Good result for Tom Clancy’s Rainbow there against a scrappy Vegas team.

A semi-tactical real-world soldier sim in which you’re in charge of a three-man elite anti-terrorist team running around the Las Vegas strip meeting interesting people and shooting them in the head. Even though it’s considerably streamlined and simplified since the old Rainbow 6 games on the PC (where you’d be controlling a squad of six and often spent more time planning your team’s movements on the level map beforehand than you did actually first-person-shootering) this is still something of a thinking person’s frag-fest.

I found R6V2 (he was the astromech droid on Wedge’s X-Wing) a bit of an uncomfortable experience. The game doesn’t seem sure if it wants to be a slow-paced tactical shooter or something more akin to Gears Of War, where use of cover is absolutely vital but it’s still completely clear that you’re in an arcade free-for-all. As a result, there are some jarring changes of tone and the odd moment that feels completely out of place in a game that’s largely a semi-hardcore soldier-sim. Goons pouring out of side-doors when I reach a certain point I can just about forgive. Goons that only pour out of side-doors when I reach a certain point, having totally ignored the two squad members that I sent ahead are a complete immersion-breaker. Don’t get me started on the blokes lugging around indestructible metal shields. The airport level, with its multiple unavoidable chokepoints that you have to navigate sans squad, can get to fecking feck. And the hugging game ends with a hugging BOSS BATTLE. Seriously. A combat sim that throws in an old-skool shmup-style memorise-the-pattern trial-and-error boss battle. For crying. Out. Loud.

My discomfort wasn’t entirely due to the schizoid level design, however. Call me a muesli-munching bleeding-heart liberal, but all the way through the game I was faintly bothered by the nagging awareness that I was playing a right-wing wet dream. Dozens and dozens of highly-armed fanatical terrorists are going to BLOW UP THE MOON or something so we now need to open up a dialogue. And by “a dialogue” we mean “their chest cavities”. Yes, of course it’s only a game, yes of course it’s not remotely unique in demonising and dehumanising the pop-up shooting-gallery targets that provide an obstacle to victory. Nonetheless, there’s just a slight distasteful air to proceedings, a bit of a whiff of the palpable excitement that a certain sort of person displays when something ghastly happens because now they’ve got moral justification to let slip the dogs of war, crack open the shiny high-tech explode-o-toys and protect the values of civilization by being absolute barbarians. However, Ubisoft should be given credit for subtly undercutting the game’s fascist undertone by casting your squadmates as a pair of bumbling pacifists who’ll do anything in their power to prevent you harming anyone. They repeatedly refuse to follow your orders because they’re unable to work out how to get around, for example, a knee-high coffee table and on occasion they’ll even attempt to bring a halt to the bloodshed via non-violent direct action, heroically throwing themselves in front of your gun in the midst of a firefight. The voice-acting for your team isn’t just them endlessly singing Blowin’ In The Wind but it flipping well ought to be.

For all its frustrations and dodgy ideology, I had a pretty good time with R6V2 (or “Community Policing Sim: The Met Edition” as it swiftly became known in these parts). When Stan and Ollie aren’t being flummoxed by furniture or the functionality of the common corridor they do give several very cool moments where you can send them in through one door to draw the enemy fire (“Iron Duke, Iron Duke, this is Pawn Sacrifice…”) while you nip around the side and slaughter the oppo with impunity. The combat is intense but still somewhat tactical, and the experience-point system that rewards you with goodies for massacring folk in interesting ways (killing someone from behind f’rinstance, or at long range, or with explosives) encourages you to plan and experiment even if the kit you’re given actually isn’t any more effective than the default stuff. And I liked being able to use the EggBox camera to import my massive baldy heed onto my character.

Rainbow 6 Vegas 2, then. It’s annoying and it’s for people who’re a bit too keen on the word “ordnance”, but it’s not bad. RANK: C

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Not being remotely patriotic has its advantages. No, you don’t get to feel unearned and unjustifiable pride in those achievements of your fellow countrypeople with which you had nothing whatsoever to do. However, you also don’t have to feel ashamed when the other folks crammed onto a slightly shabby island in the North Atlantic with you do something deeply stupid and nasty. Thus, valuable emotional energy that would have been taken up with misplaced guilt and shame can instead be used for working up appropriate levels of embarrassment and contempt.

Here’s part of the problem, though: if you’re an average, reasonably rational human being who’s naturally concerned about the current political, social and economic climate but doesn’t believe the solution is to lock up all paediatricians  and to Send Back Where They Came From anyone darker-skinned than David Dickenson, exactly who is there for you to vote for? With the three main political parties melting together into a centrist mass of well-scrubbed near-indistinguishable charisma-free talking heads who’ll say absolutely anything to get elected it’s hard to generate much enthusiasm for any of them. And that’s assuming you don’t share the general understandable yet ever-so-slightly hypocritical outrage at the state of MPs’ expenses.

(After all, you could take the opinion that everyone was doing it, that it was basically an accepted perk of the job. And I don’t know about you, but the sort of person who’s got the chutzpah to claim for having their moat cleaned or a wooden duck house on expenses is precisely who I want representing my interests. Scruples are all very well, but when it comes right down to getting things done give me the devious git with the nerve of a burglar over the choirboy. Not meaning to excuse or play down the general shabbiness of the whole expenses scandal, but some of the weeping and wailing that’s followed it seems just a little hysterical and fundamentalist. After all, Let He Who Is Without A Purloined Pad Of Post-It Notes Cast The First Stone.)

The Green Party have always been the traditional beneficiaries of the middle-class protest vote, but personally I can’t in all good conscience put my cross next to a party who veer dangerously close to being anti-rationalism. Banning animal testing, banning stem-cell research and throwing more NHS money at alternative and complimentary therapies are policies that speak of a mistrust of science, of a worrying degree of influence from headbanging hardcore ley-line botherers. Which they make no bones about of course, and is absolutely fine if that’s your bag but for me it’s a complete deal-breaker (ladies). Making sure the current ecosphere survives is a Good Thing to believe in, absolutely, but the only way that’s going to happen is by applying our wonderful, miraculous evolved monkey brains to the problem.

Being able to turn up at the polling booth and place our cross for None Of The Above would be nice, but doesn’t address the major issue that somewhere, somehow, we do actually need to find some people to run the country. So what we need is a Fourth Way. We need a party without the Flash Harry sliminess of the career politician, but also without the baggage or true-believer scariness that comes with the one-issue candidates.

Friends, Britons, countrymen – what we need is the Nerd Party.

The advantages of electing nerds to office are many. If you accept that power is inevitably going to corrupt, it’s a good idea to vote for folk who’re only going to be corrupted in ways that are a) harmless (No Child Left Behind The Current Generation Of Consoles, changing the national anthem to Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley) or b) entertaining (several hundred million quid of taxpayers’ money blown on a Boeing 747 and a giant conveyer belt to settle things once and for all). Having computer-literate politicians would go a long way toward preventing the habitual costly chaos that results every time a government department tries something IT-related that’s more complicated than reading its email. And it would mean an end to having to doll out a second-house allowance to facilitate MPs attending the House of Commons, because the Nerd Party would be entirely happy to telecommute. In our pants, most likely.

In fact, we could likely ditch the Palace Of Westminster altogether in favour of an entirely web-based solution. The Forum Of Commons has a nice ring about it, n’est-ce pas? It’d be a far more efficient way of debating the issues of the day than the current one-subject-at-a-time, one-person-talking-six-hundred-sitting-there-waving-pieces-of-paper system. And just think how much more difficult it would be for a government to backtrack from its positions or promises if the opposition had instant access to everything that had ever been said plus a “Quote This Post” button.

The more I think about this, the more I’m convinced it’s the way forward. After all, so long as you keep clear of their pet subjects nerds are generally clear-thinking folk who don’t attach any stigma to seeking the counsel of the better-informed, which is exactly the sort of attitude that we want from our leaders. Of course, if any major policy decision hinges on which Terminator film is the best we’re looking at weeks of increasingly long-winded and vicious infighting followed by the collapse of Western civilisation, but that’s a chance we’ll have to take.

Vote Nerd in 2010. Together we can be made of win!

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Re: The darkly hilarious interview on Radio 4 this morning in which BNP leader, holocaust denier, new Member of the European Parliament and all-terrain tosspot Nick Griffin declared straight-faced that white folk are now second-class citizens in Britain:

“Alright, apart from the House of Commons, the banks, the police, the European Parliament, the media, the Cabinet, the armed forces, the Civil Service, teaching, the House of Lords, the City, the social services, journalism, the Church and 94% of all management positions – what is there left that white British people still control?”

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