‘Rainbow Six Vegas’ Hands-On Single Player Preview

The Tom Clancy Rainbow Six series” swan song on last generation consoles was less than colorful, and frankly completely forgettable. Its failure to push the series forward left terrorist hunting fans wondering if Ubisoft could turn a new leaf and successfully start anew.

A glimmer of hope arrived last spring with the reinvention of “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter” on Xbox 360. Addictive search-and-destroy tactics offered a glimpse of engaging and visually stunning next-gen combat, something Rainbow fans could only salivate over the thought of. Now half a year later, “Rainbow Six: Vegas” stands poised to up the ante for all Tom Clancy games. Based on the latest single-player build we ran through, Ubisoft developers loved their hand and went all-in.

Anyone who has visited Las Vegas or even caught an episode of CSI understands the gargantuan task Ubisoft undertook when setting a videogame in the ultimate adult playground. The demo currently available on Xbox Live of Dante’s Casino is merely a tease of how the series has finally diversified beyond one confined room after another. Sure, odes to past Rainbow’s are prevalent throughout, beginning with a cubicle office room in the overtaken Calypso Casino, but the playing field this time around has opened up both vertically and horizontally.

The Calypso Casino level underscores all the new environmental challenges Ubisoft is incorporating. You’ll have to navigate through a maze of abandoned cars and rescue vehicles to reach the casino, penetrate the casino with a detonator charge, snake through small confined rooms, burst out into a wide open slot machine floor, scale a grand foyer with 5 levels of enemies waiting to pick you off, crawl through tunnels for sneak attacks, and of course rappel down walls or through skylights to breach a room from outside. Mark my words: rappelling while inverted will be the new “it” thing in combat games.

The casinos come to life thanks to a combination of attention to detail and subtle ambiance. The “Rainbow Six” series has always featured relaxing background tunes offsetting the bloody carnage occurring amidst it. In Vegas, the casino floors offer ample opportunities for theme-related music to compliment the sound of bullets knocking money out of slot machines. When combined with terrorists screaming commands and the expected buzzing and bleeping sounds of a casino, the realistic effect is both immersive and fresh.

Oftentimes the “little things” help define a game and “Rainbow Six” has enough to build something much bigger. Each of the casinos has been modeled after real-life casinos to capture the diversity that is Las Vegas. While the actual casino level in each may bare a striking resemblance to one another, other areas are truly unique and fun to explore for hidden details like exquisite decorations, Unreal Engine-powered moveable objects and even the screams of hostages pleading for help from behind a door.

If you think rescuing hostages is as easy as getting your team in position and simply breaching the door, think again. Ubisoft has put a lot of effort into ramping up the AI so moving from one area to the next feels more like a challenge and less like a carnival game. Waiting around outside the door where hostages are being held for upwards of a minute can result in an execution and mission over. You’ll need to think fast and employ the “Observe, Plan and Assault” tactic before that can happen. Unfortunately, the snake cam was not available in this build so I was unable to spy a room and “tag” enemies, which will be a crucial component in “plan” of OPA.

Our build features two difficulty levels, normal and realistic. On both levels, the enemy AI will not hesitate to flank you and your team should you decide to take cover and not move. They’ll also sometimes hear you if you stand around a door too long. When ascending down the staircases of Vertigo Casino, a pair of doors offers two options for entry. While in the process of setting up my team for a breach, terrorists burst through one door firing which set off the terrorists behind the other door. I was able to survive the ambush by taking cover and letting my health regenerate. On realistic difficulty, death would have been instantaneous from a single shot.

One new feature players will thank the gaming gods for is the ability to customize weapons prior to each mission. And I’m not just talking about choosing which type of assault rifle you want. You can customize the weapon itself i.e. add a scope, remove a scope, add a bigger magazine, and more. And if that’s not enough flexibility, you can even choose to take an entire armament of flash grenades. I recommend you don’t, even though the flash grenades are extremely powerful this time around and terrorists love hurling them your direction one after another.

With this single-player preview build, Ubisoft showed us their first two “Rainbow Six” cards and they’ve holding pocket Kings. Better yet, the multiplayer river still awaits which I’ll be taking for a test drive over the next few days and reporting back on a week from today. One thing is for certain no matter what cards are dealt next; “Rainbow Six” is back, and it will beckon your presence on either Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 in just a couple weeks.

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