IGN Review of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2
November of 2006 was a great month for Xbox 360 gamers. Two of the system's finest titles to date hit the streets right before the holidays and players were beside themselves with how to budget their time in between the two. Should I spend time leveling up my character in the multiplayer of Rainbow Six Vegas or should I bring the fight to the Locusts as Marcus Fenix in Gears of War? For most the longstanding answer was the neon colored world of Vegas rather than the destroyed beauty of the other Unreal Engine 3 powered gem.
Eighteen months have gone by since the original Vegas and the world of geeks and nerds has been waiting with baited breath wondering whether or not Ubisoft Montreal would give them the sequel that they so desperately wanted. To be a true success in the eyes of many faithful fans, Vegas 2 must offer a fitting conclusion to the cliffhanger storyline, revamped gameplay and the most fleshed out multiplayer mode the world has ever seen. Rainbow Six Vegas 2, while a worthy follow-up, doesn't meet such lofty expectations.
Let's start with the good. There's an all-new perpetual character system that allows for experience points as well as the new ACES (Advanced Combat Enhancement and Specialization) points to be carried over across all of the modes in Vegas 2. That means that if you kill a baddy and earn three points to your Assault category in single-player, those points will then make their way over to your next multiplayer or co-op game as well. Each of the ACES categories has 20 levels that can be unlocked, and each level has different rewards such as weapons or a big XP bonus. None of the rewards are as gratifying – neither in their graphical display or in the reward itself – as in Call of Duty 4, but the fact that you can carry them through to different modes is a definite plus.
The next addition to the Vegas family is the ability to run. The left shoulder button now governs sprinting and it's extremely useful for getting between points of cover or to escape the blast radius of a grenade. Being able to run might sound a bit odd for a Rainbow Six game and diehards might not be able to accept its existence, but once you see it in use it all makes sense. Throw in the fact that this game has a higher difficulty level and is actually more grounded in tactical gameplay than the first and running will feel natural when used properly.
Vegas 2 is designed to be more tactical, but no one told your two AI teammates. Too often that you'll be skillfully maneuvering through pieces of cover, picking off hapless enemies, only to have these two nimrods wander out into the open and get gunned down. Granted sometimes they're actual assets in battle, but the AI is usually more of a headache than a help. The same goes for enemy intelligence which, for whatever reason, can't recognize when my character is sitting four feet to the left with my crosshairs placed squarely on his noggin. Oh, and for those that are wondering, the same tactical map exploit of being able to scan deeper into the environment than should be possible is still in the game.
As anyone who played through the first Vegas knows, the storyline left a bit to be desired. Ubisoft spun a fairly interesting tale but then left players hanging in a mean way at the end with one of the worst cliffhanger endings we've seen in some time. Luckily Vegas 2 ties up all of the loose ends from the first and even fleshes out a few of the characters by providing motivations for their actions. You won't be confusing Vegas 2 with an actual Tom Clancy theatrical release, but the story does enough to keep things interesting.
Having said all that, the single-player campaign was never the star of Vegas. Multiplayer and co-op are where the fun really lies and the same is true in the sequel. Multiplayer is once again the real Belle of the ball with 12 maps and two new adversarial modes. Several of the maps were ripped from Raven Shield on PC and retooled to fit Vegas 2's play style. Each of the maps performs well. Maps are well balanced and feature the requisite number of alternate paths to keep things fresh. My only real gripes with the multiplayer are that you can't set up your own 16-player game without being relegated to using your console as a dedicated server. It's also a bit disconcerting that the game doesn't hand out a few experience points for capturing points in Total Conquest or when your team rescues a hostage. Where's my experience or ACES point incentive?
Co-op, on the other hand, is another ball of wax. Ubisoft Montreal did some good. It put in the cutscenes, mission briefings, and tutorials that were missing in the first game. It's all downhill from there. The changes made to the co-op gameplay were poorly implemented. Campaign co-op was shrunk from four players down to two. But you are still joined by two AI teammates. Only the host player is able to issue commands, leaving the second player as nothing more than a hired gun. Player two is instead forced to sit idly by as the first player orders teammates around and completes objectives in the level. And if the host goes down, your AI teammates have no one to tell them what to do until he respawns. Why in the hell can't the second player feel like more of a part of the storyline? And why only two players for campaign when you can still have four-player co-op in Terrorist Hunt?
The gameplay in Rainbow Six Vegas 2 is awesome; it just isn't as awesome as it was 18 months ago. The main complaint that most gamers are sure to have with RSV2 is that it's simply too similar to the game that we played late in 2006. The ability to sprint is the only change to the core gameplay with the rest feeling like minor tweaks. The core is still great and will be a blast for anyone who hasn't played through the original (though the lack of synopsis of the events in Vegas 1 makes it a bit tough), but those who have been down the strip before might be less enthused.
Aesthetically Vegas 2 is similar to its gameplay in that not a whole lot has changed. Unreal Engine 3 still shines through in the detailed character models but the environments are less flashy overall, mainly because you spend the majority of your time away from the bright lights of Las Vegas. There also seem to be more instances of the framerate slowing down, sometimes to a crawl. A symptom that is exacerbated on the PS3 where textures and effects are already not up to the 360's standard. One feather that can be placed in the hat of Vegas 2 is that the environments are more interactive than they were before. Glass can be blown out of entire floors of buildings and certain environment set pieces can be impressively blown to bits.
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