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Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3

Tom Clancy

The sounds of a heated firefight echo in the distance and two more members of your team are eliminated. Crouching near an unopened wooden door, you cast a quick glance over at Chauncy69, your last remaining teammate. “Okay, there are still five of them left out there, so we’re going to have to make our stand right here in this room. I’ve got this door covered if you want to go secure the other one, just be sure to watch that staircase behind us so we don’t get flanked.”

“No problem. I’ll have a little surprise waiting for them.” You watch as Chauncy pulls a remote charge from his belt and places it halfway between the door and base of the stairwell at the opposite side of the cramped room. Finishing, he slowly backs up until outside of the potential blast radius and waits.

“Alright, I’m going to peak out.” The aged wooden door creaks softly as you ease it open ever so slightly. Using the scope of your G3A3 assault rifle as a scouting tool, you scan the limited area visible through the crack. “Nothing. Where do you think they are?”

Chauncy keeps his eyes intently focused on the door by the remote charge. “They are probably in the balcony area of the building across the street, just waiting for us to come out.”

“Yeah, that’s what they did last– oh $#&%!” The wooden door in front of you explodes into a thousand pieces as a massive blast sends violent vibrations cascading through your body. Before you have a chance to collect yourself, a member of the opposing team materializes through the haze of debris and smoke, his assault rifle firing wildly. Without thinking, you whip your gun upwards and squeeze off a short three round burst. All three slugs punch into the side of his head, delivering death instantly and coating the far wall with a crimson sheen.

Even before the body hits the ground, the door on the opposite side of the room swings open and two more members of the opposing team dash through. Immediately audible is the soft clicking sound of Chauncy’s charge detonator, followed by another explosion that disintegrates the second door and sends both aggressors twisting through the air like oversized rag dolls.

“Get up the stairs!” you exclaim while trying desperately to see through the gray haze engulfing the entrance. Chauncy, his FAMAS G2 automatic rifle now readied, quickly makes his way towards the base of the stairs, but stops short as yet another member of the opposing team steps through the doorway. You and Chauncy both fire simultaneously, scoring multiple lethal hits to the chest and head, but your opponent manages to get off a few rounds directly into Chauncy’s face, dropping him to the floor in a heap.

As the last echoes of gunfire fade away and an eerie stillness descends upon the scene, you take a deep breath and scan the area outside the door for movement. Seeing nothing, you step over the body of your fallen comrade and head up the stairs. The groaning of the wooden steps under your weight seems deafeningly loud as you slowly creep to the top of the stairwell. Peering over the top step into the shadowy room above, you see a flash of movement, and then hear the telltale sound of a grenade clattering across wood.

You instinctually begin backpedaling down the stairs, but the flashbang grenade rolls off the top step and detonates directly in front of you. A feeling of excruciating pain washes over your brain like a tidal wave as the image of the grenade’s flash is imprinted onto your retinas, and the dull sound of gunfire can barely be heard over the intense ringing pounding in your ears. Still stumbling backwards down the staircase, you squeeze off multiple bursts blindly ahead of you, hoping against hope that one of your bullets will actual connect. As you reach the bottom of the stairs, stabbing, white-hot pain slices through your left shoulder and arm as bullets tear through flesh and sinew.

Lifeblood rapidly draining away, you aim upwards with the fleeting hope of getting one last shot in before embracing death. Then, amongst the white haze you glimpse the indistinct outline of a person and the flash of a muzzle. In one swift controlled motion, you aim, fire and shoot. The muffled sound of gunfire abruptly ceases and the hazy humanoid shape lurches forward and tumbles down the stairs. Your eyes recover just in time to see the last remaining member of the opposing team come to rest at your feet. You have won.

Welcome to Ubi Soft’s Rainbow Six III; a game that sets a new standard for all first-person tactical shooters and redefines the word “fun” when played online over Xbox Live. You have probably heard of Rainbow Six before, be it through one of the past iterations of the franchise or possibly even from the best-selling novel that spawned the original PC game. Either way, you must unlearn what you have learned, as this version of the game takes the series to new levels of quality when it comes to gameplay depth, presentation and realism.

The Rainbow Six series has always featured Team Rainbow, a highly skilled group of counter-terrorist agents specializing in cleaning up especially sticky hostage situations and other potentially disastrous crises. In Rainbow Six III (henceforth – R63) the storyline has terrorists trying to obstruct oil sales to the US, and the game’s 14 missions will take you across the globe to a wide assortment of locations such as Switzerland, Venezuela, the Dutch Caribbean and more. The plot’s web of international intrigue is exactly what you would expect from a Tom Clancy game and will undoubtedly keep you interested through the entire length of the single player campaign.

So if the storyline is typical Clancy, what propels R63 above all the past iterations of the franchise? Well first off, the gameplay is now heavy on action and light on pre-mission planning. Before all you strategy lovers out there throw up your hands in disgust, hear me out. The actual gameplay is still dripping with all the in-game strategy you would come to expect from a Rainbow Six title. You still take control of a small group of operatives and issue commands like “hold,” “breach door,” “clear room,” “go on Zulu” and more on the fly. The only difference is, now you just pick out equipment and go straight to insertion. The pre-mission planning did have its benefits, but it was far too cumbersome and time consuming to truly be considered a worthwhile feature. Another much appreciated new change is now if one of your team members dies during the campaign mode, they will be available for use in subsequent missions as long as the current stage is successfully completed. It’s amazing how much more refined the gameplay feels just from the tweaking of these few areas of the game.

Like I just mentioned, the use of in-game strategy is still very important if you want to have success during the mission portions of the game. Ubi Soft has even incorporated multiple easy-to-use ways of issuing commands to teammates on the fly during gameplay. Simply move your targeting reticule over the item or area you want the command to be for, then hold down the A button to bring up a quick menu. Select the option you want with the D-pad and, viola, the command is issued. Those lucky gamers who own Xbox Live headsets have an even better way to accomplish the same thing. With your headset plugged in, just aim the reticule over the item you want your team to interact with and say the command into the mic. The game recognizes over 90 different voice commands, from simple statements like “defuse bomb,” to longer orders like “open, flash and clear on Zulu,” and if you speak loudly and clearly the game will correctly interpret your command 99.9% of the time. The way R63 handles voice commands through the headset can almost be called revolutionary, because it is so seamlessly integrated into the game. Another cool feature of the headset is you can have the radio transmissions from squad members and HQ channel through the earpiece, and environmental sound effects come through your TV or stereo.

Despite the merits of the previously mentioned gameplay improvements, by far the best new addition to R63 is the enhanced gameplay responsiveness. In past iterations of the series, your character moved with all the grace and mobility of a sea cucumber. Now, simple maneuvers like strafing backwards and firing accurately are no longer painful chores and the pace of the action has subsequently been given a swift kick in the arse. The game still maintains the one shot lethality and shrinking target reticule during movement that has been a staple of the series (and key to the game’s unique appeal as a realistic shooter), but the enhanced responsiveness propels R63 into the upper echelon of first person titles currently available on the Xbox system.

So what happens when you take a great playing and highly realistic first person shooter and add lag-free online play via Xbox Live? In short, pure gaming bliss is nearly achieved. Games like Unreal Championship and Return to Castle Wolfenstein have their own unique appeal, but nothing beats creeping carefully around knowing that one bullet to the head means instant death. This is especially poignant in Survival and Team Survival (in the intro I detail a typical round of Team Survival), because dying means sitting out until the next round starts. It’s amazing how fast strangers will formulate strategies during Team Survival; acting as a coherent, organized group is the only way to win consistently. Another game type, known as Sharpshooter, allows players to respawn after death in the same round, but it seems much too out of place with R63’s decidedly realistic gameplay.

If the great adversarial modes weren’t enough, missions from the single player campaign can be played cooperatively with up to three friends online. Playing co-op is just as engrossing as taking part of a Survival or Team Survival match, but for entirely different reasons. When playing missions you get to deal with various objectives together, such as rescuing hostages, diffusing bombs and locating important mission-related items. It’s an absolute blast working as a team, setting breaching charges and clearing rooms with your online buddies. The wide variety of mission objectives and locations makes each one a unique experience worth playing through again and again. Even after you have played the missions to death, you can partake in co-op Terrorist Hunt – a game mode where the bad guys are randomly distributed throughout the large mission maps. Because of the terrorists’ random placement and superb AI, this mode can provide nearly infinite lasting appeal when set to the hardest difficulty level. Unfortunately, I have some bad news for those gamers who don’t have Xbox Live: Ubi Soft chose not to include any split screen multiplayer options in the game. The ability to link up multiple Xbox consoles is there, but Xbox Live is definitely a must if you want to experience R63 to the fullest.

If a movie analogy can be used to describe the game’s visual presentation, then all previous releases in the Rainbow Six series have been handled by low budget independent filmmakers, while R63 has been supervised by a megastar director like Steven Spielberg or James Cameron. Everything from the extremely well designed environments to the much improved rag doll physics for deaths give the game a supreme level of realism past iterations in the series never quite achieved. Just a few of the many marvelous little graphical touches include: impressive effects for tear gas and flash bang grenades, incredible looking night and thermal vision, hanging objects like chains, flaps and cloth that react accurately when touched, and gorgeous reflective texturing for plastic and glass. And did you ever wish you could actually see your gun in Ghost Recon or past Rainbow Six titles? Well Ubi Soft has finally addressed this issue by adding some fantastic looking weapon models to R63. They way they reflect the light and undergo dynamic self-shadowing as you move through the game’s environments is amazing to watch.

Probably the best new graphical addition to R63 is the inclusion of the same spiffy lighting techniques used in Ubi Soft’s other great Xbox game, Splinter Cell. Walking in front of light sources will cast perfectly modeled shadows across the environment, a feature that can be very handy for locating terrorists before you can actually see them. The superb shadowing combined with the great variety of textures make R63 a gorgeous game – when viewed from afar that is, because as soon as you get right up to a wall, crate, or any other non-reflective object, the texture resolution goes right out the window and everything looks rather blurry. Another slight flaw in the game’s presentation is the stiffness of the character animations, but neither of these issues manage to take much away from the overall excellence of R63’s visuals.

The audio quality in the game is even more impressive than the visuals. Weapons such as the .50 caliber sniper rifle, Desert Eagle and AK-47 have unique gunshots that can be distinguished just by sound alone, which can actually be beneficial during Live play when trying to determine how to take out a certain opponent. Depending on the location of the level you are playing, inspired use of atmospheric sound for noises such as ship foghorns, humming machinery, dripping water and aircraft flying overhead completely immerses you into the current situation. Routine sounds like gunshots, reloading and the like even echo when you are inside larger areas like warehouses. The music in the game is a nice mixture Spanish sounding guitar ballads and triumphant score that fits the game’s theme nicely, but unfortunately repetition is an issue because the number of songs is fairly limited.

The name Rainbow Six has always been synonymous with high quality, tactical shooting action, but R63 brings the series to an entirely new level of excellence. If you are a current subscriber to Xbox Live, then consider this an absolute must have because it is one of the most entertaining online games to be released in recent memory. However, those without Live should be wary, as a huge portion of the game’s appeal comes from its online gameplay options. If Ubi Soft would have managed to include some split screen multiplayer options and objective-based adversarial modes for online, I probably would have bumped the overall score up to a 10 – this game really is that good. So what are you waiting for? Go grab a copy of R63 and look for me on Xbox Live. Just pray I’m on your team.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in May 2003. Get in touch on Twitter @Joshua_Luke.

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