Genre: Tactical FPS
Publisher: Ubi Soft Entertainment
Developer: Red Storm Entertainment
Release Date: 3/18/2003
Review By: Anthony Mitera
Tom Clancy games as a whole have always been perched on the upper echelons of whatever genre they happen to occupy. The Rainbow Six series as a whole is unparalleled in both it’s realistic depictions of tactical finesse and coordination, while Ghost Recon takes the firefight to the battlefield and Splinter Cell casts the player as a shadowy secret agent. The newest Rainbow Six title is nearly here and continues the trend of sheer gaming excellence that each Tom Clancy game has set up before it.
Rainbow Six: Raven Shield is set in the near future, where terrorists posing as new age Nazis are scrambling to find the vast stores of money and other wealth that Hitler and the Third Reich carefully hid at the end of World War II. The game transports you to a varying array of locales ranging from the snowy Swiss Alps to a plush island mansion. In Raven Shield you are the leader, you plan the mission, equip your teams, call the shots, and ultimately are responsible to make sure that whatever goal this newfound menace is trying to achieve, they will fail.
Raven Shield’s gameplay is stunning on nearly every account and blows all previous Rainbow Six titles completely out of the water. There is still two phases per se, the planning phase and the action phase. In the planning phase you are given a briefing by a handful of commanders, intelligence experts, and analysts, complete with voice-overs and a video playing in the background that details your objectives and any other important information. Missions range from a surprise raid on a warehouse to a nighttime hostage situation in a meatpacking plant. Before every mission you must have a mission plan, which you can either create your own or load a pre-made one included with the game. Creating your own plan involves everything from placing waypoints, marking certain doors to breach and rooms to flashbang, and coordinating strikes using go codes (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Zulu respectively). Since effectively planning your own mission can take a good amount of skill and finesse players new to the Rainbow Six series should stick to the pre-made plans, while veterans of the series should find nothing too difficult to figure out.
The other side of the planning phase involves outfitting your squad with their equipment. While by default each operative has everything they’ll need to successfully complete their objectives, the player may want to use a different loadout. Raven Shield boasts a very large array of submachine guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns, pistols, and light machine guns, as well as secondary weapons such as frag grenades, flashbangs, claymore mines, smoke grenades, and heartbeat sensors. Even still, the weapons themselves can be modified slightly; you can choose the ammo type to be used and an attachment such as a silencer, mini-scope, or an extended clip. Thus, picking the right tools for the job can be just as important as having an effective plan. Every weapon has distinct advantages and disadvantages in the form of accuracy, stability, damage, recovery time, range, and firing rate. While the M4 and the FAMAS have very high damage, nothing says “I love you” like the pinpoint accuracy of an M12 or a SVD Dragunov.
Once the plan is set and the weapons are equipped its time to move on to the action phase where everything is on the line and your trusty rifle and teammates are your only friends. The AI of both the friendly teammates and the enemies is very good, your teammates will follow your lead, covering your back at all times and carefully examining their surroundings. The enemies in Raven Shield are equally impressive, with enemies scrambling for cover when they are outgunned, calling for backup, and even occasionally executing a hostage if they feel too threatened by you and your team’s presence. The points where the gameplay really shines is at times like when a coordinated assault is launched on an enemy area. There is absolutely nothing like giving the go codes to your teams, seeing doors blown to splinters by breaching charges, and rushing through the smoke and debris to clear out the room. In Raven Shield you are given full control of your stance and leaning via a “Fluid” leaning system that you utilize via a key press and your mouse. In this way you can lean just as mush as you want so you ca not only shoot the enemy while leaning around a corner or object but you are also exposing as little of your body as possible.
A first in the Rainbow Six series is a rag doll effect on dead bodies seen in games like Hitman and Unreal Tournament 2003, although not to such as exaggerated extent. When enemies die they will fall against walls and boxes, tumble down stairs and off of ledges, and sometimes just slump over. This really adds to the already high immersion factor of the game, gone are the days of bodies that lay suspended in midair because their hand is on a flat surface, or fall flat on the ground and clip through the wall.
The graphics in Raven Shield could have such synonyms as mind-blowing, spectacular, and awesome. The glint and glare of face shields on the well detailed models and the beautifully crafted levels and textures scream a level of quality that most games can barely touch. Nearly every single model in the game is cut and polished to a degree of excellence, all of which cast real-time soft shadows next to whatever they are near. Glass shatters, monitors and televisions caught in the line of fire explode in a shower of sparks and debris, and the almost elegant way a claymore or breaching charge rips through a door all is icing on the cake.
Raven Shield’s audio is almost on the same level. The music in the game gives off a very suspenseful feel, whether it be the slow paced mood of a pre-mission planning phase or a quicker, livelier track as you are about to storm a known enemy area. Every weapon in the game sounds very close to their real life counterparts, with none of the sound effects seeming to be overused or overdone. The radio chatter from both yourself and teammates calling out downed targets and completed objectives has a very distinct sound and can only add it’s own impressive share to the audio.
There is absolutely no reason why any fan of the previous Rainbow Six games shouldn’t already have this game on their upcoming game purchases. The gameplay is fluid and fast paced, the graphics put nearly every other game to shame, and the whole package overall comes across as very polished and fine-tuned to give the player the maximum amount of enjoyment. Even people who dislike the previous Rainbow Six games would do themselves good to give Raven Shield a try as with the included pre-made mission plans and intuitive controls nearly anyone can give the game a go and come away happy. With a level of quality that is nearly unsurpassed Raven Shield is a pinnacle of what great games are really all about.