Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2ESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: First Person Shooter
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Co-op: 2-4 Players
System Link: 2-16 Players
Xbox LIVE Vision Support
Online Multiplayer: 2-16 Players
Co-op: 2-4 Players
Downloadable Content Support
I remember first hearing of a sequel to the ever popular Rainbow Six Vegas. I was somewhat skeptical given that the first one left me, and everyone else who played it, wanting more as it concluded with one hell of a cliffhanger. Wrapping up the story is something that I wanted to see so badly, but yet I also wanted to see some solid improvements over the first installment that was released in November 2006. 16 months later Ubisoft finally releases the long awaited sequel, and although there are some minor improvements, the game still feels very similar to the original, which isn’t that bad of a thing given how well the first one played.
When the original Rainbow Six Vegas was released in 2006 the Unreal 3 powered graphics engine provided some good quality eye candy. The only major complaint was that the visuals took a step down to accommodate the multiplayer mayhem that the game offered. I myself was a little disappointed by this fact given that the Unreal 3 engine also powers Gears of War, which was released around the same time, and it looked gorgeous in single player and multiplayer alike. I know I took a lot of heat for my criticisms in some of the forums I participate in. Fast forward to the last few months as early movies and screenshots were being released for Vegas 2, I was quite disappointed that the visuals did not seem improve that much. Again, I took quite a bit of heat for my views as many people I converse with in various forums indicated that gameplay outweighed visuals. And although I agree, I am under the belief that with the power of next-generation consoles there should be no skimping on the visuals to accommodate gameplay.
Now that Vegas 2 has finally been released I am still of the same opinion that the visuals could have been better. Don’t get me wrong, they are still good, but they are not improved from the original. The single and four player modes allow for the same quality in each mode, but once again when you get into the adversarial modes the visuals take a drop in their visual impact. I was pretty surprised with this as the time they had to implement the same level of graphics across all modes was a lot, 16 months to be exact. However, as already mentioned the visuals are still pretty solid overall. The single player mode has ample use of lighting, particle effects, weapons effects, and pretty solid level designs. And although the adversarial modes do take a visual hit, they too are pretty solid as there is still ample use of the aforementioned effects and level design, just a lesser quality look. Of course the various weapons and explosive devices look as strong as previous games, right down to the writing on the side of some of the guns.
The physics system implemented in Vegas 2 is also as good ever. There is nothing more satisfying then watching an enemy terrorist, or opposing player over Xbox LIVE, walk down a set of stairs and throwing a grenade at his feet and having it explode, the result being a body flying in the air and down to the bottom of the stairs. I have to say that if Ubisoft has mastered one thing in the Rainbow series it is the physics.
With the good does come some bad. There are still some visual glitches that occur. More then once I was making my way through a hallway only to see an enemy’s gun poking through a wall or door. This was somewhat mystifying given that they have had a lot of the time to fix things like this. Also visible were the occasional bout of slowdown now and then. This did not occur a whole lot, but when it did it was noticeable and a little disconcerting. However at the end of the day there is still a lot of good to the visuals, even though it is very similar to the previous game.
I have always enjoyed the audio in all the Tom Clancy games that I have played, and this includes the Rainbow Six series. Vegas 2 once again excels in this department. Of course as this is a tactical shooter there are lots of guns and grenades, and Ubisoft has done a great job of implementing the sounds of each. From the P90 to any one of the light machine guns, each weapon has an individual sound and impact of its own. This was very evident during my first night of Terrorist Hunt with a couple of my friends. I was using Scar assault rifle and I thought I would make the switch to one of the early available light machine guns. When we first entered the level (Murder Town was the name) and I fired my new gun at an enemy and the audio impact the gun made was much deeper and full of bass. The subwoofer in my media room rocked and it was evident that I was using a different sounding gun. Of course the sounds of the frag grenades and incendiary grenades were also just as powerful and the damage they caused (e.g. breaking windows or doors) rippled through my speakers.
The voice acting in Rainbow Six Vegas 2 is also pretty good. From the story that unfolds in front of you to the mindless banter of the terrorists as you hunt them down and take them out, everything is equally enjoyable. There is no doubt that this game is not for the younger ones. It deserves the mature rating it has been given if just for the audio alone as both good guys and bad guys have some very colorful dialog during crucial points of the game. Although some may think that the use of adult language is just for shock this is not so in Vegas 2 as it is well implemented and makes for more atmosphere during the story.
The musical score in Vegas 2 is also one of the better ones. There are lots of different tracks to be heard. Some of these are actually in the level you are playing in (e.g. Theater) while others are played to add to the atmosphere during the adventure. The latter is very well implemented as it changes in intensity and mood at just the right times. It makes for a more immersive experience and you will find that none of them are annoying for they blend in so perfectly with the game at hand.
My final thoughts on the audio are about the use of Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. Vegas 2 takes so much advantage of it that you really shouldn’t be playing without. I can’t count the number of times that I heard an enemy terrorist’s voice come out of one of my five channels only to get an idea of where he was hiding or shooting from. As well the environmental effects (e.g. planes flying above or office lights buzzing) come out of all speakers with vibrancy and life. Mark my words, if you have access to a 5.1 setup play this game through it, or put some money aside and go and buy a cheap and affordable one and hook your Xbox 360 up to it to play this game (or any Tom Clancy game for that matter) through it.
The story of Rainbow Vegas 2 has you playing as Bishop, a new customizable character to the Rainbow squad. The original game had you playing as Logan Keller, but by playing as Bishop this time around allows for the plot to take you all over the place, both in time and location. You will find that the story not only runs parallel with the original Vegas but it also gives you a conclusion to the cliffhanger of the original too. The missions you play are in such locations as the French Alps, Nevada Desert and various locations in Vegas such as a Chinese themed Casino, a Vegas show theatre or the Vegas Convention Center itself to name a few. There are some twists and turns to be had, and the story wraps up a lot of questions from the first game. Those who dive into Vegas 2 without any knowledge of the first one maybe a bit lost. I think the story could have benefitted from some sort of summary of the events from the first game. This would not have been beneficial to people who didn’t play the first, but it could has also jogged the memory of people who played the first one up as it has been 16 months since the release of that game. Regardless of if you can follow the story or not what is evident is that Vegas is once again under attack and it is up to you and your fellow operatives to save Sin City.
So we should start with what’s new. There is a fresh Persistent Elite Creation (PEC) system that allows you to earn experience points both offline and on. There is also a new ACES (Advanced Combat Enhancement and Specialization) system that allow for points to be accumulated allowing you to earn new weapons. Each ACES has 20 levels and there are three types to focus on: marksman (accuracy and range of shots), CQB (close quarters such as short range tactics or use of gadgets) and assault (defeat foes with such defenses as shields or cover). When you perform a kill that meets one of the ACES criteria a small bonus is attached to the points that you earn. In the original Rainbow Six Vegas you could only level your rank up by playing online. You earned most of your new weapons online too. However you could not carry over your rank or your weapons from offline to online or vice a versa. This time around you can, as everything you do in offline or online play carries over to each. I found this one of the bigger changes as you are rewarded for any and all the work that you do in any mode, be it single player, cooperative or adversarial play on your own Xbox, system link or over Xbox LIVE. It was nice that no matter which mode I played, and where I earned my experience points, my rank and weapons stayed with me. There is no doubt that the ability to level up and gain new weapons will be compared to Call of Duty 4’s method, and to that I say both have their own strengths and weakness. The former being that in Rainbow Six Vegas you level up in the various online or offline modes, the latter being that in COD4 there are so many more different ways to level up and the rewards are greater and more varied too. Regardless I thank Ubisoft for making the changes in the PEC and adding the new ACES system.
I should note that Ubisoft did change the cooperative aspect of the game somewhat, but I will talk about this later on in the multiplayer section of this part of the review.
Also new to Vegas 2 is the ability to run. By pressing the left shoulder button you can now sprint for a short period of time. This is extremely useful for getting from cover to cover, and of course running away from a grenade that just landed at your feet. The control during sprinting is well implemented as you can turn corners or sprint side to side. Given that the Rainbow series has always been more tactical than shooters like Halo 3 or any of the Call of Duty games some may not like this addition, however once you try it you will see that it adds to the whole strategic play of the game. I know that I definitely welcomed it with open arms as did many of my online friends who I have played a lot of multiplayer with since my review copy arrived.
The final change that was somewhat noticeable was the challenge of the game. I found that I died a lot more often then in the first. Don’t get me wrong, I died a fair amount in the original too; however I don’t remember having died as much as I have in this sequel, and this was while playing on normal. That being said, I don’t know what to really attribute this to. In some ways the computer AI was quite adept at some tactical gameplay themselves, but on the other hand they were still quite stupid at times. For example, I rounded a corner and was not but 20 feet or so away from one of the terrorists taking watch outside and on top of a building, but even when I reloaded and took my time to put my crosshairs on his head he didn’t even flinch. I am sure I made enough noise reloading my gun that he should have known I was there present. In the end though the AI did manage to put up quite a fight in some areas, and their aim was pretty good too. Overall the challenge is formidable and if you are really looking to ramp it up put it on realistic for a true challenge.
As for your AI teammates, they can be quite useful in battle, but at the end of the day I still ended up calling them “dumb and dumber”. This was due to the fact that they did not take cover as much as I would have liked, and I found myself healing one or the other quite a bit. Ubisoft has touted smarter team AI during the development of this sequel, and although I saw glimpse of it now and then it just wasn’t what I had expected. Granted they seemed more accurate in their shooting skills, but they still just couldn’t avoid the terrorists bullets as well as they could have. Overall this is not a deal breaker though it is just something you will find yourself having to manage.
Of course what has made the Rainbow series so popular, on both the original Xbox and Xbox 360, has been the multiplayer components available, and this latest entry into the series does not fail. There are both cooperative and adversarial modes to be enjoyed.
As noted earlier on Ubisoft has made some changes to the cooperative mode, and I am not sure if everyone will like it. There is still your standard Terrorist Hunt allowing for four players to go through each online level and kill a varying amount of terrorists that can be found throughout. As with the original Vegas you have the ability to customize the options in this mode such as the length of time, respawns and enemy density to name a few. I enjoyed the Terrorist Hunt mode and playing with three friends is very enjoyable. There is also a cooperative Story Mode in Vegas 2 and this is where Ubisoft has made the most dramatic change. They have dropped the number of players down from four to two. You can drop in and out anytime as well, as long as your friend, or public player, has a cooperative game open. During the cooperative Story Mode you get all the cinematic cut-scenes and mission briefings that you would get in single player mode, something you did not get in the original. Where this mode gets somewhat problematic is that the host is the only one who controls the two computer AI teammates as you are just along for the ride, a hired gun so to speak. Should the host die in battle there is no way for the second player to take control of the computer AI teammates. This was quite strange. I found many times that when I died, and I was hosting, my online friend would complain that he was left as the only one fighting. I totally agreed with him as he should have been allowed to take control of our teammates. Why Ubisoft did this is beyond me, and it makes for lesser experience. Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to go through the whole campaign with a friend as you can experience all the great scenes and kills with each other, but this could have been flushed out more and the addition of up to four players would have made this a more enjoyable experience.
Adversarial modes are where Rainbow has always excelled and once again Vegas 2 stands tall to this lineage. These can be played via split screen, system link and on Xbox LIVE. The latter is the way to go as you can play up to 14 player matches with your friends and public players alike. Should you wish to bump this to 16 players you will have to set your Xbox 360 up strictly as a server as you cannot opt to play in a 16 player match, just host one. There are total of five different play modes in adversarial play. Attack and Defend involves two teams fighting for control of an objective; one team assaults the location to gain the objective while the other team defends. There are three different objective based sub-modes in Attack and Defend and they are Item Extraction, Hostage Rescue and Demolition. Total Conquest makes a return this time around. Here you have to capture three satellite transmitters and hold them for 30 seconds in order to win. What is different from the original Vegas is that you do not accumulate points per satellite held this time around, as you have to hold all three for the allotted 30 seconds or when the round ends the team with the most satellites held wins. Team Leader also makes a return to Vegas 2. Here you support and protect your team leader in order to secure a victory. Leaders make their way towards an extraction point. The difference between Vegas 2 and the original Vegas is that the opposing team does not know who the leader is visually and players can respawn as long as their leader is alive. It is almost like a game of survival, but this is only after a leader is killed. Of course Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch make a return too, but they are self explanatory.
There a total of 12 maps available in multiplayer mode. Some of these are carried over from the original Vegas (e.g. Presidio and Streets). There are some others that have been carried over from Rainbow Six Raven Shield on PC as well as some new ones too. All the maps vary in size and they are generally are quite enjoyable, even the ones I have played before. All the modes seem quite well suited for each map and there is no doubt that you will have few favorite maps as time goes by. If you only have a small number of players there are well suited maps for that, and should you have a large number of players there are larger maps to accommodate that too. I should note that a few of us from game-boyz.com had had a chance to play with some of the developer’s right around the launch date of the game. It was evident from their play, and the discussions they had with all the media-types in the room, that each map has tactical advantages and they can alter the style one plays. This was definitely nice to see as it does help keep the game somewhat fresh. Overall the online time I have had with the game, in both cooperative and adversarial modes, has been pretty much lag free and I hosted quite a few full rooms. All the modes have been pretty enjoyable and there have been quite a few late nights already.
This leads me to one of my biggest complaints of the game. Although there are a few changes, which are generally welcome, not a lot has changed overall to make Vegas 2 a new experience. When the game was released in 2006 everything was original and the game was heralded as innovative and exciting including such things as blind fire, the cover system and the missions themselves. 16 months later we have the sequel and it just feels too much of the same in the gameplay department. Granted, given how well the first one played this is not particularly a bad thing, but I would have liked to have seen some big changes that took this game in an upward direction.
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