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Rainbow Six: Vegas is the sixth game in the Rainbow Six series. The original games were all about planning and tactics but that started to dwindle with the release of Rainbow Six: Lockdown. Hell, you could probably say it all started with the console ports of Rainbow Six 3. Regardless, I can understand why many fans were upset. These newer titles lacked the thinking aspect of previous games and instead provided a more streamlined, even arcade-like experience. Developed and published by Ubisoft, Rainbow Six: Vegas was released in November, 2006 for PC and Xbox 360. It was released for the PlayStation 3 in 2007. This is a squad based cover shooter with very little remnants of previous games. This was actually the first Rainbow Six title I could get into and I actually played it quite a bit on 360 back in the day. This was my first time playing it on PC and it was interesting to revisit.
One of the more positive aspects of Rainbow Six: Vegas compared to it’s predecessors is the story. Rather than text briefings providing an overview of what’s going on there’s actual characters, villains, and it’s a bit more engaging than the normal terrorism/espionage type of stuff in previous games, at least in my opinion. You play as Rainbow Operative Logan Keller and command two other squad members. The opening missions are set in Mexico where you need to arrest terrorist leader Irena Morales. Everything goes wrong, Logan is separated from his team, his two squad members, Gabriel and Kan are kidnapped so Logan basically fails his first assignment as commander. He is then partnered up with Michael Walters and Jung Park, and the three operatives take the fight to Las Vegas where the terrorists are causing all kinds of problems. Now you need to blast your way through casinos, hotels, and restaurants to stop the terrorists and save your kidnapped buddies. The voice acting really isn’t that great and almost every character you encounter is forgettable.
Rainbow Six: Vegas released almost three weeks after the original Gears of War, another cover based shooter. With that said, I guess you could say these games marked the start of cover based shooters as we know them or at least the popular cover mechanics. One of the few things Rainbow Six: Vegas retains from its ancestors is quick deaths. It doesn’t take many shots to drop you, although it’s a bit more forgiving here than in previous games. You get shot and the screen gets all blurry and starts to change color. Getting behind cover is the key to survival, and the same goes for your teammates. The game does employ regenerating health so you just need to stay behind cover or out of harm’s way long enough to regain health before getting back into the action. The game is primarily played in first-person but once you enter cover, the view switches to third-person and it is a seamless transition that works out nicely. You can command your guys to move to locations, breach doors, open doors and throw grenades, that kind of stuff. The types of breaching depend on the rules of engagement which are Infiltrate and Assault. Infiltrate means they fire when fired upon and assault is basically fire at will. These basic commands and the ability to toggle the rules of engagement are the only real type of tactical control you have. You can command your guys to move wherever you’re currently looking at the press of a button but sadly they’re awful at staying out of harm’s way. They’ll often just stay put and let the bullets vanquish them forcing you to nurse them back to health. You can also command a healthy team member to heal the fallen one. Once team members are down, you have a limited time to heal them before they die and you fail.
The environments are mostly linear with multiple paths to a destination, giving you plenty of options and different ways to approach situations. Sometimes you may want your guys to breach from one door and you’ll breach from the other. Although, I found that most breaching options don’t work out well, mainly because the friendly AI is spotty. There’s usually one way that will work every time and any other way will either get you or your team members killed. For example, you may encounter a smooth and flawless experience breaching a room using a grenade but if you were to use a smoke grenade or flashbang, one of you would die. There’s other times where I would have my guys breach a room from the same doorway, maybe with different grenades each time, and they would still go down like flies shortly after entering. I finally decided to breach from another entry point and all of a sudden there was no problems. It just seems like the game clearly dictates which is the best way to approach the situation which is deceiving since you’re given multiple options. It’s just a matter of trial and error. Many times you’ll repel down ropes and every now and then you can breach through windows which cool to see in action.
Unlike early Rainbow Six titles, there’s no planning and no equipping your team with gear. Instead there are crates scattered throughout the environments where you can equip two weapons, a pistol, and two grenades. You can select from different assault rifles, submachine guns, light machineguns, pistols, shotguns, and even sniper rifles. You also have the option to equip a shield with the drawback being you can only fire a pistol. You can then select their attachments which consist of different scopes or maybe you’d rather equip a laser sight, although that will give away your position. During gameplay you can attach silencers to most of your weapons. Unfortunately, you can not equip your teammates with anything. Now you’re always equipped with some tactical gear like thermal and night vision goggles and even a snake cam to look under doors. Thermal goggles may be the most helpful since they let you see through smoke but the drawback is you can’t see very far. Night vision goggles are obviously great for dark areas but I found that I didn’t need to use them often. All of this equipment is cool to have I guess but I do kind of wish there were more options available like more guns. The selection that is here is cool and all but other than obvious differences, no gun felt better than another. The weapons do consist of different stats in damage, range, accuracy, and magazine size but you never need to pay attention to this since killing enemies isn’t difficult. None of them are really bullet sponges. Enemies consist of your typical thugs and terrorist goons. Some of the more unique enemies are identified as “spec ops” by your teammates but they’re just as easy to kill as the rest.
Now the gunplay is actually quite satisfying. The guns do sound powerful and really pack a punch and I found that the large muzzle flashes add an intensity to the combat. When enemies are shot you’ll see puffs of blood and their bodies ragdoll. Sometimes the ragdoll animations can freak out but overall the combat experience is intense and feels good which is important considering you’ll be shooting all the time. Enemies will run to cover when a battle begins, sometimes they will flank you, and they’re pretty good shots. Most objectives require you to get from A to B, sometimes you’ll need to rescue hostages, escort VIP’s, and even defuse bombs. One thing I don’t like is the checkpoint system. I feel the checkpoints are too spread out or placed in the wrong spots. I found that dying meant I would frequently have to replay through tedious sections like slowly climbing up a wall or even having to re-equip myself because the equipment crate is placed just after a checkpoint. Another thing I don’t like is that when your active weapon is out of ammo, you need to reload it manually. That just becomes frustrating.
The campaign takes you through three significantly different locations. The streets of Mexico, Las Vegas, and the fictional Nevada Dam. Now the setting alone always intrigued me and that’s one of the reasons I even bought this game way back when. Ever since I was a kid I had an obsession with Las Vegas. No, it wasn’t the gambling but it was the casinos. It fascinated me that they do whatever it takes to keep you in there. They pump in air, there’s no windows, no clocks, money out the ass, I always wanted to go. I eventually did go in 2011 with my friend, shortly after I turned twenty one and had a great time. With that said, the Vegas setting is one of the more unique aspects of this game. The casinos you battle your way through are fictional but they do a decent enough job at representing real life Vegas casinos. You’ll shoot your way through casino floors complete with slot machines, card tables, clubs, lounge areas, hotel hallways, but sadly, the more glamorous areas are only found during the beginning of the game. Afterwards you traverse through a casino under construction and a dam, both of which are not nearly as eye catching.
Other than the story mode, there’s Terrorist Hunt and online multiplayer which I didn’t try. Terrorist Hunt is a returning mode from previous games where the whole idea is to eliminate all the enemies on the map. From the Terrorist Hunt menu you can select the scene, which is just the map, the enemy density, whatever character you want to play as, the difficulty mode, Normal or Realistic, and finally, your equipment. Now I don’t know if Terrorist Hunt was an afterthought or just rushed but it does feel very bare bones. For one thing you’re forced to always go in lone wolf, you get no teammates to back you up. The maps are based on the campaign locations and there’s only one real casino map to battle in which kind of sucks. Also, there’s no scoring system, leaderboards, or any form of single player stat tracking for Terrorist Hunt or even the campaign for that matter. Terrorist Hunt doesn’t seem to employ random enemy locations either, which is a huge let down. This is the kind of mode that can add replay value to the single player and sadly it feels like it was just slapped on. On the plus side, it can be terrifying. Terrorist Hunt provides more tense combat than the campaign because you have no one backing you up. You’re all alone, outnumbered, and can easily get flanked. Because it doesn’t take many shots to drop you, it can be quite a challenge completing a Terrorist Hunt map. It’s just a shame there’s no real randomized elements or more to it.
Visually speaking, the game looks alright. Everything kind of has a softness about it, the colors are bit washed out, and by today’s standards, it looks dated. I can remember thinking it looked pretty good back around 2006 but that was over ten years ago. As I stated before the weapons all sound great and so does the music. Rainbow Six: Vegas consists of a pretty memorable music score that sounds really cinematic. It ramps up during gameplay and adds tension to the combat. On the technical side of things, this is terribly optimized. When playing in widescreen, the HUD will remain at the 4:3 aspect ratio, causing some cut scenes to display incorrectly. To somewhat fix this, I had to move files around within the installation directory but even with the “widescreen” HUD in place, things were still funky. It really messes up aiming from cover. Your scope and crosshair won’t be centered and because of that, they don’t determine where your bullets will go. Luckily, it only affects aiming through scopes from cover. There’s also some noticeable bugs to contend with. Every now and then the radio chatter will contain this nasty echo effect, like nails on a chalkboard. Sometimes sound effects just don’t play like the end half of a reload or the glass breaking when breaching through a window. A few times I noticed the gameplay speed up for a second or two like it was in fast forward. Maybe this was just a console game ported to PC but whatever the reason, there’s no excuse for it’s poor optimization and buggy bullshit.
When all is said and done, I like Rainbow Six: Vegas. Playing this now in 2017, I like it a bit less, but that may be due to this lazy PC port. Does Rainbow Six: Vegas represent what the series is known for? Absolutely not. I didn’t really get into the earlier games until after I played this but I can understand why fans of the originals despise this entry and even future titles. But on its own merits, Rainbow Six: Vegas really isn’t a bad game. I think as time goes on it becomes more generic, but for it’s time I thought it was pretty awesome. The friendly AI needs some tweaking, bugs are rampant in the PC version, and the Terrorist Hunt mode feels slapped on. The Vegas setting is what really makes this stand out and I did enjoy replaying it to some degree. Vegas 2 definitely improved many things but there is still fun to be had here. I would recommend Rainbow Six: Vegas to fans of action games, especially shooters. However, if you’re looking to get into the tactical shooter genre, look elsewhere. I’m reluctant to recommend this to anyone looking to get into the Rainbow Six series because it does not represent the reason people held this series in such high regard. It’s a cover based shooter with lite tactical mechanics. No real thinking required.