Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2 Review
The original Tom Clancys Rainbow Six Vegas was received very well by critics and loved by many next-gen gamers, and this success acted as a springboard to the sequel. Some may not like the idea that were returning to Las Vegas rather than infiltrating another area, but at the same time, the city of sin is such a perfect place for a massive battle against terrorists. We dont really have a problem with the repeated environment, and while we get something thats a bit too similar to the original, all the goodness is still here. The gameplay remains top-notch, Ubisoft improved the voice acting and sound effects, they ramped up the multiplayer with two new adversarial modes, and that same fluidity of control is still most impressive. This is one game that delivers on both the single-player and multiplayer fronts, which is always a bonus, and long-time Rainbow Six fans should come away satisfied once again.
The graphics are once again solid, although PS3 owners are going to have to suffer through some slowdown, which isnt exactly surprising. Its disappointing to see that Ubisoft didnt really address this issue, but even so, theres nothing inherently poor about these visuals. In fact, despite the technical glitches that pop up here and there, there isnt much to complain about. The intricate detail we see on our characters is excellent; the environmental and level design is very good, and the color and brightness is appropriately vivid throughout our adventure. The alteration of what we see due to night vision and thermal goggles is quite realistic, and while some of the backdrops tend to be somewhat repetitive and even bland, the overall quality level is quite high. These days, titles in the FPS genre can lead the pack in the graphics category, and even though RSV2 isnt part of the elite, it can still hold its own. Fans of the original wont find much of anything new in terms of visuals, but thats not exactly a bad thing. We do hope more of the environment will be destructible in the next Rainbow Six, though.
While the graphics are basically the same, the development team definitely worked to enhance the sound. The soundtrack isnt very special and not diverse enough, but the combat effects are better than ever and the voice acting has certainly improved. They still havent fixed the balance problems, though; the voices are continually drowned out by the effects, which is typical in games like this. But you can always turn down the music and effects volume, and its only a minor drawback. In general, the sound does a good job in adding to the ambiance of your adventure: the minute details make everything stand out, like simply getting off a rappel line, hearing bullets tear into wood, or experiencing the jarring impact of a nearby grenade. When something as simple as the shattering of glass when breaching a window makes you smile, you know the effects are something special. A sort of tenseness comes with this kind of sound. Your palms begin to sweat and your pulse quickens before entering a dangerous situation, all because everything sounds exactly as it should.
The gameplay works extremely well, as it did in the original. Theyve added a few new options, like being able to sprint with the L2 button, but for the most part, fans of the original will slide right into the ol routine. These games do such a great job of putting so many different options right at your fingertips (provided you can remember what each button does), and this is where the aforementioned fluidity comes in. You can gather cover by a wall when pressing and holding L1, you crouch with the L3 button and zoom in with the R3 button, selecting a grenade or optional rate of fire for your weapon is as easy as holding the Square button and using the directional pad, and all movement controls are both realistic and responsive. Assigning commands to your teammates is equally simple; aim at a certain spot and hit the X button, and theyll move there. Aim at the door and they will Move to Door. Pressing down on the d-pad will get them to either follow you or stand fast, and hitting the select button switches between tactical shooting and fire at will. Its both easy and effective.
Yes, effective. Your teammates wont be dying every two seconds due to terrible AI, as theyre more than capable of entering and clearing a room. Theyre not stupid enough to sit in the midst of enemy fire without seeking cover, theyll be fast and efficient in the jobs you assign, and for the most part, they act just as human allies should. Sometimes, during certain situations, they dont really move fast enough and can lag behind at times, but its rare and usually doesnt pose a major problem. They are valuable assets when approaching any given mission, and thats because Rainbow Six has never been about the individual. Granted, you can handle many tasks on your own and Ubisoft has streamlined the Vegas games to make them more FPS-like, but the emphasis remains on the team. For example, if you slide your Snake Cam under a door and find two enemies inside and another door to your right, you can aim at the other door and have your comrades move to the other entry. You can hit R2 and target each of the two enemies inside, assigning them as Priority 1 and Priority 2. Give the open and clear command, and watch how fast your boys get things done.
Its all about variety in the field. There are multiple weapons and different types of projectiles, and as is now standard in this franchise, your teammates can open and clear, flash and clear, or breach and clear, where the last two involve the use of a flash grenade and an explosive, respectively. If youre looking for something new, though, look no further than the ACES (Advanced Combat Enhancement and Specialization), which is just a fancy way of saying the experience your character gains can be used for extras and bonuses. Unfortunately, you dont get much in the way of rewards for all the ACES points you gain, even though it does translate across all gameplay modes. In other words, if you take down a sniper from your concealed position, thereby getting extra Assault points in the single-player mode, those points will be there for your character in a co-op game, too. Each ACES category has 20 levels each they must be unlocked and with each conquered level, you can earn certain goodies, like fancy new weapons or more XP. We just wish more would come of this addition; it just doesnt seem to affect the gameplay very much, and we soon lost interest in ACES as we advanced through the missions.
The story is another small problem. Even though we dont wish to be inundated with lengthy cut-scenes and tons of dialogue in a tactical FPS, we would at least like to understand the basic premise. We skipped nothing and we still didnt really understand why we were in Vegas in the first place, although the story begins to become clearer as time goes on. Were always big fans of being dropped right into the action, though, so we arent going to complain too bitterly; we just had to mention it. The gameplay overrides just about everything else, anyway, and were very happy that the single-player campaign while still too similar to the original delivers on most every possible level. The challenge on Normal difficulty is significant and forces you to play the game as if you were actually a part of an elite military team. The collision detection is fantastic, and we see the effects of getting shot vividly; we once shot a foe twice in the chest and he stumbled back into the wall and fell. As he did so, he left a large blood spatter on that wall. This is the type of thing that separates the average games from the truly good games.
Of course, we have to mention the multiplayer, which is always the bread and butter of this series. Multiplayer in RSV2 features 12 maps, two new adversarial modes, and the always-popular co-op, even though the latter is now only open to two players instead of four. And when we played, the second player felt very much removed from the action because only the lead player could issue commands. This is a definite step back but even so, the rest of the multiplayer when online works very, very well. Testing your skills against the best of the best will require a mastery of the controls plus a very trained and patient hand. Of course, youll probably want to work your way through the single-player campaign first, just because youll want to become familiar with the gameplay (unless youre a Vegas veteran already). Youll also want to gain a bunch of points for ACES, which as we said earlier, translates to your multiplayer character. The bottom line is that you can dump many hours into playing this game, and for Tom Clancy and Rainbow Six fans, itll likely be worth every penny.
Tom Clancys Rainbow Six Vegas 2 really is more of the same, but were not about to deduct points for that. Yeah, its a little too reminiscent of the first title, but its also more of the same quality. The game is almost endlessly entertaining as the pacing is better than expected, and while the technical issues are a tad irritating, theres almost nothing to get in the way of your fun. The realism and accuracy isnt perfect but its well-rounded and well-implemented, and the combination of the single-player and multiplayer modes makes for nearly limitless gameplay hours. The story isnt really compelling, we wish they had done a lot more with ACES, and some critics really harp on the fact that a sequel doesnt do enough to separate itself from the original. But while we understand that, we cant find it within ourselves to cast aspersions on Vegas 2, especially after playing other tactical shooters that really cant measure up. For your money, this is one of the better options out there right now, plain and simple.
6/5/2008 Ben Dutka