STAFF REVIEW of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas (Xbox 360)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006.
by neurro

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas Box art Tactical first-person shooters are evolving, as evidenced with the recent Gears of War and now Rainbow Six Vegas. Both of these titles see very similar improvements on the genre. As with Gears of War, a piece of cover is your safeguard from death. Walls, tables, slot machines, generators, and many other assorted objects provide you with the protection you need from the rain of bullets coming your way before you pop out and shoot down your enemies. If the pressure is too strong you can lean your gun around the corner and offer a very inaccurate blind fire that forces them behind cover, giving you the window of opportunity to shift position or use your available equipment to end the threat. The two titles differ in a strong way, where Gears of War presents a more arcade style of this pop-and-gun game play, Vegas offers its authentic, ever present threat of dying quickly from a handful of bullets. This variance does well to separate the two games so you?ll have a new experience with either one.

Harnessing the power of the new Unreal engine, the graphical presentation of the game certainly doesn?t disappoint. The amount of detail into everything is impressive, and is comparable to the earlier Ghost Recon game. Where Vegas edges ahead is the first-world settings that Ghost Recon was lacking, offering a more vibrant experience. The visuals look good on standard definition televisions, but of course reach their potential on HDTV variants, and either way do a good job bringing Los Vegas alive. Character models are proportionate and nearly photo-realistic, and you can see all the handy gadgets that can be used in detail.

Sound is well done and aids the visuals in making a thoroughly atmospheric adventure. The terrorists offer their choice profanities and actually communicate with one another, so if you listen you can pick up that a grenade is about to be hurled in your direction or that one of them is flanking. The ambient quality of the sound is steadfast through every map and environment, and no one area of the game falters more than others. Combine these sensory experiences and you have a very lifelike game that?s on par with other great games of the year.

The campaign follows Logan Keller, one of Rainbow?s elite soldiers, who is accompanied by two others to make a lethal team of three. The three set about the usual business: save the day, rescue a few hostages, disarm a couple bombs and go home the victors. The single player experience isn?t anything that hasn?t been seen before, and on the whole is the major disappointment of the game. Many plot elements and twists felt like they were stripped right from the earlier games and don?t offer anything fresh. The campaign also isn?t a lengthy one and can be beaten in as little as five or so hours.

Artificial intelligence has been revamped and is much better than the earlier games. You actually don?t feel like you have to baby sit your partners, and path-finding in general is hardly an issue anymore. Commands are simple and varied, allowing you to direct your squad to take position behind cover, set up at a door, or assault a group of terrorists. Once at a door, you can use your snake cam to look beneath the door and survey the adjoining room, where you can then select targets to be taken down in order and eventually issue an entry command. You can flash the room and clear it, frag the room, smoke the room, or simply make a clearing entry. The resulting effects of this are done smoothly and with a good bit of intelligence, so you can actually rely on your team to get things done. These elements among others allowed squad movement to be cohesive and impressive, and that?s a breath of fresh air.

Vegas distances further from its predecessors by giving you the sensation that you?re actually an elite commando. The armor and weapon selection is varied enough to allow you to make any sort of character you want, be it of the agile or armored variety. Many of the gadgets are also very useful and seem to have taken a page from the Splinter Cell series. The intensity created by the wonderful graphical and sound effects adds to all this as well, leaving a sense of impending doom as you work to use all your available resources to best effect.

The multiplayer portion of the game is where this title really shines. Using xbox live, you can join thousands of others in co-op or adversarial mode. Co-op offers a partnership through the story or in a terrorist hunt which uses the multiplayer maps and dots them with computer enemies. The online story feature doesn?t provide you with the actual story, there are no cut scenes or voice-overs, and it feels like nothing more than a Terrorist Hunt with a couple new maps. Adversarial mode offers a lot of game variety; you can experience the ?authentic? Rainbow Six by playing in a survival or team survival mode, where you only have one life, or you can take part in things such as a ?sharpshooter? match that tallies kills in a given time to determine the victor or a ?retrieval? mode that resembles your famous capture-the-flag match, both of which allow respawning. Rounding off the large choice of gaming is ?Attack and Defend? which pits an assaulting and defending team against one another, the object for the assaulters being to secure a package being defended by the other team and bring it to their spawn. The assortment of choices presented here is wonderful and give you a variety while spending time with Vegas.

Supplementing all this is the ability to create your own distinct online personality via a character creation. You can alter the facial aspect of your character, which is detailed enough to guarantee enough difference between people. You can also change clothing and equipment, more of which is unlocked the further you progress in rank. Gaining rank is the simple process of competing in online games and earning experience. Of note is that you don?t need to play in ranked matches to earn experience, so you can feel free to play with buddies and still progress. This could lead to problems with exploiting the system to gain fast experience, and as of this writing it is already being done. Beyond a couple good weapons and equipment, rank is nothing more than a community experience so people exploiting this isn?t that much of an issue. If you happen to have an Xbox Vision Cam, the game also allows you to take pictures of yourself and graph them onto a model that can be seen by everyone else. The accuracy of this is amazing and a bit startling, and also comes with an achievement.

Achievements are gained from both single player and multiplayer play, with the majority of them residing in the latter. Some are harder to gain than others, as has been typical of most games.

Rainbow Six Vegas is a mixed bag, on one hand it offers intense combat, mechanics, and a superb online system, while on the other the single player campaign revisits many of the plot twists and story that you?ve seen before in the franchise. It all comes down to what you?re looking for in a game. Vegas is easily recommendable to those looking for online play, but not so much for simply the single player experience.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.8 / 10
Visuals: 9.2 / 10
Sound: 8.6 / 10


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