Gaming Today Impressions of Rainbow Six Vegas 2 (Xbox 360)

rainbowsixvegas2box1-13.jpgRainbow Six Vegas 2
: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Price: $59.99
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC (in April)
Category: Action
ESRB Rating: M for Mature (Blood, Strong Language, Intense Violence)
Release Date: March 21, 2008

Someone once said “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” (and an advertising firm soon trademarked it). I doubt whoever said that was talking about terrorist cells and international conspiracies, but man those seem to flock to Sin City in the new Rainbow Six Vegas 2. This being the sequel to the smash hit Tom Clancy title, expectations are understandably high for this follow-up. Even more so since the team behind this game has said this is their final excursion, because they’re tired of working with Vegas. Well frankly their apathy shows through at times, particularly since this feels like the same old Rainbow Six Vegas, just with a few changes. But still, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. My full impressions after the break.

I’d explain the storyline, but I have a hard time following these Tom Clancy games and an even harder time caring. Something about terrorists and some bombs; you know the drill. But the story will take you to some of the less traditional locations in Vegas this time around. Sure, you’ll pop into a couple casinos and a strip club, but most of the game will have you running through the residential areas and back alleys. I can understand that the development team wanted a change of scenery from the glittering casinos and sprawling hotels, but personally I liked the flash. That felt more like Vegas. Plenty of shooters have you fighting through decrepit old neighborhoods, but not many have you on a flashy casino floor.

rainbowsixvegas22-1.jpgThe AI is spotty all around. When it comes to your AI teammates, it seems they’ll either perform as the most efficient killing machines since the Black Plague, or they’ll act like wayward puppy dogs sitting down in the middle of a firefight and waiting to get shot. The same could be said of the terrorists, as they’ll sometimes either sit in the corner patiently while you shoot them and other times coordinate and flank you ruthlessly. I suppose you could chalk this up to realism in a way, but you’d think there’d be a mid-point between “target practice” and “kamikaze.”

All that said, the game improves drastically once you find another human being to play with. Me and a friend first sat down with this game over the weekend and had a blast. Sadly, it was kind of a short-lived blast, as we finished it in around five hours without even trying and then sat around wondering what the hell else we were going to do with our afternoon (we eventually turned to that great bastion of entertainment known as RockBand). This same friend and I had spent a great deal of time in the first game, and so we were really disappointed that we got through this one so fast. Looking back on the experience, it seems like the changes the developers made to the story mode have made the game more accessible, but also less challenging.

Now that you can have AI teammates to command in co-op, they quickly become the guinea pigs for areas you aren’t sure about. They’re like the ultimate terrorist detection tool as you can simply send them into a room and watch if they get shot. There’s also significantly more checkpoints this time around. That’s nice, because you rarely have to retrace your steps too far; but there seems to be so many of them that dying is virtually meaningless. Since you’ll just restart only a minute or so behind, you don’t really feel the need to be overly tactical. It’s a fun ride from start to finish; it just ends rather abrubtly.

rainbowsixvegas23-1.jpgThe thing that pushes this game from a “rental” to a “buy” though would have to be the online multiplayer modes. There’s so many maps and gameplay options that you’ll rarely sit down and play for “just one round.” If you get bored with Team Deathmatch, then you can just move onto another mode; my personal favorite is Team Conquest since it tends to last the longest. And if you get bored of fighting other players entirely, then you can team up with other players in Terrorist Hunt matches or just jump in and out of a story campaign. It will all net you some more XP to unlock more weapons and gear, so it’s easy to say to yourself, “Well, I should go to bed, but I’m only a few more kills away from ranking up” (not unlike Call of Duty 4).

I’ve heard people complain (because that’s apparently what the Xbox Live headset is for) that the ability to gain XP and unlock items this easily has made it so there’s no reward for being expertly good. Personally, since my first memory of the online multiplayer in the previous game involved me dressed in long underwear and getting killed over and over by a guy decked out in a tiger-striped pimp suit while he laughed and called me a “noob,” I really like the new system. It levels the playing field a lot more since you can actually have a variety of weapons and armor to choose from. Besides, if you’re really good at the game, everyone will know it after one match where you absolutely decimate them.

rainbowsixvegas24-1.jpgHowever, the new “Team Leader,” is the most frustrating addition to the multiplayer. The way it works is each team has a person designated the “team leader,” who must get to an extraction point on the map to win. As long as he’s alive, his teammates will keep respawning. Once he’s dead though, the respawns stop, and the team is left on their own to try and take out the other team. That’s all well and good…unless you’re the team leader. Then you spend the match feebly trying to get your cohorts to protect you on the way to the objective (I have yet to have that happen), trying not to get shot, and then hearing your team get angry at you for dying. I’m sure this would be fun with a well organized and sensible group of people, but that’s not exactly what Xbox Live is known for.

Overall, Rainbow Six Vegas 2 is really not made for a single-player experience. The story mode can be fun, but the real meat of the game lies in playing with or against others in the various online modes. Not much has changed in Vegas since the first game, but that’s not really a bad thing; since it feels like the developers basically took what was already there and tweaked it to be a bit more accessible to newcomers. This leaves players with a game that feels familiar to veterans, while not being completely unwelcoming to the more casual gamer. I look forward to seeing what the development team comes up with next, now that they’ve moved out of Vegas.

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