Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six takes a step away from traditional first person shooters and steps toward realism. Its more than a shooter though, it has stealth action, but when it all goes wrong, you still have guns. In this game you take the role of both a commander and a field operative in missions against terrorists to save hostages. Its a far deeper game than your standard shoot the enemies fare. In this, if you take out an enemy too loud, the others hear and start shooting your hostages and its a failed mission. There’s a real sense of tension as you wait to take out a guard, exhilaration when you finally burst into a room and a job well done when its all over.
Because its such a deep and different game, it takes a while to get used to and it was a wise choice to put three difficulty levels in the campaign. Since this is a squad game, you can have more than one player playing and make use of multi player split screen!
Before you even start playing a mission, you need to plan a strategy. First, you review your mission briefing and objectives. You can chose to look over intelligence on the characters and other information.
Second, you select your four crew members from a roster of a dozen or so. Each person has around a dozen stats for everything from self-control and stealth to grenades and electronics so you better chose your team wisely. If one of them gets killed in action, they’re gone from the rest of the game. In a way that’s okay because as a two hour game and so much diversity in play styles its a game that warrants multiple playthroughs. I’ve gone through it several times and I get more efficient each time, even if I still lose people here and there.
In the planning phase, you go down the line selecting attire, then weapons, then a kit for your squad. Each person can have different things equipped for the mission.
Then comes the part where it can get detailed, you plan out the path of the mission. Everyone can take their own route to get into position. There are map controls to zoom in and out, rotate around all to plan the routes based on the intelligence of where the terrorists and hostages are. For those that want to micromanage, this is a joy, but for the rest of us, you can skip it and use the default paths the game has prepared for you.
During the game itself, your squad will each take their position and notify you with an “in position,” You then find ways into the compounds, usually by picking locks. Once you’re in its time to take out terrorists. Stealth killing with silenced weapons works, but if you go loud, your enemies will run to the gunfire.
When you take damage, its less about damage and more about being instantly killed. Sure big armor lets you take more punishment, but you can quickly be killed in this game if someone shoots you. The same goes for your enemies though, if they’re wearing body armor, take them out with a single bullet to the head. You can still shoot them in the leg and they’ll die. It would have been nice to have them still shoot when down or at least play dead. Maybe that is reserved for higher difficulties.
Rescuing the hostages puts up a timer like the lock picking, reloading and weapon switching. Walk up to them hold a button, watch a little meter fill up and then they’re rescued. They stand up and run off out of the building. Its good to have so many facets in Rainbow Six, it really makes it stand out from the pack of other first person shooters. The hostages, your team, the enemies, it all blends together well for a convincing game.
Since you have a team, you can make use of them by cycling through them and jumping from one person to the next. Your computer controlled partners act admirably, but you’re the one meant to play. This is also helpful when you run out of ammunition. You still carry more with you to reload, but there’s still a chance you can run dry.
Another nice touch is a map overlay you can call upon to see where your troops and targets are.
The objectives vary from mission to mission beyond just saving hostages. You can eliminate a leader, prevent a leader from leaving his compound and even retake Big Ben! Your mission is only over when your squad makes it back to a safe point. You never know when there could still be one last terrorist or some surprise could show up on the lawn outside. Well, other than the surprise that dogs leave.
As for the graphics, everything looks serviceable, even if Doom 64’s sprite graphics are better. Everything is in polygons other than most of the mission screen. The maps are convincing and realistic. These could be real building layouts and everything makes sense to be there, even down to the bathrooms. Each locale has multiple floors including stairwells, winding staircases and fire escape ladders.
The music is big and fitting as well. What sounds like a string orchestra helps set a tension and a mood for each mission.
There are tons missions, and because of that the game has a gamepack save feature so you can continue your progress. Oh and the developers made sure to remember those without a gamepack by having a save feature. You never know when your gamepack is full!
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six feels ground breaking as realistic first person shooter with a lot of strategy involved and different facets of civilians, terrorists and your team. Its a joy to experience, for those with the patience.