Tech News on G4
New 'Rainbow' is sinfully good
March 25, 2008
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
What could have been a simple expansion pack for the latest Rainbow Six adventure has turned out to be a full-blown sequel, and instead of feeling like we're just getting a rehash of what happened in Vegas back in 2006, it feels like a whole new game.
'Vegas 2' actually takes place before and during the same timeframe as the original 'Vegas'. You take on the role of Bishop, who leads a team also comprised of Jung Park and Michael Walter (who appeared with Logan Keller in the original Rainbow Six Vegas). The threat to Sin City is just beginning, though by the end of the game you'll end up unravelling a threat that is set deep with Team Rainbow itself.
The controls are near-identical to the original, with one great addition - the ability to sprint for short distances. Rainbox Six games have always been more about being slow and methodical but sometimes you may find yourself overwhelmed by large groups of terrorists. Being able to sprint to the nearest piece of cover proves to be invaluable time and time again.
You'll still be using just about every button on the Xbox 360 controller's arsenal but by the time you're done the second campaign level, it'll all be second-nature. Overall, the single player campaign is quite strong, though it has lost some of the glitz and glamour (no pun intended) when compared to the original, where blowing up walls of giant casinos and having shootouts with terrorists in between endless rows of slot machines was so awesome the first time around. In its defence, the campaign in Vegas 2 has more varied levels and is also darker in tone than the first.
The biggest, and by far the best, change for 'Vegas 2', though, is that every single thing you do - whether in single player or multiplayer, online of offline - aids your character. Persistent Elite Creation has been a part of the Rainbow Six series for some time now, but in the past it only applied when playing online. In 'Vegas 2', you earn Experience Points (XP) every time you kill an enemy, complete an objective, or finish a level. This without a doubt adds to the replayability in a huge way.
For instance, you may be playing with three other gamers trying to finish one last map on Terrorist Hunt. The three other players may have already completed the map four or five times already, but playing again only means that they'll be earning more experience. I don't know how many times I saw fellow players gladly play previously finished Terrorist Hunt or Campaign levels simply because they knew they'd always be getting something in return. Not only that, but if you fall early on, the XP that teammates earn will go to your individual score. This is something we hope to see on future first person shooters that have these RPG-like elements that are fast becoming the norm.
The leveling-up truly is so simple, yet so deep in 'Vegas 2' as well. Earning XP allows you to be promoted in rank. Being promoted gives you new rewards such as different coloured-camouflage and cool outfitting, from goggles to helmets and everything in between. In addition, a new system known as Advanced Combat Enhancement Specialization (or A.C.E.S.) is how you earn new weapons and even more XP. A.C.E.S. is split up into three categories - Marksmen, Close Quarters and Assault. Depending on how you play, you'll earn points in one of the three categories, earning you new weapons to use in single player or multiplayer. So for example, if you're more of a sniper, you'll get Marksmen points every time you snipe someone from long-range or in the head. This powers up your Marksmen category, allowing you to unlock better sniper rifles.
All of these systems work in tandem to give the player a constant feeling of achievement. Rewards are doled out on a regular basis and the player always feels like he or she is working toward something, so even if you're playing the Old Vegas level for the sixth time, you'll know in the end it's worth it as you'll still be gaining XP for all those terrorists you kill and Assault A.C.E.S. whenever you blow someone up with a frag grenade.
The online portion, meanwhile, is top-notch. Favourite game modes such as Deathmatch, Total Conquest and Attack and Defend return, but there are also new modes such as Demolition, in addition to 10 new maps (as well as some old favourites like Kill House). The multiplayer component also features enhanced graphics, so it doesn't look like a dumbed-down version of the single player campaign.
The XP system does have its problems. For those who simply love to do things the easy way, it is easy to take advantage of the system and rank up without ever facing any real challenges. In addition, you'll be unable to stick with a party on a ranked server - after one match, you're booted off the server and have to re-search for another match. The developers did this to avoid players taking advantage of the experience-earning system, but it makes hours-long online multiplayer sessions inconvenient. Keep in mind, this isn't the case with unranked matches, but it's frustrating nonetheless.
The AI is also quite good in 'Vegas 2' for those who like a challenge. Rarely will you find terrorists who will stand in one spot while you rush toward them, and often they'll be the ones rushing you (in packs, no less). Terrorist Hunt especially proves to be quite the challenge on Realistic difficulty. Friendly AI, meanwhile, still proves it could use some tweaking. There were many times where orders to throw grenades or to simply move out of my way resulted in my own player's demise. Leaving the two computer-controlled characters on their own wasn't a problem, but whenever they were near me, drawing attention to me and basically getting in my way, often proved to be frustrating.
Despite what it may look like on the surface, 'Vegas 2' is without a doubt much more than just an expansion pack with a new-game price tag attached to it. More maps, more game types, a new campaign mode with online co-op ... there's plenty here to justify buying it, even if you bought the first 'Vegas'.
The Rainbow Six games are 2-for-2 on next-gen systems and though things are all wrapped up in Vegas, one can only imageine what's up next for Tom Clancy's famous counter-terrorism squad. Until then, 'Vegas 2' should keep players' minds well-occupied.
Rainbow Six Vegas 2
Rating: 9 / 10
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