When overwhelmed, blind-fire around corners to push terrorists behind cover.
This isn’t the first action game to feature Las Vegas or chaos in casinos (the last Hitman comes to mind), but it sure does it well. We’re not just talking about lots of pretty neon lights and faithful re-creations of games of chance, either. With a revamped squad system and well-designed environments, Rainbow Six: Vegas takes the tactical combat franchise to a new level of intense action.
Your adventures in counterterrorism begin in a Mexican border town, where you’re in hot pursuit of weapons smuggler Irena Morales. There, you learn the ropes of the new dynamic team-control scheme. The Rainbow assault team is now composed of a single squad of three members—down from four—which you direct on the fly with context-sensitive commands.
Pointing and clicking sets the squad up to breach a room, rappel down a shaft, or find cover. This simplified system replaces the preplanning stage, which means you’ll have to make decisions in the heat of battle. We found this approach surprisingly easy to master and robust enough to tackle the wide range of confrontations throughout the game. Whether we were slowly advancing behind cover in the face of a hail of bullets or rushing around corridors to flank the enemy, navigating the squad was hassle free, giving us a chance to watch our own backs and get in some head shots.
As the good fight made its way into Sin City, we were treated to blisteringly beautiful levels that included hostage-rescue and bomb-defusing scenarios inside three intricately designed casinos and gauntlet-style assaults on the Vegas Strip. While the maps are very linear, each large room has multiple entry points that set the stage for brilliant firefights. The main casino floors—filled with slot machines, card tables, and jackpot car giveaways—bask in elaborate detail.
One situation required that we set the team up at a door while we spec’d out the room by rappelling down a window. After breaching the door, the squad took out marked targets but was gunned down by an unseen marksman who was hiding behind a bar. A second try with a revised approach remedied that mistake. In fact, the game encourages you to try out multiple plans of attack (a necessity when playing in the ultra-difficult realistic mode).
The snake cam lets you target priority bogies for the squad to hit after rushing into a room.
With the emphasis on action, the game does take some liberties with realism to intensify the pace. Your buddies have unlimited ammo and grenades, which is handy since we seemed to always run out of bullets after prolonged engagements. While you’re not bulletproof, you can recover from hits just by finding cover and waiting out the damage. Similarly, teammates can be revived when down, so they’re never out. As a result, in normal mode the game feels a little too easy at times, which makes us wish there was a difficulty setting between normal and realistic.
One area that definitely needs improvement is the multiplayer interface. Connecting and communicating with other players is hit or miss, and server pings don’t show up in the lobby. When it works, co-op terrorist hunt is very enjoyable, though limited to four players. The PC version also opts out of the persistent ranking system featured for consoles, so all weapons are unlocked from the get-go online.
Rainbow Six: Vegas is a shift in direction for the franchise, but most of the changes are welcome. The game successfully ramps up the excitement without sacrificing too much tactical strategy. Old-school die-hards may miss the preplanning, but we guarantee they’ll still have fun.
Intuitive team controls and smart AI anchor an intense single-player campaign.
Frustrating multiplayer interface, checkpoint saves, and lame in-game ads tarnish the experience.