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Rainbow Six Vegas

Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal


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PC Review - 'Rainbow Six Vegas'

by Lee Berlik on Jan. 20, 2007 @ 1:29 a.m. PST

Rainbow operatives take to the chaotic streets of Las Vegas as an escalating terrorist siege in “Sin City” threatens to take world terrorism to new, uncontrollable heights. The future of global security hangs in the balance as you battle to defend classic Vegas locations and environments like Fremont Street, the Strip, and casinos.

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: December 15, 2006

I've made a momentous decision: I'm going to hold onto my copy of Rainbow Six: Vegas until I buy a whole new P.C. (which probably won't be for one or two years) and actually play it again on whatever next-generation, not-yet-in-existence, super system I happen to acquire in the future. Personally, I never replay games. If you read through my past reviews, you won't find me commenting on a game's "replay value." Why? Because for me, once has always been enough, and replay value has always been zero. Until now.

I'm a sucker for beautiful graphics, and the visuals in Rainbow Six: Vegas are drool-inducing. The problem is, you need a monster of a machine to run the game smoothly when all of the eye candy is turned to maximum settings. By today's standards — cue the violins — my machine is, sadly, not the monster it once was. As a result, I was forced to turn down several of the video settings in order to get acceptable frame rates while running the game at my monitor's native resolution. Thankfully, my Radeon X1900 XTX had just enough juice to power the optional high-dynamic-range lighting, which makes an enormous difference in color quality.

Unlike the recently reviewed Splinter Cell: Double Agent, another infamous resource hog, the graphics in Rainbow Six: Vegas are worth an upgrade. I played through the first level at maximum settings and got a taste of what those with powerful computers have the privilege to enjoy. Although the game displayed a mere 10 frames per second, which made maneuvering in gunfights extremely frustrating, I had the opportunity to soak in the surrounding environment during a few quiet, enemy-free moments, and at maximum resolution and detail settings, the scenery was just breathtaking.

One day, I shall play this game (again) at those settings. I will, because the gameplay is every bit as inspiring as the visuals. Rainbow Six: Vegas is smart, sophisticated, and just plain fun.

For those of you who care about the story, you play the role of Logan Keller, leader of a three-man counterterrorist squad. After completing a mission in a dusty Mexican town, you fly to Las Vegas to confront a group of terrorists who have basically seized control of the city. Why have the terrorists taken over the casinos? I'm not sure. Is the story compelling? No. Is it nevertheless fun to kill all of the terrorists? More than ever.

Rainbow Six: Vegas is similar in many respects to the Splinter Cell series. You are equipped with an assortment of high-tech gadgets and weapons, you spend a lot of time tiptoeing around trying not to attract attention, and you have the ability to execute a number of smooth moves, like inverting to an upside-down position on your belayed rope so you can dispatch enemies using your Desert Eagle with your free hand.

Unlike Splinter Cell, however, your goal is not to remain in the shadows. Stealth tactics in Vegas are merely a means to an end — namely, to get a good jump start on what you know will soon turn into a vicious, large-scale gun battle. It helps to take out as many as you can before your presence is detected.

What sets apart this title from the throng of first-person shooters are the tactical options available to you and the two squad-mates who accompany you on missions and follow your orders. Remember 2003's excellent Freedom Fighters? Having a couple of skilled and obedient A.I. teammates follow me around each level reminded me of that game.

Squad-based games like these are different because you do not play the part of an indestructible Rambo who can cruise through each level while easily defeating any army of enemies in his way, no matter how multitudinous. In Rainbow Six: Vegas, the enemies — brace yourself — can kill you! The A.I. terrorists will kill you over and over again, too, until you learn that you can't just run into a room by yourself, guns blazing, and expect to survive. You need tactics. Think you can avoid enemy fire by strafing left and right and "bunny hopping" up and down? Think again.

Instead of your usual run-and-gun strategy, consider this scenario: First, you use your snake cam to look under the main door to the entrance of the blackjack room and spot two heavily armed terrorists interrogating a hostage. You "tag" each of them, which identifies them to your squad as priorities. You order your squad to stack up at the door and await further orders, while you circle around to a side door. When everybody is in position, you give the order to crack open the main door and toss in a flashbang. Once they do, the three of you storm in from different angles, blast the terrorists while they are blinded (taking down the high-priority targets first), and rescue the hostages.

Granted, there aren't a lot of strategic options beyond "flash and clear," "smoke and clear," and entering a room from different angles, but the successful execution of a well-laid plan is enormously gratifying nonetheless.

Another combat dynamic Vegas handles exceedingly well is the player's (and the squad's) use of cover. You can duck behind just about everything. When you do, the camera switches seamlessly into a third-person perspective that allows you to more easily view the "battlefield" without putting you in harm's way. The real beauty lies in all of the things you can do while crouched behind cover.

Sure, you can peer around the corner to get a better view. When you do, the screen doesn't just tilt sideways as it does in so many other games that allow the player to "lean." Instead, the camera transitions back to a first-person view (again, seamlessly and intuitively) in a manner that feels realistic and natural. If the enemy is close, you can opt to fire your weapon from an outstretched arm, keeping your head and body safely behind cover. You can even rise, turn, and fire a round over the top of whatever it is you're hiding behind, then duck back behind cover. Throughout this game, the player retains incredible freedom of movement, resulting in an intense, wholly immersive experience.

The guns are fantastic. You'll see many of the same weapons you'd find in Battlefield 2, but here they feel heavier and seem to carry more punch. The popular AK47 is as much fun to shoot as in any other shooter I have played, and you can even customize it with a laser scope.

Best of all, you don't have to play 100 hours to unlock the good stuff. All of the weapons and gadgets are available to you from the beginning, and it's up to you to decide the most effective combination of weaponry and gadgets to address a given situation. You'll usually find supply boxes immediately before entering a dangerous area.

The shootouts themselves are spectacular. Usually set inside a casino or outside on a Las Vegas street, the game provides a real action-movie feel (think "Heat") and allows you to tear up the environment in much the same way as was possible in F.E.A.R.. In contrast to that game, however, in which you were usually just kicking up dust and shreds of paper, there seems to be a lot more to break in Vegas. Glass decorations shatter. Coin machines break open and their contents spill to the floor. The door of a car being used for cover will fall off if hit with too many bullets.

The A.I. terrorists are not super-smart. Most of you, however, will be thankful for this. I can think of one scene when four or five terrorists walked straight into my shotgun's line of fire, despite presumably having witnessed the demise of the person walking three feet in front of them. Most of the time, however, the A.I. behaves less like lemmings and more like a coordinated assault unit. They will, for example, smash through a glass skylight and come rappelling down a rope into a room, where they will quickly find cover and toss a couple of grenades your way. If you're not ready for it, it will usually mean your demise.

The A.I. will also behave intelligently when behind cover. They will act much in the same way as you will, shooting not just by leaning around corners but also by rising and shooting above cover and, where necessary, by shooting blindly with an outstretched arm. I played the game on the "normal" difficulty setting, and it was plenty challenging for my tastes.

Use of audio is good but not as impressive as the aforementioned aspects of the game. I enjoyed the sound of reloading the various weapons, the dialogue of the talented voice actors, and the little touches like the sound of reloading a magazine and of coins dropping to the floor when a bullet pierces a slot machine.

Rainbow Six: Vegas includes a decent multiplayer component as well. While there are several gameplay modes and interesting maps, multiplayer suffers mostly from a lack of a strong player base. Populated servers were few and far between, and the populated servers seemed to have too many clueless people playing on them. I also got frustrated having to wait in "spectate" mode for games to end before I could join. The backbone of a good multiplayer game seems to be here, but it just hasn't taken off yet in terms of popularity. Only time will tell if it develops a devoted player base.

Many of you will be distressed to hear that Rainbow Six: Vegas, despite carrying a $50 price tag, contains plenty of in-game advertising. On the bright side, at least one ad you'll encounter features the taut abdomen muscles of a particularly shapely spokesperson for Axe deodorant. Perhaps we can bring ourselves to forgive judicious use of advertising such as this.

Rainbow Six: Vegas came to the market somewhat under the radar. I haven't seen it on any of the "2007 most anticipated" lists, and it hasn't generated a lot of hype, so allow me to generate some: It rocks! If you have the computing muscle to run this game in all its glory, Vegas is a must-buy. Even if you don't have a top-of-the-line gaming rig, this is a superb title that is so good (even on medium detail settings) that you just might postpone that eBay sale so that you can play it through a second time.

Score: 9.2/10

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