OK, so maybe I got this whole “glorious future of console/PC convergence” a little wrong. I still think we’ll see games that can be played on either PC or the Xbox-whatever, and this means more big-budget games for an increasingly underserviced PC market. It’s the “glorious” part that’s beginning to worry me, and the cause of this latest concern is Rainbow Six: Vegas.
Don’t get me wrong. R6 Vegas is a boffo bit of action gaming. I played it through on Xbox 360 because, well, all the cool kids hang out there, since PC ports generally hit later than the console versions of games. I like R6 Vegas a lot, even though it largely re-creates the Rainbow Six PC experience I loved, sans everything I love about Rainbow Six.
This is a splashy new game for an impatient new generation, and the slow, methodical, simulation-style uber-realism that defined the series had an anchor tied to its thoughtful bits and heaved overboard, with only a trail of bubbles and some fond memories to mark its passing. Gone are those beloved tactical planning sessions, where you map routes through hostile territory and issue go-codes to remote team members. Gone also are “real” team members who can get terminally ventilated thanks to the smallest miscalculation in your planning.
We saw some of these changes in the PC port of R6: Lockdown but assumed they were merely a temporary aberration, the result of a console incarnation migrating to PC. There was some reason to hope for a deeper R6: Vegas PC experience. When Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter finally made it to the PC, it was a bigger, deeper, more challenging game than the Xbox version.
The planning sessions and team dynamics of the original R6 might have seemed like fusty leftovers for strat geeks, but they marked something new and original on the PC gaming scene in 1998. The hardcore tactical shooter is like a flight sim with legs, and the genre now looks to be going the way of the flight sim. Perhaps only a small percentage of players actually relished the complex elements that defined the series on PC, but that percentage was loyal, hardcore, dedicated. They were the true believers who spread the word about the original Rainbow Six, and it would be a mistake for developers to pitch them overboard.