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Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas

Tom Clancy

Linking up with Tom Clancy by purchasing his Red Storm Entertainment studio was one of the smartest decisions that Ubisoft has ever made. Not only has it given them three critically acclaimed and profitable series, but also a wealth of experience when it comes to creating action and stealth games. Never has this been more apparent than in Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas. The influences from Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon here are tangible and come together to make this the most accomplished tactical shooter to date.

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Unlike a Clancy novel, the plot here is fairly thin and isn’t emphasised with much gusto. You play as Rainbow team leader Logan Keller and your first task is to head out to a Mexican border town to arrest terrorist ringleader Irena Morales. After this initial skirmish, the action switches to Las Vegas, where you and your team tackle a huge terrorist insertion in the heart of Sin City. The campaign climaxes at the Nevada Dam, a replica of the famous Hoover Dam (you know, where they keep the Transformers) as you close in on Irena. While you’re often too preoccupied to take note of unfolding story, each of the six levels are linked elegantly by interactive helicopter rides which allow you to admire the scenery and change your weaponry. There are no cutscenes to interrupt play, just the occasional loading screen to break up the experience.

As it should be with any game, the highlight of Rainbow Six Vegas is undoubtedly the gameplay. In Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon, the various Ubisoft studios have been toying with how best to use first-person and third-person perspectives, but here they’ve perfected their art.

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To succeed in Rainbow Six Vegas, you’ll quickly have to learn to use the environment around you. While your primary perspective is the traditional first-person view, pulling the left trigger to take cover sees the game switching to third-person. This allows you to look and shoot around corners as Keller hunches up against his temporary refuge. Although this sounds clumsy on paper, in practice the transition between the two perspectives is seamless and proves extremely useful. After a while, you’ll hardly notice the switch as you become increasingly immersed in the action.

One thing that will quickly become apparent is that this is no easy game. You can’t just run-and-gun your way through, a fact your enemies are only too happy to remind you of. Being gunned down from an exposed flank or as you execute a less than perfect room entry is an all too common occurrence, but the game is engaging enough for you to try again time after time. Thankfully your two teammates can be revived and saved from death, but you’re not so lucky and collapse in a red haze of blood. With only ‘normal’ and ‘realistic’ difficulty levels and no proper tutorial, Rainbow Six Vegas is an unforgiving experience that will undoubtedly see your patience and determination tested to their limit.

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However, your sanity will likely be saved by the game’s A.I. The terrorists’ tactical competency is matched only by your squad’s impressive proficiency, making for some intense firefights. For once, you can actually trust your teammates to do their job without having to nanny them. Controlling your squad is also a breeze, with the A button used for almost all of their direction, supplemented by the occasional use of the d-pad.

While Rainbow Six Vegas is ultimately a linear game, each level can be tackled in a variety of ways. A ‘rules of engagement button’ switches your team between ‘infiltrate’ and ‘assault’ modes, allowing you to choose a stealthy Splinter Cell-style approach or a more gung-ho technique. Combined with complex floor plans and multiple entry points for larger rooms, this flexibility makes each section of the game an absorbing puzzle.

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In addition to its split-screen and system link options, Rainbow Six Vegas lets up to 16 players shoot it out online with Xbox Live. The first time you log on, you’re prompted to create a persistent character who you’ll fight as, complete with different types of clothing, body armour and the like. There are plenty of game types to choose from online – attack and defend, survival, sharpshooter, team survival, team sharpshooter and retrieval – but the most enjoyable are arguably the co-op story and terrorist hunts which pit you and up to three friends against A.I. enemies. The intensity and tension that makes the single player game so enjoyable isn’t lost here and each level is a joy to play.

To say that Rainbow Six Vegas looks good is somewhat of an understatement. The Unreal 3 engine gives each environment a palpable realism, with each soldier very well detailed and animated. Add in some great effects to accompany stun grenades, explosions and injuries and it’s a visual feast. The game’s audio is far from neglected too, with subtle sound effects accompanied by all the usual gunfire and associated cacophony. While the action is indisputably the star of the show, the game’s presentation does an excellent job of complementing it.

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While Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas isn’t the most novice-friendly game, once you get past the steep learning curve, you’ll discover one of the finest action games currently available. With sublime gameplay, smart A.I., slick presentation and a fully featured online mode to keep you playing, it’s hard to pass up. Now a ‘classic’ title at a reduced price, this is an essential purchase for any action fan.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is the Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2000. Get in touch on Twitter @PhilipMorton.

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