Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow (Xbox)
Genre: First Person Shooter
Release Date: 08/04/2004
Press A to Respawn– A line I saw way too many times in the original game, and it’s time already for me to see that screen over and over again with the sequel to one of THE Xbox Live games to own in the last year. Seems like it wasn’t that long ago that the first Rainbow Six game came out, and it wasn’t that long ago, only 10 months went by between this game and the last one. With only that much time in development the immediate question that comes to mind is whether this is a full fledged sequel or if it is just an expansion to cash in before Halo 2 rocks the Live world?
One of my biggest critisms of the first game and pretty much every game of this type was that there really wasn’t much of a story. You are part of an elite military team whose job is to hunt down terrorists. That is pretty much the beginning and the end of any story you will see in this game. Even the terrorists in the game are given more of a motive for what they are doing than what your motives are for hunting them down outside of the fact that it is your job too. In the first game there were cut scenes with your team being briefed with missions before heading out for them and they are noticeably missing this time around and have been replaced with a text box and map describing the mission with a voice over saying what is in the text box.
There isn’t really a story for the game outside of the situations that you face within each mission. These scripted situations however are well done and make you feel like you are in the shoes of the character Domingo ‘Ding’ Chavez (the head of the Rainbow squad) in a way that would be impossible to get across with storytelling through FMV’s. Still, I would like to know more about the character I’m playing as, but as far as squad based shooters go Black Arrow has as much of a story an any of them do.
In my review of the first game this is what I said about the graphics:
Let’s just say if this game were a woman, then she would be out of my league.
This game uses the same graphics from the last game with very little improvements. Not that is bad though as the graphics from the first game are great. Even with some impressive looking games that have come out since then the graphics for Black Arrow hold ground against them as a great looking shooter.
Everything looks good. The character models are well detailed and look great in motion. There’s a small variety of enemy models that leaves you from feeling like you are shooting the same person over and over again each level. The thermal and night vision effects are still excellent and some of the best thermal/night vision effects you’ll see outside of an Ubisoft game. The levels are still the highlight of the game as they are full of detail and set up an atmosphere that few other games can match.
Not much to say otherwise, while the graphics haven’t been much improved it is still a beautiful game.
Take most of what I said about the graphics and apply it for the sound. The sound is almost exactly the same as it was from the first game, but again, this isn’t a bad thing since the sound from the first game was just fine.
Aw f*ck it, I’m just copying and pasting some of the sound parts from when I reviewed the first game since it applies the same here:
The voice acting in the levels themselves, what little of it there is. Wearing the headset adds to the experience as you will give commands to your squad and they will confirm your order and carry them out, even the other few things they say such as ‘Ding, look out!’ and
‘Tango eliminated’ work well when coming through your TV speakers but the headset adds a little more to the experience of the game. The enemies don’t have much to say except for something that would probably translate as ‘What the hell?’ when they are surprised by your presence.
The music is also another well done aspect of the game. A sad little acoustic guitar part plays every time a team member dies. The weapons are also painstakingly detailed here and all sound like you think they would in real life.
What? Hey if they can reuse the same sound then I can damn sure use the same review for the sound.
The controls are also straight from the first game. They are also some of the best controls I’ve encountered for a squad based shooter, simple enough so that you aren’t trying to figure out what button you are supposed to be pressing in a tense moment but also deep enough that you can switch weapons, switch from thermal and night vision, command your teammates and still have enough buttons left over to shoot at some terrorists.
The left joystick is for moving, pressing it in will allow you to crouch. The right joystick turns and aims, pressing it in will allow you to zoom in or use the scope. The A button is used for commanding your team, pressing it lightly and they’ll react to what you’re pointing at. For example point down the street and hit A and they’ll move down the street and hold position. Point at a door and they’ll open the door and clear the room, etc. Holding down the A button bring up a more detailed list of commands such as opening a door and throwing a flash grenade before clearing, and toggles the Zulu commands which can be used to have your team wait for your command before executing the last order given. This allows you to occasionally attack the enemy from both sides when done right. In fact this part is done so well, I use it instead of the headset half of the time. I swear at them with the headset the other half of the time. Holding down the X button brings up a menu of weapon choices which you choose with the D-pad. Y controls your Night Vision, and B controls your Thermal Vision. Right trigger fires your primary weapon, and the left trigger switches to your secondary weapon.
Unlike most FPS, in Black Arrow when you move the aiming reticule actually gets smaller making it harder to aim while you are moving and gets larger when you are standing still or even larger when you are crouched which more realistic. What’s also realistic is how recoil effects your aim, holding the trigger down is NOT the best way to go through this game. Black Arrow includes some directional arrows around the aiming reticule just to show you how much the recoil drags your gun off target. I can’t see how the controls can get much better for this series, it’s great.
Here is where the game starts separating itself from the previous title. The first Rainbow Six game noticeably lacked offline multiplayer without system link. Black Arrow changes all of that and has an offline multiplayer co-op mode. There wasn’t much slowdown that I noticed while playing this way though the gun you are holding will be invisible, which I’m glad for otherwise it would be nearly impossible to see what you were doing on your half of the screen.
Other than that they’ve added another new mode called Lone Rush which is sort of an arcade mode. You are by yourself without your squad and have a time limit to make it from one end of the map to the other. Along the way you’ll run into terrorists, bombs and hostages. Killing the terrorists, securing the hostage, or diffusing the bombs will add extra time to the time limit. You can pick and chose what you do though leaving the terrorists alive would be hazardous to your health, and you do have to grab some time bonuses since the time limit that you start out with is not nearly enough to get from one side of the map to the other. This is an awesome mode to play because it’s so different than the realistic squad tactics of the campaign mode.
That’s not the least of it either. In addition to those two modes being added if you have Live there’s has also been the additions of high scores. For just about everything. You can beat a single player mission and the game will add up how fast you beat it, how many of your teammates survived, accuracy, etc together and give you a score, from there you can compare your score to everyone else on Live who has also completed that mission. How cool is that? It gives you the incentive to play the mission again and do even better.
There have been more additions to the Live side of things but I’ll save some of that for the Misc. section.
The single player campaign mode doesn’t really do much different than the last game did, and the additions on Live, while welcome, are things that have been done before in other FPS and other squad based games. That’s not to say there isn’t anything original about Black Arrow, the high scores is something that I personally haven’t seen before in a squad based game and I love that addition. The Lone Rush mode is also awesome mode that I can’t remember if I’ve ever seen anything like this mode in other squad FPS, and it rocks.
The campaign mode isn’t very addictive on its own. Essentially it is a trail and error fest that is fun for the first couple of times, but after you’ve done them over and over again (and when you die, and some of you will die, you will see some of these levels over and over again). The high scores do add some addictiveness to the campaign mode since there’s always someone who wants to get a better score than everyone else.
Lone Rush amps the addictive factor up. It’s easy to get into and fast paced play keeps you on edge and makes you want to try it over again. And again. And again. The game also puts the hostages, bombs, and terrorists in random locations which helps keep it fresh every time you play.
As for Live it’s heavily addictive. It was the game I played the most on Live and Black Arrow is just an updated version of the first.
The first was one of the most popular Live titles (if not the most popular) and it’s a Tom Clancy game, there’s already a following for it. If you are a fan of the first game than you’ll be a fan of Black Arrow. I haven’t seen much advertising for the game though, I barely knew that this game was coming out before it was released.
This is going to be hard to explain. The enemy on any difficulty has a better AI than the enemies of the original game. The use flash grenades and tear gas to disorient you much more often in this game and use Molotov cocktails near the beginning of Black Arrow. However at the same time the game is easier than the last game. I can’t really explain how that is but I had an easier time with Black Arrow than the first game and died less often. I would chalk this up to me just kicking more ass than I normally do but it’s gotta be the game. The teammates AI is still the same and they are deadly accurate. For most parts of the game you could just boss them around and let them do the dirty work for you, but that’s no fun. There still seems to be a slight glitch that I noticed in the last game where occasionally when you restart a mission both your teammate and the enemies AI gets iffy. It’s noticeably only because the AI is so good otherwise, and it doesn’t happen very often.
Just because I’m saying it’s easier don’t mistake me for saying the game is easy, because it’s not an easy game at all. There are three difficulty levels and even the lowest one will be challenging for many people, and the last difficulty setting can be absolutely brutal at times.
The most notable change in the balance has got to be in the level and mission design. The missions are better than in the first game. There will occasionally be several objectives to complete and times we you will have to go on by yourself while your teammates watch the hostages or read a book or whatever they decide to do. You have to play both to understand what I’m saying but the missions in Black Arrow are much better and much more fun. Most of the enjoyment that came out of the first game came from the satisfaction of beating a hard mission, in Black Arrow you still get that feeling but the missions themselves are also fun to play.
Multiplayer is balanced out well and Lone Rush is again just awesome. The new maps for Xbox Live are slightly larger than the previous maps (which were already pretty large themselves) and they have the same phenomenal balance that the maps from the first game had.
There are two new Xbox Live multiplayer modes in Black Arrow, Total Conquest and Retrieval. In Total Conquest you are put onto one team and the goal is to gain control of the three satellites on the map for 30 seconds while the other team tries to do the same. Retrieval is just another name for Capture the Flag. Instead of a flag there is one canister in the middle of the map that you have to grab and bring to another location of the map which could be in enemy territory.
Black Arrow also is the first Live game that utilizes the Xbox Live 3.0 features such as clans, competitions, and message sending. The clan feature is already popular from what I’ve seen. Games that used to end in a tie wont any longer, who wants a tie anyhow, no the game will go into a sudden death mode till there is a winner.
All of these features make a great Live shooter just that much better.
Total Score: 84/100
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10