Rainbow Six: Vegas is the game that got me into the Rainbow Six series. The Vegas setting is what intrigued me back in the day and I really enjoyed my time with it. Afterwards, I started playing the earlier games and that’s when I realized how things have changed, how streamlined the series has become. I can definitely understand why fans of the series despise these newer titles because they don’t represent what the series is truly known for. Developed and published by Ubisoft, Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 was released for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in March, 2008. The PC version released in April of that same year and this was actually my first time playing the PC version. I played this game a lot on 360 back in the day. In fact, it was all I played until Grand Theft Auto IV came out, also released in April of that same year. Rainbow Six: Vegas ended on a cliffhanger and Vegas 2 is the continuation of the story.
From what I gather, the events of Vegas 2 primarily take place before and even after the events of the first game. You play as Bishop and when you first fire up the game, you have the option to choose either a male or female Bishop. I chose the female Bishop because why not. Regardless, the story plays out the same no matter which gender you choose. After getting through the very basic appearance customization options, I jumped into the story mode. There’s three difficulty modes – Casual, Normal, and Realistic and the story plays out in Acts, normally with multiple scenes per Act. The beginning of the story takes place in France where you and your team are brought in to rescue hostages and under your command are Novak and Gabriel, the antagonist from the first game. Needless to say, this Act takes place before any of the events that occurred in Vegas and is basically a tutorial showing you how to play while giving you some backstory. Afterwards, the game jumps to 2010 and Bishop is now in command of two new teammates, Jung Park and Michael Walter, the same two teammates that accompanied Logan throughout most of the first game. You and your team are tasked with stopping terrorists from smuggling chemical weapons from Mexico to Las Vegas. Throughout the game you’ll occasionally hear about Logan and some of the events from the first game and even interact with some familiar characters. The voice acting is okay, nothing special. The story itself isn’t that amazing but luckily the gameplay is fun enough that it overshadows the story. If you were upset with the cliffhanger at the end of the first game, you’ll be happy to know Vegas 2 does complete the story.
If you’ve played the first game, Vegas 2 should feel pretty familiar. You and your team traverse through various Las Vegas areas taking down bad guys. You can command your team to follow you, hold position, and move to any location at the press of a button. Your teammates can breach doors and once again, your breaching options depend on the rules of engagement which are either Infiltrate or Assault. Infiltrate means they will only fire when fired upon and Assault means they can fire at will if they spot enemies. You’re always equipped with thermal and night vision goggles and equipment crates are still scattered throughout the environments. You still cannot equip your teammates but you can equip yourself with two weapons, a handgun, and two explosives which can be standard frag grenades, flashbangs, smoke grenades, incendiary grenades, and even a breaching charge to blow open doors. You should feel right at home if you’ve played the first game and if you didn’t care for the original, I can’t say there’s a lot here to change your mind. But there is quite a few additions.
Vegas 2 does tweak and refine the gameplay along with adding some new stuff to keep things engaging. For every kill, whether it’s your kill or your teammates, you’ll gain experience points. After earning enough XP, you rank up. The different ranks unlock different clothes and armor that can be equipped. Clothes seem to be just cosmetic but the different armor types do affect your mobility and protection. If you have a lot of protection, you may not go down so easily but you’ll move slower and vice versa if you’re armor dictates high mobility. Then there’s the A.C.E.S. rewards including marksman, close quarters battle, and assault. By killing enemies in certain ways you can level up each of these categories. For example, kill enemies with grenades and that counts towards your assault level. Kill an enemy from long range and it counts towards your marksman level. Leveling these up unlocks more weapons for you to equip. You can still equip different attachments like scopes and laser sights among a few others but I do wish there were more options available. Luckily, your ranks and A.C.E.S. levels do not revert back if you die and your character’s unlocks apply to each mode including story, terrorist hunt, and I believe multiplayer but I didn’t try it. There’s a ridiculous amount of ranks and A.C.E.S. levels so to unlock everything you’ll be playing for a while but they do add an incentive to replay and reward you for taking different approaches during gameplay. The environments are still linear and open so that there’s usually multiple paths to a destination. You can still have your team breach from one door while you breach from the other. You can still use the snake cam to peak under doors but now you can tag the enemies you see so they are priority targets for your teammates upon entering.
When compared to the first game, your teammates do a better job of staying out of harm’s way but they still do stupid shit sometimes like remain out in the open when under fire. You have a limited time to heal any fallen teammate and you can always command the healthy one to heal the fallen one if you can’t get to him. Vegas 2 introduces a sprint button which is a welcome addition and you can now climb, or vault, over small objects, making movement feel a bit more fluid. It’s still a slower paced game compared to other shooters and cover is still the key to survival. You still need to get behind cover and if you’re out in the open, enemies will more often than not kill you pretty quickly. The game is primarily played in the first-person perspective and switches to third-person when you enter cover. It’s a seamless transition that works well. You can now shoot through some materials to kill enemies like wood for example. You an also flip upside down on ropes before breaching through windows, giving you the jump on any enemies in the room. Now the enemies, themselves, feel a bit more aggressive in Vegas 2. I found that they tend to flank more often, always keeping me on the move. However, there a few instances where you and your team get ambushed, which actually isn’t cool because you have no idea it’s about to happen if it’s your first time playing. In my case, I was basically on the ground before I even knew what was happening. It’s just a matter of trial and error. The second to last Act has you going in lone wolf and I don’t like this because it’s forced upon you. Lone wolf is pretty terrifying because you have no backup and I would often get killed from enemies flanking my position, a sniper, or simply because I couldn’t see where the enemies where. This entire mission goes on for a bit too long in my opinion and it’s trial and error nature becomes tiring and frustrating.
The one thing I loved about the first game was the Vegas setting and its locations. I still love the Vegas setting here but in all honesty, I found most of the locations to be not very exciting. The penthouse and tropical estate are the standouts for me but the rest are kind of boring. You traverse through some casino areas but they’re few and far between which is a big letdown. You’ll navigate across rooftops, a club, convention center, and even an oil refinery. I just love exotic areas and Vegas is a prime setting for that but unfortunately, the developers just couldn’t capitalize on Vegas’ exotic nature and most of the time it didn’t really feel like Vegas. For me, the setting is one of the biggest things that sets this and even the first game apart from its competitors and Vegas 2 just fails to deliver, making the environments feel more generic than anything. At least the save system is improved somewhat. It’s still annoying when you die and have to trek long distances between checkpoints but at least this time you keep anything you have equipped when reloading, even if it was equipped after a checkpoint.
In addition to the story is the Terrorist Hunt mode. This can be played cooperatively online or in single player. I’m happy to report that this time you’re not forced to go in lone wolf. Although, you do have the option. In Terrorist Hunt you need to eliminate all the terrorists on the map. Before starting you get to choose the map, your equipment, difficulty, enemy density, and if you want to go in lone wolf or not. Most of the maps are based on the story locations and there’s even a few from the first game including Calypso Casino. While having the option to have teammates watch your back is awesome, Terrorist Hunt feels much more challenging here than it did in the first game. Enemies seem to flank you more often, I never felt safe because at some point an enemy would always come from behind us, and there’s a lot of scenarios where enemies just come pouring out from multiple locations at once, swarming you. The enemy placements do not seem to be randomized either which is a bummer and I also noticed the enemies don’t all spawn in from the start. It’s very obvious that you can move somewhere and all of a sudden a ton of enemies are nearby that weren’t there a second ago. I like Terrorist Hunt because it can be intense and adds replay value to some degree but the lack of randomized enemy placements kind of kills that tense feeling after multiple playthroughs of a single map. And the fact that enemies spawn in depending on your location just seems like artificial difficulty and becomes frustrating when you realize what’s happening. I don’t know how I beat a majority of these maps on 360 back in the day on the Realistic difficulty but I did. I just don’t have the patience now.
Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 does look better than it’s predecessor but it’s not eye popping or anything. Objects in the environments like glass, slot machines, and bottles can be destroyed from gunfire, making firefights look cool and feel a bit more intense. Most of the audio work is on par with the first game including the music which seems to be mostly the same. It’s very cinematic and ramps up during combat, adding a dramatic element to firefights. However, there are some issues. During several instances where you are interacting with an NPC, you can barely hear them. At one point, every time I moved, the sound effect for leaning out of cover would play. Ubisoft apparently didn’t learn their lesson with the first game since Vegas 2 is also very buggy. Many times, my teammates wouldn’t follow orders because they were stuck. I don’t mean stuck on anything, just randomly stuck for some reason. I would have to walk into them to give them that nudge to move. Whenever I was walking up an incline or stairs, I would move noticeably faster than normal speed. Also, ragdolls would occasionally get stuck or freak out. This seems like another poorly optimized PC port but at least this time the HUD is the appropriate size.
Just like my experience replaying the first Rainbow Six: Vegas, I enjoyed my time with Vegas 2, and it was interesting to revisit. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did when I first played it back in 2008 but I do think Vegas 2 is the better game overall. I didn’t care much for the locations but the gameplay is solid. This PC port is definitely lackluster but at least it’s not broken. With the addition of experience points, ranks, and the A.C.E.S. reward system, there’s plenty of replay value here. Terrorist Hunt also returns with some improvements but also with some issues. In the first game Terrorist Hunt felt like an afterthought but here it feels more frustrating than anything. Still, the overall package is decent and I’d recommend it to any fans of action games or first-person shooters. If you’re looking for a tactical shooter, stay away, but if you’re looking for a fun cover shooter, this should scratch that itch.