After months of delays, PlayStation 3 owners can finally shout “Viva Las Vegas!” During this latest retreat to Sin City provided by Ubisoft, you’ll have the opportunity to drink, gamble, and perhaps stop a terrorist invasion. Actually, while only the latter is available, it’s an absolutely splendid experience for any PlayStation 3 owner with even a slight yearning for a tactical shooter.
The campaign remains essentially unchanged from the 360 and PC versions. You play as Logan Keller, commander of a three-man counter-terrorist squad. Originally beginning in Mexico, Logan is called to duty in Sin City, the target of a malicious terrorist attack. Logan and his team then have to traverse a casino, a restaurant, and a construction site; before the plot climaxes at the Nevada Dam, a hydroelectric dam on the Colorado River. The story contains more depth than the average shooter, though a slightly lackluster ending disappoints. Regardless, we applaud the incredible recreation of Las Vegas. In fact, the setting itself may be the most unique location to ever grace a war title.
You’re able to choose between only two difficulty settings: normal and realistic. Normal provides enough of a challenge in itself, as you’ll die after a single barrage of bullets. Gone is the standard health bar. Instead, the screen will blur as you are hit, slowly returning to normal should you escape any injury for a short period of time. On realistic, the same system holds true, though the difference is quite apparent. Even a single well-placed bullet can take you out, so you must act, well, realistically. That means small mistakes equal death. You’ll find yourself dying quite often when realistic is turned on, but each mission feels more rewarding once beaten, and through your necessary patience and conservative style you’ll become a better player.
Vegas makes some extreme changes to the Rainbow Six gameplay formula, the most drastic being its fantastic cover system. You’re able to take cover behind nearly every wall, pillar, or otherwise flat-sided object in the title. While under cover, the camera departs from the standard first person view to a third person over-the-shoulder whilst aiming. In a thoughtful touch, you have to hold L1 to remain against a surface (as opposed to toggling off and on with a button press), so you never feel locked to a wall when getting shot. Even better, you’re able to aim in a full 360 degrees while against cover, so it never feels restricting and dangerous to use.
The other most notable gameplay addition is the ability to rappel though differing areas. Need to head down an elevator shaft? Not a problem – just hop on a rope and rappel yourself down to the bottom. This tactic isn’t limited only to the campaign, as multiple rappelling ropes are sprawled throughout both new and old Rainbow Six maps. They can be faster than an alternative route, but are also considerably more risky. Overall, they make old maps feel fresh again while providing a useful play mechanic for newer areas.
The A.I. in Rainbow Six Vegas is generally intelligent. Your opponents will take advantage of cover just as well as you. They’ll use all types of grenades in different situations, and even attempt to flank you and your teammates when they deem it necessary. Unfortunately, your enemies seem to only react well to visual cues, as they don’t hear basic sounds such as gunfire and footsteps properly. Luckily, your two counter-terrorist pals are highly useful for retribution against the otherwise quick-witted adversaries. Intelligent, skillful, and simple to control; your squad-mates are of incredible importance to turning the tide of a battle against the terrorists.
If you want nothing to do with computer-controlled allies, you’re able to play through the campaign levels with up to three other friends instead. However, you’re forced to choose each level separately, making the experience feel incredibly sporadic (whereas the single player flows perfectly). In this reviewer’s opinion, it’s advisable to stick to terrorist hunts (quick matches against 30 or so computer opponents) should the urge for human companions arise. All in all however, the campaign is a worthwhile experience, especially for a Rainbow Six title which as a series has generally placed the majority of its emphasis on multiplayer.
Speaking of multiplayer, it feels just as satisfying and fun in Vegas as it was in past Rainbow Six titles. The cover mechanic adds a whole new perspective to Rainbow Six multiplayer gameplay, so newcomers won’t necessarily be dominated by series vets right away. The ability to unlock content over time and customize your online character adds to the replay value, not that you’ll need any other incentive to keep you playing. With a plethora of maps and modes, old and new, there is very little to complain about regarding Vegas’s multiplayer. That is, unless you have a slow internet connection, as matches can lag up as a result.
There were several changes between the 360 and PS3 versions; some positive, others negative. On the superior side of the spectrum, the delay provided time to fill the Blu-ray disc to the limit, as maps from the Red and Black 360 map packs ($10 each) are provided from the get-go for PS3 gamers. Also, there’s an option to control the snake-cam with the Sixaxis motion control, but that ability just feels tacked on and makes what should be an easy process difficult.
On the inferior side, the graphics in several areas are slightly substandard when compared to the 360 version. Texture work can seem especially shoddy in comparison, as can the detail on characters faces (or lack thereof). A slightly spotty framerate can aggravate as well, but that mostly occurs when playing splitscreen. Besides these minor flaws the game looks excellent. It must be mentioned though that there is a strange issue with 1080i output, as the game looks far crisper and better in a 720p resolution.
Audio is outstanding for nearly all aspects of the title, at least when it works properly. Gunshots sound sharp and authentic, explosions boom realistically and voice acting is top-notch. Unfortunately, audio glitches do occur, with gunshot volume improper in relation to the current area and position between Logan and the opposing terrorist. Essentially, even when they’re right next to you, it can sometimes sound as if you’re being shot at from over 50 feet away. It’s actually quite disturbing and can mess up your sense of direction. This issue does detract from the otherwise solid audio Rainbow Six Vegas provides.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas is a fantastic foray into the tactical shooter genre. Both series pros and newcomers can appreciate what this game has to offer. It’s solid in nearly every area, but exceeds all expectations in the category that matters most: gameplay. If you missed this title the first time around, you should buy this game.