Rainbow Six Vegas – not a mess, for once

Anyone who’s ever heard me rant about Ghost Recon will know that I hated how Ubisoft “actionfied” the Red Storm tactical shooters. Ghost Recon is still in the shoot-em-up stage – I don’t know about the X360 version, but the PC version of Advanced Warfighter was horrid (though GRAW2 came out just recently promising more focus on tactics).

Rainbow Six gave its (supposed) last hurrah back during Raven Shield – ever since that, I don’t think there’s been a decent Rainbow Six shooter. Until now, that is.

I’ll admit, Vegas is very much about slick gunplay, but it’s extremely well-done, and works very well. The cover system in particular is astounding – while it’s not the first game to have a player-cover system (Metal Gear Solid and kill.switch did that years ago) I cannot emphasize how well implemented it is.

It is also not the first to integrate first- and third-person action to this degree (Gears of War?) but again, I’m a PC gamer, so that doesn’t matter. What matters is that gunfights in Vegas are absolutely stellar. It’s been years since a firefight in-game gave me that much tension and enjoyment – running from cover to cover, leaning around every corner, the game seamlessly switching between first- and third-person camera without a prompt. I think the amount of raving I’m doing right now is indicative of how fun and polished this game is.

In terms of presentation, being from Ubisoft, it’s of course very slick. The HUD is fairly compact, tells you what you need to know, and looks cool doing it. If you’ve played Chaos Theory, then expect a triple dose of graphical eyecandy.

I don’t believe I’ve actually talked about the gameplay at all yet – so I’ll start now. It’s the same dealie as usual since the Ubi takeover – you’re a heroic squad leader-type who leads a l337 kr3w of Rainbows, pros taking down bad guys and thwarting the generic bastard terrorists. As I mentioned, the camera defaults at first-person, but will switch when you’re using the cover system, or performing an action that would look cool in third-person (ie. rappelling down a building). If you’ve played Splinter Cell, expect that kind of spy-like dazzle.

You can carry several weapons (sidearm, two primaries, explosives, etc.) and a number of attachments and extensions can be added to them (ie. reflex sights, extended magazine, laser aimpoint). In a smart move, sidearms have unlimited ammunition, and as everyone knows, pistols look awesome in action (I think by now, I’ve abandoned all the old R6 concepts). Attachments can be turned on/off or attached/detached via a holographic menu that’s easy to access.

You have extensive control over your team, but one thing that I found odd was how you can’t give them waypoints on the tactical map proper – instead you do it the old-fashioned way (look there, click). I would’ve liked some more precise controls (ie. what weapons they carry with what attachments, sending only one to go scouting instead of both, etc.) but in general, it works well. Your teammates themselves are competent and can hit targets fine, so long as you put them in the right places.

Speaking of which, the enemy AI is pretty solid, too. They will flank, move around from cover to cover a lot, and put down a lot of accurate fire, not to mention that they can also use grenades, including flashbangs and smokes.

I don’t think I need to say any more about the cover system, except to reinforce that it really is very well done. If this is the same treatment that Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway is getting, I might just die from joy.


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