Ubisoft Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 review
Ubisoft have done so well out of their Tom Clancy-themed games that a few weeks ago they bought out the exclusive videogame rights to the writer's name.
The deal is reckoned to have cost them the best part of $100 million, which gives you some idea how popular these titles are.
Since Clancy first lent his name to it, the Rainbow Six series has gone through a few drastic changes. Compared to other PC shooters of the time, the original games added a welcome dash of realism. No more taking 15 bullets and carrying on; instead, gunfire was as lethal as you'd expect. One bullet and you're in trouble. Two, you're dead.
The downside was a po-faced seriousness that gave way to glitz in Rainbow Six: Vegas. The crushing difficulty of the earlier games was lessened, and taking on terrorists against the neon of Nevada's casinos only added to the thrills.
This more forgiving balance of action and skill must have earned a few fans, because Ubisoft have produced a follow-up described as part sequel and part prequel. The action takes place in 2010, and it's classic Clancy nonsense of the most entertaining order. Terrorists are threatening innocent civilians and, surprise surprise, it's up to you and your crack squad to defuse their biological bombs.
You can now customise the main character, who simply goes by the name of Bishop. You can choose whether Bishop is a he or a she, and adjust his or her appearance with impressive detail. Another innovation is Advanced Combat Enhancement and Specialization, or ACES, which tailors the range of available weaponry to your style of play. ACES divides your kills into three categories: Marksman, Assault and Close-Quarter Battle. For example, spraying a hail of lead through a wall or window counts towards your Assault rating. A high enough score in any category unlocks new weapons. Other gadgets include tiny cameras that peek under doorways to evaluate the threat lurking behind them and even mark targets for your squad to fire on. This being a team-based shooter, you, as team leader, can give orders for a variety of tasks.
Winners and losers
At times the Vegas formula makes for thrilling gameplay, and with bullets and debris flying it's easy to be seduced. But occasionally certain elements break the illusion and the intensity level drops below that of the original Vegas. Your team can prove startlingly dim-witted, leaving themselves exposed to enemy gunfire or just failing to provide backup when you really need it. It comes as little consolation that the terrorists can also seem easily distracted by the one-armed bandits.
Rainbow Six Vegas 2 is competent, but falls short of greatness. If you've already completed Crysis, Call of Duty 4 and Gears of War, and need something to feed your itchy mouse finger, its single player campaign will occupy you for another day or so, and multi-player may keep you coming back. But if you haven't yet played those games, put this one at the bottom of your list.