Review: Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 (Microsoft Xbox 360)

rainboxbox.jpgRainbow Six: Vegas 2
Genre: First Person Shooter
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Release Date: March 18, 2008

When Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 came up for review for this website I immediately tried to fend off all the other reviewers on the site who also wanted to review the game, even going so far as to give away the naming rights for my first child to secure the reviewing rights to the title. So if it isn’t obvious already let me just state it to those reading: I am a fan of the Rainbow Six games.

Of course that is sort of a loaded statement. In reality there are two types of Rainbow Six fans, those who like the earlier PC games and those who like console titles. While there are many fans of both, the former like to complain about the latter since the PC Rainbow Six games were more tactical than their console counterparts. Personally I could care less, I like the console titles. Specifically the Xbox titles, with Rainbow Six: Black Arrow being my favorite of the series until now.

The Rainbow Six games were always more tactical games than other shooters. If you tried to run and gun you’d die. Often. One of the things I’ve loved about the Rainbow Six games is this little bit of strategy, often time the game was more like a puzzle game than a shooter, each room would present a different layout and you’d have to figure out how to get through it. Rainbow Six: Lockdown was a game that had me worried for the future of the Rainbow Six series, until Vegas came along. Vegas added several improvements to the formula and truly brought the series into the next generation. A great cover system added even more tactics to the game and made it so that you didn’t have to flashbang yourself, the persistent character creation system became the foundation for just about any other FPS afterwards.

Vegas 2 has a lot to live up to, was it able to live up to the high standards the previous game set?

Yes…and no.

82177-rainbowscreenfull7.jpgDespite the cliffhanger ending of the last game, Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 starts you off as a new character, Bishop, and starts of with a flashback to set up character motivations. I thought this was actually a good thing as the previous Vegas game’s storyline was more of an excuse to shoot terrorists than anything and had a cliffhanger ending that few people enjoyed. While Vegas 2 could have also just had a plot that wasn’t any deeper than just giving an excuse to shoot terrorists, Vegas 2 manages to go beyond any of the previous games in the series as far as plot goes. Throughout the levels there are several great moments, moments that for a second make you care about fictional digitalized civilians in a way few other games manage to accomplish.

Even the smaller details with stuff like one terrorists trying to explain to another one about how it really isn’t his fault that he is doing this because he needed a job, and others trying to brag about how many people they’ve killed. Moments like this really help create a great atmosphere. There are games out there that present more cinematic moments, but these events that happen during the level add some intensity to the experience.

The game does tie into the original Vegas game, and if you’re worried about another cliffhanger ending, don’t worry about it this time. The game definitively ends, which hopefully means the next Rainbow Six game will take place in a new location. Vegas was fun, but it’s time for something else. Time for Rainbow Six: Midwest?

That’s not to say that the locations in Vegas feel repeated from the first game. If anything the locations are also an improvement over the original title. After awhile the casinos sort of blended together in my head. In Vegas 2 there’s a much wider variety to the locations showing that Vegas isn’t all Casinos. There’s a whole community around Vegas needed to keep the Casinos running and in Vegas 2 you get to shoot at a lot of it. A theater, community center, and even through random backyards.

Even though the locations are more varied, don’t turn on Vegas 2 expecting a graphical advancement over the original title. There’s very little difference graphically between the first Vegas game and this one. A lot of the non-main characters still look like they’ve stepped out of a Nintendo 64 game, which is mostly noticeable for the fact that the main characters are look so much more detailed. Compare your teammates to some of the hostages you rescue and it’s an amazing difference. Not that the game looks bad, it looks good, but maybe not the graphical leap fans were expecting.

Were the game truly separates itself from the previous title is in the new additions to the game. First up, a sprint button. In many ways this was an odd design choice since as mentioned earlier run + gun = death in Rainbow Six. This does add a little bit to the tactical experience though since it’s now possible to run from cover to cover or to sprint across open areas. Mainly though this is a great addition to the online game, especially if you were among those that thought the original title felt to slow online. Also it gives more reason to use the shotgun and other close range weapons when you can close the distance between you and your enemy.

82150-rainbowscreenfullmiddle.jpgThe biggest change, and I’ll put my money that this is a feature you’ll see in every shooter next year, is the experience system. While other online shooters have the ability to gain experience to gain ranks and unlock content in multiplayer, Vegas 2 one ups all of them by making the experience system cross over to the single player game in addition to the multiplayer game. While some people might brush this addition off as being no big deal I guarantee that this will be the most copied feature from any game in 2008. If you suck online now you don’t have to worry that you’ll never unlock certain items, you’ll just need to grind through the single player game.

On top of the experience/rank system is the A.C.E.S. system, which is like a separate experience point system for specific types of kills that are separated into three areas: Marksmen, Close Quarters Combat, and Assault. Shoot an enemy from far away and you’ll gain Marksmen experience in addition to the usual experience. Erase a terrorists face from point blank range? Close Quarters experience. Assault has more to deal with killing enemies with explosives or who are behind cover. There are several different type of kills that fit into each category, and between the experience point/rank system and the A.C.E.S. system it seems like there’s always something on the screen telling you that you accomplished something. That constant feeling of accomplishment over both single-player and multiplayer for one persistent character almost give the game an MMORPG vibe. I’ve played Terrorist Hunt online with random people who were playing to just get to the next level.

Other than that the game also smoothes out some control issues from the previous game, and adds a thermal map to the collection of gadgets at your disposal. There was one big flaw from Vegas that carries over to Vegas 2; poor voice recognition. One of the reasons I loved the first two console Rainbow Six games was how well it integrated voice recognition into the game. It really added to the atmosphere of the game and it’s a shame to see that some voice commands work okay while others cause my team to just stand around. Still the button interface is actually easier to use in the Vegas titles than voice commands, but I’d still like to use them. The fact that there will be a Tom Clancy game that uses nothing but voice commands has me really stumped as to why it’s so bad in the recent Rainbow Six games.

There are also some other bugs. AI is a problem. For the most part your team reacts well and the enemy will attempt to flank you, although there are still more than enough WTF moments where your team decides that life is no longer worth living anymore and just stand in the path of bullets. Enemies are the same way; on Realistic difficulty I ended up almost right on top of an enemy while sneaking around and was kneeled right in front of him. He looked at me and then went back to what he was doing. On the hardest difficulty level this shouldn’t happen. For a game with an experience system designed around close quarters combat, both allies and enemies act funky when you get too close to them.

82163-rainbowscreenfull11.jpgOn the multiplayer side of these, one of the things that make Rainbow really stand out is the co-op modes. The single player story has had it’s co-op slimmed down to just two players, I didn’t really have much of an issue for this, but if you had three friends who you play Rainbow with this might be a disappointment. Terrorist Hunt still supplies the four-player co-op action though, and it’s done really well. More online shooters need to find new ways for players to play together instead of against each other.

The competitive modes are all there, but compared to other online shooters the maps are small. Like claustrophobically small. This makes this fast and intense, but for a game that prides itself on being more tactical than other shooters it’s hard to develop good tactics when the other don’t spawn very far away. Maybe it’s the new sprint feature that makes familiar maps seem cramped.

There was a large jump in both quality and features between Lockdown and the first Vegas game, and if you were expecting the same leap for the Vegas sequel you might find yourself disappointed at first since the gameplay hasn’t really changed between the titles, and there are those out there that will try and claim Vegas 2 is more of an expansion pack than a sequel. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Vegas 2 packs in the same great tactical gameplay of the previous title, and while it may not add much new to how you play the game, the title certainly adds to why you play the game. If you are a previous fan of the series than Vegas 2 is an easy recommendation.

The Scores:
Story: ENJOYABLE
Graphics: GOOD
Sound: GREAT
Control/Gameplay: GREAT
Replayability: VERY GOOD
Balance: ABOVE AVERAGE
Originality: MEDIOCRE
Addictiveness: GREAT
Appeal: GOOD
Miscellaneous: VERY GOOD
FINAL RATING: VERY GOOD!

Short Attention Span Summary:
yeager-1.jpgAre you a Rainbow Six fan? Get it. Are you a Halo 3/Call of Duty 4 fan? Try it for the co-op modes, experience system and cover system. You just might like it. There are some flaws in the game, but what Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 does right is fantastic. If you like First Person Shooters than you should try it out just to see what all the other shooters will be copying next year.

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