highlights are seen in lighting and shadowing, superb gun reloading animations (no, really!), and relatively solid character animations. Those rules are all pretty much true for the PS2 version.
The levels are stripped of so much detail, it's hard to begin explaining, but essentially, these levels looked better, more succinct and prettier on the Xbox and PC. I mean, R63's levels were always pretty plain from a textural standpoint, but now they're even less interesting. That's saying something. There are simply fewer details. There are fewer split roads, fewer split hallways, fewer enemies on screen, fewer doors to sneak through, and less objects in general to create a sensibly real place.
This sense of emptiness is then assaulted by several other weird problems and eye-hurting sensations. The night vision is bright green, high contrast, harsh and, well, ugly. The player animations are OK, but they're worse, again, then the PS2's brethren. Players will notice lower resolution textures, and even the generally fabulous lighting -- with its great streams of light pouring in, casting realtime shadows and creating interesting and even moody atmospheres -- is lowered in gradation and resolution, showing off unseemly, unrealistic patterns. On the other hand, Rainbow Six 3 is prettier than Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm by a long shot. So, of the two, it wins out hands down.
In general, the sound design is equal to the Xbox version, giving players good, consistent headset support that works equally well off and online, and a smattering of realistic weapon sounds, voice commands, and tertiary sound effects. These range all over the map, from distinct footstep sounds on wood or cement, creaking wood in old buildings, the addition of heavy breathing to nearly fatally injured players, and the crackle of your equipment as you run from hiding spot to doorway.
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