Developer: Red Storm
Release Date: 18-Mar-2003
I must admit that I was not a big fan of the original Rainbow Six when it first was released. The game was far too complex for my tastes, and one could easily be stuck in the planning phase of a mission. You can imagine my surprise when, after installing Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield, I found myself engrossed in a wonderful game.
You control the special ops team, Rainbow Six. This group of elite soldiers will be sent to work on a number of missions, ranging from simple yet involving “kill all the terrorist” venues to incredibly intense hostage rescues. After a wonderful briefing, it is your job to plan and execute every mission with a professional touch. Each mission is basically split into two parts, planning and carrying out orders.
The planning phase is extremely well-done, allowing not only for complex strategies that fans will surely try, but also caters to the novice crowd with several pre-made mission plans. It’s hard to find that fine line between complexity and ease of use, but Raven Shield is right on target. If you choose not to load a pre-made mission, you’ll be able to set an infinite amount of waypoints on an overhead map, finding the best route possible. An excellent feature has been included that allows you to actually see the map in full 3D while planning. You can even view a run-through of your entire path in the first-person view, letting you know what to expect. Quite frankly, the whole system is awesome.
After setting up a mission, you’ll be able to choose and equip the right soldiers for the job. There are a number of specialists, from recon men, to snipers, to demolition experts. You can assign people to whatever team you choose (depending on your mission plan, you can have up to three different teams working on the same mission and all cooperating with each other.) Then feel free to equip each one with the necessary gear.
Primary weapons range from sub-machine guns, Uzi’s, and assault rifles, to automatic shotguns, and there are many variations of each weapon. Looking for a good secondary weapon is no problem, either, with a dozen different kinds of pistols available. Guns can also be customized to fit your needs by changing the type of ammunition used or adding a silencer or a scope. Soldiers can carry lockpicks, gasmasks, or even extra ammunition, if you feel it is necessary. The level of detail in this game is so great you will notice changes in speed from characters carrying heavy equipment to characters with light gear, so think wisely when outfitting.
Finally, we come to everyone’s favorite part: execution. You’ll play from a first-person perspective, and the result is marvelous. You can pick any team member to play, and swap to different characters or even the other team anywhere you feel like it. The control is spot-on and aiming is excellent. You can even set the degree of auto-aim; when it’s set at an easier level, aiming your reticule at a target will lock your shot onto him. Or, if you prefer, you can completely turn auto aiming off for a nice challenge. It works well for everybody.
There are some nifty innovations you don’t see very often, too. You can play in one of three positions: standing, crouching, or laying flat on the ground. Each one has its advantages in certain situations. Obviously, standing upright is a good idea when on the move, but if you’re in a vulnerable area, it might be best to squat. And perhaps sniping while flat on the ground will add extra accuracy in times of need. Adding to this is the door system. When near a door, you can either open it with one full swing, or use your mouse wheel to push it open at your leisure. This is actually a very useful, cool feature.
The heads up display is also extremely well done. The upper left corner of your screen reminds you of the name of the soldier you’re currently using, as well as his health and his current physical position (standing, crouching, laying). Across from this, on the right side of the screen, you can see how well your comrades are feeling and what they’re currently doing. In the lower right corner, you can see how your other teams are doing, and if they’re ready and waiting or still on the go. Health is represented by a little circle – if it’s entirely colored, you’re in great shape, but if it’s half-full then you had better watch yourself. When it’s empty, as a Monty Python fan might say, you have ceased to be. In the bottom left, you can see how much ammunition you have available. That’s it – four tiny corners used up rather efficiently, leaving you with a lot of room to see what’s going on.
Raven Shield is all about cooperation. When you enter a gunfight and hear the words “Man down!” echo through your speakers, you really do feel sad for the fallen fellow. You’re left with one less man from here on out, and not only does that make a difference in your performance, it really does make you feel bad about not being able to protect them. Any game that can manage a feat such as this is very, very impressive.
The graphics is Raven Shield are splendid, even on an average PC. With the settings all turned to low, you may not have the best graphics you’ve ever seen, but the framerate stays solid and the graphics are still clear and crisp (if perhaps not as detailed.) Animation is impressive, with life-like movements seen while observing your team, the enemy, and other innocents. Texturing is nice all around, and very much so with the graphics turned up to the max. The lighting is also fantastic, which is always good to see. Raven Shield will satisfy, if not impress.
Sound is surprisingly well done. There’s an excellent score that plays during menus, and I almost didn’t want to go into battle just so I could keep listening. Voice-overs are top notch, being believable and professional. Sound effects are magnificent, from the roar of a machine gun to the swift little sound of a silenced pistol (or the bang of an unsilenced one). The team’s voices are most impressive, though, expressing emotion and professionalism. When you just got your ass saved from a hiding terrorist by your buddy and hear the wonderful words of “hostile eliminated” or the like, you really do want to jump out and give him a hug.
The game does so much right, it’s hard to nit-pick. Granted, the game requires a fairly decent PC to run, and a rather high-end system to actually look it’s best, but it’s hard to complain about that when it’s easy to see that the power was put to good use.
Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield is everything you could hope for and more. If you loved the first two games, you’re going to love this one, too. If you’ve never played a Rainbow Six game before, this is the time to start. This gem will keep you hooked to the screen for hours. There’s something for everyone here, whether you enjoy the mission planning, or love the action. Do not miss out on this excellent title.
Score: 9.5 / 10