|Rainbow Six (c) Red Storm Entertainment|
'Command, we have a hostage situation - send in Rainbow team.' Those are words that Command would hate to hear most - and which would definitely NOT make someone's day - on the other hand, those words are what brings you Rainbow 6, the all-new first-person 3D shooter for thinking people. What does that mean? For one, that means that you need to plan attacks before you storm in, as one shot takes you out, like in real life - not like those lame rockets in Quake of which you could eat one and still be alive to grab a medikit powerup, recover fully, and fight on. But in any case, this is a bit rushed - so read on for more info.
This is the second game of this style, the first being the much-touted Spec Ops. As a matter of fact... this is actually the THIRD game like that, the first one being Hostages, made by Infogrames back in 1990 or so (thanks to all those who sent me info on the company). The point of the game is, given a hostage situation, to free as many hostages as you can (read: usually all) with as little casualties as possible, both on the civilian and on the Rainbow 6 team side (but, mind you, not on the terrorist side - you can have a blastfest at those). This is achieved through VERY extensive mission briefings, and, what is very unique and appealing about this game, through very concise and detailed planning of every mission. Concise in this case means you do everything - pick the team members, pick the weapons, equipment, and, which is very cool, you actually plan out the paths for your teams to follow as they infiltrate the enemy installation. You can, of course, let the computer use a pre-defined mission profile - but it's definitely a LOT more fun doing it manually. For instance, in one of the missions you have to infiltrate an oil rig captured by some insane environmentalists who threaten to blow it up if their demands are not met. The key to a swift attack here is stealth - so you would pick a team that is dressed in black camouflage (of which you have many choices - urban, desert, green, black, etc., for different environments), as well as weapons with silencers. In fact, I haven't tried doing the same mission with weapons without silencers - it would be interesting to know if the game plan changes if the terrorists KNOW they're being killed off one by one.
But not only do you plan out the missions, you also take the role of one of the teams as the action begins. If you notice, for example, that Advance mode isn't working out too well during a mission, you can change orders for any of your teams and switch them to anything you like. Moreover, if you notice a team's between a rock and a hard place, you can hop into the eyes of the team leader (a Guardian Angel type of thing ;)) and take on the action yourself.
Fighting ain't done with bare hands, though (which, actually, would be kind of neat - but anyway.) Your arsenal includes Heckler & Koch submachine guns, as well as Beretta and H&K handguns. However, no other brands of weapons are available, except for the Colt - so if you want a Skorpion or a Browning - forget it. In any case, your weapons include: the Colt M16A2, three variations of the all-popular MP5 (with and without a silencer and a short-barrel one), and a modified M16, which is named the CAR-15, as well as an everpresent 12 gauge shotgun, the Benelli M1. You also have the Beretta 9mm with/without a silencer and a H&K .40 caliber/.45 caliber handguns, both in the silencer and no-silencer versions. However, there's no sniper rifle in the game, which would definitely help in some missions... so you're stuck using a Beretta or an M16 for those.
Aside from weapons, you have other objects to inflict mayhem and destruction upon the filthy scum of the terrorist world. Those include frag grenades (which is the basic infantry grenade - no explanation needed), flashbangs (which emit a bright flash of light and confuse the enemy for a split second, which is not much but just enough to have him eat a 5.56mm round). You can also equip yourself with extra clips for your weapons, or a very nifty device - the heartbeat sensor, which, in theory, can sense a human heartbeat up to a good number of feet away, even across walls. Why in theory? 'Cause I couldn't figure out how it worked in practice... but what can you do. Incidentally, a stun grenade would be sort of neat - but I suppose the Flashbang does a decent enough job.
However, the game also has its defects. For one, it often has an unfinished feel - for example when you come across spelling mistakes. Spelling mistakes are understandable in a game that's been translated from an original, non-English version (such as FF7 - but it was actually surprisingly correct, albeit a bit un-English sometimes). Spelling mistakes in a game affiliated with the top boulevard literature writer in America, Tom Clancy, are rather unexpected, and unacceptable, however. Unless it's a regional dialect, last time I checked 'Australian' was either written as 'Australian' or, worst-case, 'Aussie'. This is the first time, however, I saw it being spelled as 'Austrailian'. Same with '12-gauge': the game firmly believes it's '12-guage'. And other things like that. Not to mention some other bugs, such as some clipping problems (i.e. when you open a door and there's someone behind it - sometimes you see part of an arm through a halfway opened door). And, since I'm on the complaint bandwagon, why is that when I shoot someone there's blood on his shirt sometimes, but not on the wall he was standing right next to? Bullet theory (and, well, practice) states that if you shoot someone in the head, the entry hole is significantly smaller compared to the exit hole - so where's the blood? Show me da blood! Then again, maybe the developer (Red Storm) wanted to keep gore to a minimum... then again, there's a Gore setting in the menu, which is set to 'On', so there SHOULD be some extra gore... anyway.
Some graphic complaints: plants, for instance, are not real 3D objects - they're sprites. Yes, that word that we shouldn't hear too often anymore :). And, as Rebellion mentions it, character graphics are somewhat blocky. In general, though, graphics are fairly decent, and, given the wide choice of games of this genre, that is, the lack of one, they're arguable the best ones of this category.
The AI in the game is fairly decent - so, for instance, when you tell your teams to execute a sequence, they don't miserably and pathetically bomb the operation 'cause the computer can't figure out how to go around a column in the middle of a hall done for a Wagner opera. However, I find the members of the team you control stay MUCH too close to the leader (i.e. the person you control) - which can be anywhere from a nuisance to downright dangerous. Example? If you see a terrorist in a hallway, exchange fire, then dodge _forward_ for cover, your teammate tends to get shot, since he follows you across the open-fire zone. Not cool. Also, if you edge into a room, you tend to have to PUSH your teammate out of it to get out, as he seems to like getting stuck in doorways... and, if you got 3 team members and you're at a dead end of a narrow hallway... then you're VERY screwed.
Last issue to mention is control. You have 3 modes of displacing yourself, those being stealth move, regular walk and run. You can turn and strafe, as well - however, once you play it for a bit you might find that the controls are a slight bit sluggish - perhaps here they should've ripped the Quake controls, after all. Also a tad annoying is the placement - although you can remap them easily, it would still be much nicer to have the A,S,D,W movement controls along with the arrow keys.
All said, however, this game is definitely one of the best to come out in the past while, and given the utter lack of innovation in this particular area of gaming, any new blood is appreciated. And, even though I REALLY don't like Tom Clancy's novels (I hate boulevard literature) and Red Storm is mostly known for quite average titles (Politika, anyone?), Rainbow 6 most definitely stands out. (Maybe because there ain't much from what to stand out? Einstein's theory of relativity's at work here :)). Definitely worth the gaming buck.
Highs: Original concept, advanced planning options, extensive briefings, decent graphics, arsenal fairly varied
Lows: some graphic problems, some spelling problems, no sniper rifle and some AI glitches
Overall: definitely a winner, despite the glitches. Pick it up on short notice, or I'll blow your house up. Down I mean. You get the idea.
Total Score: 89%
Spec Ops seemed to be the "new" age of military gaming, which brought the player into a 3D world of task force hit-and-run and skirmish tactics. It looked spectacular, but it had holes in strategy, was pretty straight-forward, and was buggy. Rainbow Six continues this new developing genre of 3D tactical fighting and moves it to a deeper, more complex level. RB6 takes a first person view instead of the third person view of Spec Ops (although you CAN change to a third person view, I found it somewhat hard to control). The strategy is high and the gameplay is strong.
The graphics are superbly detailed and some levels are full of color (level 5 is beautifully done). They are, however, somewhat blocky. The engine looks similar to the one used for Jedi Knight, so they're not bad, just not as good as what we've currently seen coming out. It supports Direct3D and Software. I tried both and the software looks nice but it's a HOG, my framerate slowed to barely anything when I tried to run it in 800x600. It moves along nicely with the D3D at 800x600 and it supports 1024x768 but my graphics card couldn't handle it. The levels are usually pretty big and well-detailed. Level 3 is a highly detailed oil rig. I spent some time just wandering around in it and I found a break room with some arcade machines and some PC's, next to a kitchen that had a microwave, coffee machine, and a refrigerator. These boys aren't your typical Quake designers - they obviously took a lot of pride in going the extra mile and putting extra detail on everything. Your units have distinguishable features, though I didn't really spend too much time trying to figure out who was who.
Sound is pretty well done. It's realistic enough. Silencers are definitely silenced, you hear a click and watch the baddie fall down. Ambient sounds are pretty good though there aren't a real lot of them. My favorite part was in the oil rig, when a terrorist was walking on the catwalks above me and I could hear his footsteps clanking on the metal (before I capped him). The units will acknowledge your orders and it really does feel like you're communicating with your teams.
The background is about a secret anti-terrorist organization called Rainbow Six which is established to counteract terrorist movements across the globe. It's jointly funded by the UN and run from a military base in the UK. You are assigned a squad of men who are specialized in one of the following: assault, demolitions, recon, or electronics. Assault are your main units for combating the terrorists while the others are used for support. The roster and units are similar to the setup used in Swat 2. Each member has stats that indicate skills such as stamina, strength, combat skills, and gun mastery. You will get new recruits time to time throughout the game, depending on how well you do in a mission.
One thing that sets Rainbow Six apart from the rest of the flock is planning. It allows you to plan out your missions BEFORE you even get to start them. You plan out where you want your teams to go and what to do when they get to a certain point. It's very detailed. The planning map shows all levels of a given mission and where known terrorists and project goals are. You just need to plot how to get the job done, hopefully with the fewest amount of casualties. Unfortunately, this is very REAL, so you're going to lose guys, but skill and planning will cut down on your losses. It does give you spare guys if some get killed but you don't want to make a habit of mowing down the terrorists at a loss of more than a couple of your units.
The gameplay is very realistic. Getting shot hurts, lemme tell ya. And where you get shot makes a difference. You do have body armor that limits damage but a good head shot will usually kill you. Getting shot in the leg however, usually just wounds you, but enough shots and you're either dead or incapacitated for the remainder of the mission. When you take out a hostage or one of your guys go down, you bleed from wherever you were shot. I thought that was a pretty nice effect, though a little gruesome. I said before, this game is very realistic. It might be frustrating at first when you're getting killed right off the bat, but once you realize it's not such a smart idea to just go charging into that room you'll learn better.
Each of your units can be equipped in many ways. There's three different types of body armor, light, medium, and heavy. Obviously heavier is better against bullets but it slows you down. Based on the mission, the camouflage types change. There's about 8 or so different patterns, from jungle camo to urban grey. You also get a choice of weaponry to use. These include the MP5, the M-16, and a shotgun. Sorry to all you wannabe snipers, there's no sniper rifle. (Each weapon DOES have zoom so I don't really see what everyone's complaining about). You also have a choice of three handguns with or without a silencer. Rounding out your armaments are flashbangs, frag grenades, door charges, and demo and electronics kits.
Multiplayer is well done. It's very stable, I was downloading files from the Web on my MODEM CONNECTION and I was still able to play. Let's see another game do that. The load times are sort of high though since, most of the game is being run locally and the syncronization takes a little time to work out. Multiplayer is either cooperative, free-for-all, or teamplay. Coop places the players against the computer running the missions in the game. Teamplay can be set up in quite a few ways like last team standing, stronghold (one team gets the base the other has to get in), free-the-hostage (CTF), or gauntlet (one team has to make it through a course while the other one has to stop them). It's probably best to have someone on a decent connection hosting, but people with modems will still be able to play with little, if any, lag.
This game was one of the "Best of Show" games at E3, so if that itself is not a good enough reason to check it out, I don't know what is. It's detailed, intelligent, and a great attempt to create a small arms tactical strategy. It builds upon a relatively new genre and combines real-time combat with high level strategy. This is one of the first hits of the fall so go get it and check it out. It seems to have a few minor bugs, but they're easy to overlook and could easily be patched.
Total Score: 90%