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