Genre: Tactical Shooter
Developer: Red Storm
Release Date: March 23, 2004
Pre-order 'RAINBOW SIX 3': PlayStation 2
The plan is fairly familiar by now.
Game X comes out on the Xbox, with decent graphics and full online playability. It is good. Six months to a year later, Game X comes out on the PS2, with graphics that have suffered to some extent, and a complete lack of anything resembling online action. Then there is great wailing and gnashing of teeth, frequently on message boards, spurring the precise kind of Internet arguments - i.e. "PS2 SUX LOL"-- that make me wish I'd never learned language or touched a computer.
Rainbow Six 3 does not follow this plan.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, Rainbow Six 3 is a team-based, tactical first-person shooter, much like its predecessors. As Ding Chavez, you're the leader of a tightly-knit, four-man team of antiterrorist agents, paid to use large guns in the service of keeping the world unexploded. The specific plot in question revolves around foul doings in and around Venezuela, where terrorists are fighting to "convince" their nation to stop selling oil to the United States.
Enter Domingo "Ding" Chavez and his Rainbow team, comprised of Eddie Price, Louis Loiselle, and Dieter Weber. Their job is to get the terrorists to stop being mean via the simple expedient of shooting them all in the head, which proceed to happen across fourteen highly tense, violently challenging levels, set throughout the world.
Rainbow Six 3 is considerably more tactical and "realistic" than most first-person shooters. Unlike Splinter Cell, there are no magical healing kits, capable of making bullet wounds simply go away. If you get hit, you'll stay hit until you die, or until the mission's over. Further, you have a ridiculously short health bar; one grenade, or one good, accurate burst of rifle fire, and Ding's KIA.
Therefore, the emphasis in Rainbow Six 3 is on the minimization of conflict. If you get into a gunfight with an equal force and it lasts more than about three seconds, you're doing it wrong. You are supposed to be doing whatever it takes - stealth, sniper fire, high explosives, stun weapons - to unbalance a fight in your favor.
Towards that end, you have full command over your squad of antiterrorist operatives. While Price, Weber, and Loiselle aren't as smart as I'd like them to be (they can't be trusted to clear a room with a hostage or bomb in it, and I've lost count of how many times they've jumped in front of me while I was lining up a sniper shot), their presence creates a wide variety of tactical options. You can send them ahead as an advance guard of highly trained bullet catchers - also known, by me, as the Meatshield Brigade - but that means you won't have them around when you need them. By using your team to hit a room from more than one direction, or as a distraction at a crucial moment, Rainbow Six 3, at its best, can provide a facsimile of the same kind of satisfaction you feel during a good multiplayer co-op game.
The PS2 port's not bad, either. It's a bit darker and blurrier than the Xbox version, naturally, but in key areas, namely controls and framerate, it works out well enough. I'm not going to lie; this isn't some kind of miracle of programming. The Xbox version looks better and plays a bit more smoothly. That was to be expected, though, and effort has been made here to minimize the damage.
You're going to be hearing little in the way of a soundtrack in this game. This is a good thing, however. After all, it'd be much harder to pay attention to your surroundings, the whereabouts of a potential enemy, or the chatter of your teammates if there were heart-pounding music playing in the background. The soundtrack indeed is heart pounding and very fitting, but also subtle. Your main ambience for these missions will be the rattle of your guns and grenades, and the yells and cries of your enemies--or your teammates if you're not all that good. These, luckily, are all done very well, and do their best to immerse you in the world of Team Rainbow.
The game comes with two adequate tutorials (the training mission proper, and your first campaign mission) that get you used to the ins and outs of the game in record time. If you've never played this type of game before, you want to do these missions. You have no choice in the matter. Without these missions-and probably reading the instruction booklet as well-you will be hopelessly lost. Besides, it's worth it; once you acquaint yourself with the game's mechanics, you'll be commanding teams like a pro. So just do it and save yourself the headache.
Menus are accessed by holding certain buttons down, allowing you to get into the meat of the controls, which aren't complicated at all once implemented once or twice. Your objective on most missions is to infiltrate a compound and fulfill a specific duty (i.e. plant explosives, escape an area without being seen) or just do some damage. On the way, you may have to disarm bombs, exercise stealth, take your own hostages, or just do some good old-fashioned killing when things get too hairy. You will also have to direct your team to rally points, and, by way of simple button combinations/voice commands, order them to react differently to situations (such as what to do when you encounter a door, or to execute a plan of attack on your mark). This is as complicated as it gets, and it's not very much so.
The game runs in first-person view, but taking that view to heart will get you killed. The strategic element of Rainbow Six is that you're facing some crazy odds-you're outnumbered, almost always have the low ground as opposed to the enemy, and often, the enemy are much better marksmen than you are. In light of this, you'll have to depend on your team while at the same time backing them up, exercise stealth when at all possible, use your weapons and ammo wisely, and sometimes just know when to get the hell out of there. Should you decide to fight, however, you'll have some wonderful tools of the trade to take along; pistols, shotguns, grenades (of the frag, flash and smoke type), and rocket launchers all await you, among others.
The two big hooks of the Xbox version - the use of the headset and multiplayer - have both, thankfully, survived the transition to the PS2. You can still give your team orders via a headset in singleplayer, bypassing the button menu in favor of a truly immersive experience; your teammates' responses even come in through your earpiece, as opposed to your television speakers.
Multiplayer is much like the Xbox version: an intense experience that depends heavily upon cooperation, with the notable and bloody exception of Deathmatch mode. All fifteen levels of the singleplayer campaign - the fourteen starting levels, plus the tutorial - are available to play online, with teams comprised of up to four players. While you're not going to want to play the game with strangers, as one careless idiot with a fistful of frag grenades can blow the whole op in a fraction of a second, there's a lot of fun to be had in the cooperative experience.
Failing that, go shoot somebody else. Team Deathmatch is exactly what it sounds like, while Survival mode pits two groups against each other until one unit is totally wiped out. Both games are set up so a tightly-knit, coordinated band of operatives will generally wipe the floor with your average, frantically shooting group of wildly panicking shooter monkeys, barring the overuse of high explosives. Knowing your territory, moving slowly, and hitting really, really hard will get you further than all the circle-strafing in the world.
Rainbow Six 3, just as it was before, is primed to stake out the territory between first-person shooters and tactical simulation. While the singleplayer remains one of the most grueling and, eventually, satisfying experiences on console, the real fun's to be had when you take it online.
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