Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 marks an impressive ten year Anniversary for Tom Clancy-based games. Over this time the Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six franchises collectively have sprouted dozens of titles, each one honing in on a particular formula that fans have responded to. This follow-up to the Rainbow Six: Vegas game is exactly that – a slightly tweaked game built upon the same engine as the 2006 original.
In some ways, it is difficult to call this game a true sequel. Although nearly two years after its earlier sibling, the developers haven’t exactly given the game an overhaul. It is still powered by the Unreal Engine 3 and many of the maps will seem familiar to those who played Vegas. On top of this the single player story mode seems short-lived, clocking in at around six to seven hours. These things combined make Vegas 2 seem more like an add-on pack, but luckily there are other aspects that make this game worthy of being a stand-alone title.
Firstly, it is important to note that just because the game looks like the original, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that we’ve seen it all before. But apart from creating major deja-vu, the game visually holds up against most other games of this genre. From gritty warehouses through to the bright neon lights of Vegas, the environments are both realistic and absorbing. The amount of detail is not only visually appealing but can be used to your advantage as well. Shadows and lighting changes can give away positions of enemies and glass windows can be shot-out to create diversions. Nearly every map contains several routes, multiple entry points and cover to hide behind as well. It is this element of strategy that the Rainbow Six games excel at.
If there’s one thing you learn pretty quickly in this game, it’s that running into a room full of terrorists will get you killed. Throughout most of the game you are the leader of a team of a three-man squad, giving you control over their movements and tactics. This could include moving up to a door ready to breach a room, either leading with grenades or just with guns blazing. Meanwhile you could be positioned at a different door to the same room, ready to burst in simultaneously. Or if you’re a slacker just wait outside in the corridors until you don’t hear any more screaming.
But just sending in your faithful chums head-first to do all the work is not always a guaranteed way to win a mission. Without careful guidance your team-mates can easily be killed and if unaided, you will fail the mission as well. Not to mention the aspects of possible hostages inside that room who will be killed from senseless charging. Luckily you have a piece of equipment called the Snake Cam which can allow you to see into a room before entering. From here you can even instruct your team-mates of the priority of your visible targets. This allows you to neutralise your enemy whilst knowing that your fellow squad will take a different one out at the same time.
All of this leadership may sound complicated, but thanks to the refined control system, it becomes almost second nature after a short while. This is partly due to the AI of your team-mates, but also due to the non-obtrusive on-screen dialogues that inform you as to what your men are doing. Simply looking at an object or location and pressing A will instruct your team to move to that point. If you are looking at a door, they will stack up ready for entry. If it happens to be a crate they will move up and take cover behind it and so forth. From there you can use the directional pad to tell them to breach, fire at enemies or simply leave that position and follow you. Sure, there were moments where my team-mates acted like complete muppets and crouched by a door while a massive gun-fight took place next to his ear-lobes. But on the whole the AI second-guesses your intentions and adapts to your situations for the majority of the game.
As aforementioned the story-mode is a tad short. It comprises of a typical “let’s go hunt some terrorists” plot that we’ve all heard before. However, a new aspect is the custom character selection at the start of the game. Although very limited, you can chose between a variety of ethnic appearances, your gender and types of clothing from glasses through to leggings. It is pretty much a token gesture as the customisation is far too limited to be considered a new feature. But what follows from this is an experience engine where playing missions (both single and multiplayer) build up points depending on your performance.
For example, a mission may contain a possible 500 XP points to earn. Taking headshots, killing from long range or other successful tactics will earn you points that upgrade your rank, which in turn unlocks more equipment and weapons. The ranks are based around Marksman, for accurate shooting; Close-Quarters for melee and blind-firing and Assault which covers explosives and shielded opponents. What was surprising though was that for those who have played the original Rainbow Six: Vegas game, you will get treated to a handful of bonus points straight away. It’s nice to think that Ubisoft care about loyal fans.
To get more play from the story mode, players could try Casual and Normal difficulty, both which should take around six hours each. However the game also includes a Realistic difficulty of which even getting through the first three missions is a chore. Luckily though, Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 comes packed with excellent multiplayer and even offline single-player gameplay. Terrorist Hunt can be played either online via Xbox Live (with up to 16 players), with a system link between consoles, two-player split-screen or plain old single player with bots. Basically you must find and eliminate all terrorists in a desired map with settings over the number of enemies and their difficulty level. Weapons and equipment can be pre-determined and you can even choose to eliminate the terrorists by yourself as a “Lone Wolf”. This alone adds hours and hours to the life-span of the game and is great for a quick play option to kill some time. The AI of your enemies can be ruthless at times, flanking you or bringing back-up from all directions. Even replaying the same map will prove challenging time and time again and is sure to get the adrenaline flowing.
Furthermore there are co-op options for the story-mode (both split-screen or with Xbox Live) and other multiplayer modes such as Attack and Defend, Deathmatch, Team Leader and Total Conquest. All up you have potentially months of terrorist-stopping shenanigans at your disposal.
Essentially, if the original Rainbow Six: Vegas didn’t float your boat then this game probably won’t do much for you at all. But for hardcore fans of the original or for others who didn’t get round to playing it, Vegas 2 should definitely be worth checking out.