If you are a terror to many, then beware of many.
This is not Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield, although if youÃ‚'ve played the PC version there will be plenty similarities to remind you just where the game comes from. The weapons are mostly the same, for instance, although there arenÃ‚'t quite as many to choose from. The uniforms, textures and level themes also run so close to the PC version that at first glance you might think that this is a straight port to the Xbox. The trick is, the moment you enter a familiar looking building or area youÃ‚'ll realize just how much effort has gone into making this a whole new experience for Xbox users. ItÃ‚'s almost like they threw the design into a box shook it up and tossed the pieces onto the floor only to rebuild it much like a 12 year-old super-genius with a pile of Lego would.
To give an example, the Estate map in the PC version has three entrances into the house: the garage, the side door and the kitchen door. On the Xbox all but the kitchen door is blocked and even the windows on the side of the house are shaded so you canÃ‚'t take your enemies down from outside. As you walk through the familiar kitchen and enter the dining room you will see up ahead that some hallways along the left donÃ‚'t even exist anymore. The piano is still there, the stairs are still there but so much else has changed youÃ‚'ll find you canÃ‚'t rely on old knowledge much at all. Thankfully the Ave Maria made the cut so that atmospheric rendition of the song will still soothe you as you hunt down terrorists.
The missions you do run tend to have hostages that need rescuing and bombs that need defusing at any given time. The changes you see on any given levelÃ‚'s layout are usually in place to make the level suitable for a one team mission rather than having two groups taking on a building. The term Ã‚"linearÃ‚" comes to mind although there are times when you can choose your path. The story goes that OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) has quit shipping oil to the United States and the only country in the organization that is resisting this and shipping anyways is Venezuela. Terrorists are pissed about this (as usual) and start taking hostages, threatening to blow buildings up and generally being jerks. Team Rainbow is called in and as Ding Chavez you lead your squad to victory.
Ok, itÃ‚'s different but is it any good?
Yes, itÃ‚'s great. In fact, the single player experience on the Xbox is far superior to what you find on the PC. Since you only control one team instead of two or three separate ones youÃ‚'ll never miss any of the action and giving orders to your team mates is just as easy as the PC version. Wherever you happen to be pointing your reticule you can press the A button to give the most obvious command (move here, open door) or you can hold the button down and select the command from the quick radial menu. You can have your team open, flash and clear a room if youÃ‚'re too low on health to do it yourself or you can even tell them to wait for the Zulu code before performing the given action. So if a room has two doors you can have your NPC team standby to open flash and clear on your command. Position yourself at door number two, give the command and attack from two angles at the same time. ItÃ‚'s quick, it works well and itÃ‚'s especially nice because aside from a few mishaps your team mates arenÃ‚'t stupid.
They automatically take cover, guard your back and flash rooms without getting gunned down the moment they open the door. Occasionally they will stand half-way behind cover and get nailed by streams of bullets until theyÃ‚'re dead but IÃ‚'ve only seen that happen a handful of times. ItÃ‚'s not a perfect record, but itÃ‚'s a long way from the games which force you to baby-sit your Ã‚"elite squadÃ‚" of counter-terrorists who should be guarding your back, not running into walls. The enemy AI is solid although you can tell most of the work went into your team mates routines instead. Most of the interesting situations in the single player mode are scripted so no matter how many times you reload your game the enemy will do the same thing over and over again. ItÃ‚'s not as heavily scripted as Call of Duty or Medal of Honor but it would be nice to see an enemy who does more than stand and shoot, fire blindly over crates or run around like their pants are on fire outside of the usual scripted sequences. Mind you, sometimes their pants ARE on fire.
In terms of graphics and sounds Rainbow Six 3 is both better and worse than the PC version. On the graphics side of things youÃ‚'ll find the lower resolution, jaggies and blurrier textures arenÃ‚'t quite up to par with the PC release. On the other hand, the lighting, shadows and ambiance looks like it was ripped directly from Splinter Cell which is fantastic. It really gives the levels a much less sterile feel than the PC. The sounds were almost identical as far as I could tell with solid voice acting and the usual Tom Clancy game music.
When talking about the sound I have to mention the excellent head-set feature that comes with the game. If you can enunciate your words well enough you can give orders by voice rather than using your controller. Pointing to a door and saying Ã‚"Open, flash and clear on ZuluÃ‚" to your TV may feel a bit ridiculous but it really adds something to the game. ItÃ‚'s not a perfect solution mind you. Sometimes youÃ‚'ll have to repeat yourself a few times to get what you need. It gets easier as you learn the proper way to deliver your orders if youÃ‚'re willing to put the time into it but I expect many will stick with the controller commands.
Before we move on I want to say thanks for giving users the option to have radio chatter from team mates and HQ come in only through your head set. What a small but excellent feature to suck you that much further into the game.
What About the Multiplayer?
The single player is fun for a week or so but the multiplayer is what will keep you playing well into next year. Take the excellent multiplayer game-modes and interface that kept us playing Raven Shield for months and mix it in with Xbox LiveÃ‚'s voice chat, friends list and broadband only connections and youÃ‚'ve got one hell of a multiplayer game. You can play cooperatively through the missions or terrorist hunts along with the usual host of adversarial modes.
ThereÃ‚'s just something about creeping through a room with a buddy and talking about what to do next when heÃ‚'s cut off in mid-sentence because a terrorist sniped him and his voice chat doesnÃ‚'t come through anymore. Much like the use of the microphone as mentioned above this just adds that much more to the immersion level. Then again, IÃ‚'m pretty sure elite squads donÃ‚'t say Ã‚"dudeÃ‚" quite as often as the guys online do but I could be wrong.
If youÃ‚'ve played the PC version of Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield donÃ‚'t let that prevent you from picking up the Xbox edition. ItÃ‚'s almost a completely different game and in many cases a better one. The single player is compelling, the multiplayer is to die for and aside from a few niggles the total package is almost flawless.
*Insert more gushing*
Buy the damn game.