Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard Review

Gameloft has some experience putting Rainbow Six games on mobile phones, oddly enough. The company released a cell phone version of Rainbow Six: Vegas way back in 2008. And Gameloft has doing a lot of great work in creating first-person shooters on the iPhone — its N.O.V.A. and Modern Combat series are finding great ways to use the technology Apple has built into their devices to make immersive shooter experiences.

So Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard, Gameloft’s latest first-person shooter, makes a lot of sense, marrying the company’s experience with Vegas with the FPS template it has established in other games. The game also manages to distill the Rainbow Six tactical, squad-based combat mechanics into a smaller but fully functional package. As in other Rainbow Six games, in Shadow Vanguard, the player is matched with a squad to whom orders can be issued. Things work pretty well on iDevices’ touchscreens, allowing for a fairly high degree of control.

Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard (IPhone [Reviewed])
Developer: Gameloft
Publisher: Gameloft
Release Date: March 17, 2011
MSRP: $2.99

Shadow Vanguard is at its heart an FPS, and that portion of the game is well-built and engaging. Aiming and movement are a combination of touch and gyroscopic controls: you swipe the screen to turn and control movements with a virtual stick on the left side, but precision aiming is performed by actually moving the iPhone around in 3D space, which also moves the viewpoint. Shadow Vanguard also includes a lot of FPS conventions that have become standard. Grenades are always on-hand and you can quickly switch to a sidearm; a small button allows for aiming down the sights; and taking cover in third-person mode against walls and structures.

All this is the same base FPS work that Gameloft has perfected over the course of its last few games — if you’ve played N.O.V.A. 2, you’ll get the hang of Shadow Vanguard right away. The differences come with the integration of the other two soldiers in your squad. Giving them orders is key to tactically addressing every situation, and how you utilize and deploy your team often determines how much fun you’ll have.

On the screen whenever you approach an object or situation in which you can give orders, you’ll see icons. Come up to a door and the icons to open it or put a fiber optic snake camera under it appear, as do the icons for ordering the squad to take cover on one side or the other. Once they have, new icons appear, allowing for more orders like breach and clear or breach and stun. Both orders involve the team popping open the door and performing the action to clear the room. Coupled with your first-person gunplay, taking out a room full of terrorists becomes an interesting puzzle as well as burst of action.

After a couple of missions, the game dolls out the ability to designate targets to squadmates, which adds another layer to the tactical side of the game. Taking cover at a door with your squad, you can use the snake camera to get the lay of the land and then designate their targets, leaving a third or fourth for yourself. A stun and clear sends your team into the room and blinds the terrorists inside, leaving you to quickly headshot everyone and move on silently.

Shadow Vanguard is packed full of situations like the above, often involving rescuing hostages and disarming bombs, so keeping stealthy is a must and the game is good at making you feel like a badass as you do so. There are lots of objectives to complete and the game balances between holding your hand with navigation arrows for primary objectives, while sending you  for unmarked secondary objectives for you to hunt down on your own.

The single-player campaign for Shadow Vanguard is a pretty good time. Missions take players through a variety of locales, but you’ll consistently be taking on the same machine gun-wielding enemies. From an AI standpoint, you’ll blast the same guy over and over again, with a different skin draped over the model depending on the situation. In fact, Shadow Vanguard’s enemies are kind of dumb; they’re really only worrisome because you’ll take a lot of damage when you’re shot. It’d be nice to see AI that doesn’t feel like it’s from the Playstation era, but the different situations and locations in which you’ll deal with them makes up for it in a puzzle-solving kind of way.

Two multiplayer modes round out the rest of the app. The first is a three-player co-op mode that lets players fill out the Rainbow squad instead of AI characters and play through the single-player campaign. The mode works over the Internet using a Wi-Fi connection or with Bluetooth connectivity, and even over the Internet, it runs smoothly and can be pretty fun.

The same can’t really be said for the online death match mode, which runs a little hinky on its five maps. Between twitchy spawns and lagging aim, it’s tough to really get much enjoyment out of the haphazard play. At one point, I was able to take cover at a particular corner where enemy players were spawning, then just poke my head out and put them down with headshots over and over. Their confusion never really abated.

It’s not all bad on the multiplayer front, but for some reason, Shadow Vanguard’s deathmatch setup, which mirrors N.O.V.A. 2 in some ways, doesn’t seem right for the platform or the cover system the game employs. Co-op is fun, but Shadow Vanguard won’t be replacing anyone’s go-to multiplayer experiences.

Even for Gameloft’s standard premium price of $6.99, Shadow Vanguard is a strong FPS addition to the App Store and excels in its single-player experience. Friends with iPhones add a great deal to the whole package with co-op, but you’ll get the most out of Rainbow Six alone.


  • Uses Gameloft’s quality iPhone-based FPS controls.
  • Successfully integrates squad-based touch controls into a phone game.
  • Great production values — great graphics and quality voice work.
  • Decent story.
  • Fun co-op mode that supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections.
  • Lots of objectives.


  • Weak online deathmatch mode.
  • Boring, stupid AI.
  • Not a ton of challenge.
  • No variation in enemies.

Final Score: 80/100

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6 Comments on Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard Review


On April 13, 2011 at 6:06 am

The first stage is a rehash from the very first Rainbow Six game from 1999.

Used to play the hell out of that game and Raven Shield.

Phil Hornshaw

On April 13, 2011 at 9:43 am

Heeey, you’re right. Thought that seemed familiar — jeez it has been a long time.

Nice catch, @drsgfire.


On April 15, 2011 at 10:21 am

Graphics look outstanding for a smartphone. Almost PS2 era, very impressive. Nice review btw, covered all the bases!


On May 14, 2011 at 5:14 pm

how do you disarm the bomb in mission 3


On August 8, 2011 at 11:45 am

Same problem…how do you disarm the bomb in mission 3?


On November 18, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Did any one found how to disarm the ing bomb on mission 3 ?