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Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas

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Impact: Faint

BEST FEATURES: Rambo action; particle effects in graphics and sound effects; Multiplayer.

WORST FEATURES: Cheesy and unsatisfying quirks in the storyline; unbalanced AI, performance and game in general.

SIMILAR GAMES: Rainbow Six Vegas is a hybrid of Gears of War, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and SWAT 4.

Rainbow Six Vegas is a tactical shooter that puts you as a commander of two Rainbow operatives as you try to solve a growing crisis that takes you at a few spots in Americas, predominantly, the city of Las Vegas. The single player includes two modes: campaign (the story mode) and terrorist hunt where you're charged with clearing the map from bad guys on your own. There's also a neat multiplayer mode.

Let's be honest, you know Rainbow Six Vegas is not going to be a standard Rainbow Six game, just by looking at the package: the cool-looking operative by a shiny Vegas billboard. All the famous Rainbow traidmark features have been either cut or heavily modified. There is no more mission planning. Teammates can't be chosen and neither can their weapons. Before most missions, the player however, does get a choice out of different (and very modern) weapons in several categories for his own character. Each weapon can also be modified with an add-on. Appealing to the more mainstream gamers, Rainbow Six is, basically, capitalism on a stick.

The creators tried to inject a serious realistic tactical shooter with an overdose of action and bling. The attempt is, without a doubt, more successful than that of R6 Lockdown, but the results are still somewhat unbalanced. The gameplay consists of moving through the level, clearing room after room, repelling waves of attacking enemies, rescuing hostages and letting your team members defuse bombs or tap into computers. A relatively simple system of commands allows you to do a number of useful things with your squad members. Your team can be ordered to stack up at a door and then clear the room behind it in a number of ways. They can interact with mission-critical objects and use different movement tactics. A few shots will kill both you and your team, so outmost caution is a must. And yet constant unexpected attacks will throw that caution right out of the window. There are save checkpoints, but they are fairly far apart. This means lots of trial and error: fun prolonging the game for one person and annoying repetitions for another.

Firefights are generally concentrated around a shoot-from-cover mechanic, something you mostly see in cheesy action movies. At a push of a button, the character puts his back against the wall, the camera goes to the third person view and the player can then expose a part of his character to shoot at the enemy. He player can even blind fire - that is fire the weapon from around the corner without looking. This action mechanic allows for spectacular shoot-outs while keeping the character relatively safe. If the player tries to go outside this technique, his character will not last very long.

Despite the occasional alternative path in the map and cool tricks like being able to climb down a rope upside down, R6 Vegas strips the player of any real freedom. It is noticeable from the linear construction of campaign maps (as opposed to squarer sand-box maps) and the sheer amount of scripts present. Scripted events are around every corner, in enemy actions, communications and the environment in general. Stealth is present in the game but only when the game wants you to use it, to be more precise, when clearing small rooms of enemies or solving hostage situations. In all other cases it seems that the enemy knows exactly where you are, no matter how stealthy you behave.

The Artificial Intelligence system is fairly complicated, which means that it's prone to critical mistakes. In the earlier Rainbow Six games the AI was a problem, but at least one knew what to expect from it. You could use those expectations as another way to control your teams. In R6 Vegas the advanced AI tactics combined with a varied surrounding produce unexpected results. One of the strange results is that your team seems to be weaker than the enemy, not being able to handle unexpected targets. The enemies are masters of ambush, coming from every mouse hole, communicating, throwing different grenades at you and using cover better than your own team, which by now, for some reason, decided to go ahead of you and get themselves killed.

Graphically, Rainbow Six Vegas is up to date, though the lower quality textures are covered up with lots of light bloom, an effect that creates a blurry glowliness around everything. All events feel well animated and a lot of things in the environment are destructible. The developers were obviously aiming at the shiny world of Las Vegas to provide the bling background for the destruction. Slot machines, flashing and shooting out coins as they explode, are good eye candy, while explosions and smoke show off the particle effects.

The sound support is one thing that's so well implemented into R6 Vegas that it's actually noticeable at a number of points. Music is well chosen and changes with the action and your location. Needlessly to say, the explosions and gun fire are a great part of the action.

The best feature of R6Vegas is its multi-player where up to 14 people can play on a server. There are tons of game types, gear and characters to choose from. One is able to highly customize their character, though not nearly as far as on Xbox 360. On-line scripted action changes for a much more natural and cool looking firefight. Maps are fairly large and Rainbow developers have released a few extra maps free to download.

The performance is another bad point in R6V. IT starts with the video options, which are extremely limited. Texture quality, for example , is not one of them. The graphics of the game might be fairly impressive, but they aren't state of the art by today's standards. Yet a dual core 6600 machine with 2 gigs of RAM and a good video card had a few struggling points. The fact that they were few is the main part of the argument. Those points were inconsistent and the machine was slowing down in spots that seemed to have no hardware-intensive things. All that lack of balance was experienced in the patched 1.6 version of R6V. Makes you wonder what the 1.0 version was like.

The constant trial and error, the inability to control the events at random places, the unbalances in the performance and the helplessness of your team mates all begin to irritate shortly after the first insertion, and don't stop irritating till the end of the game. And how does the game end? It ends in the middle of things with the words "to be continued". Perhaps the problem with anyone who doesn't like Rainbow Six Vegas is that he or she expects something from this game, that it isn't designed to deliver, namely the tactical special forces experience. With that said, Rainbow Six Vegas is a good game for someone who just wants some run 'n gun action. It's relatively difficult, and yet it has lots of eye candy mixed in with over the top firefights. If not the single player, the multi-player makes this game worthy of purchase.