I confess, I completely missed Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3 when it was originally released on the Xbox and PC late last year. My friends all raved about it, magazines gushed over it, and it went straight up the charts … but I was too busy playing other games to give it the time of day. Fast forward six months and I finally have a chance to see what all the fuss was about. With my copy of the PlayStation 2 version in hand, I looked forward to seeing just how impressive this game really is.
Unfortunately, now that I’ve spent some time with this game and have seen what it has to offer, I have to say that I’m a little under whelmed. UbiSoft has delivered a solid tactical shooter with a number of impressive bells and whistles, but the game just feels dated, and fails to offer anything new or original.
You take control of Ding Chavez, the leader of an elite, international terrorist unit … who just happens to have the lamest name I’ve ever seen in a video game. Ding, along with his assortment of commandos (each with equally horrific names, like Dieter Weber and Louis Loiselle) are world’s best chances of thwarting all of the evil plans.
The Tom Clancy line of video games has a long tradition of providing interesting and intelligent stories that feature high stakes deals and some huge plot twists. For the most part Rainbow Six 3 delivers. It opens with terrorists attempting to disrupt oil distribution, using it as leverage against oil-dependant countries, but soon enough things go from bad to worse when all signs seem to point to chemical weapons.
Though there is a lot of story, it’s all pretty cut and dry; a lot of ground previous Tom Clancy games have already touched on. Unfortunately, a lot of the mission objectives feel like that, too. Early on most of the missions consist of you and your team rescuing hostages, finding evidence, and other bland objectives. It’s not until the very end that things start picking up, and you finally have tasks to complete that actually seem worth your time.
The game is presented in the first person-style, one where you actually see the gun, and the direction you’re aiming is the same direction you’re looking. You are able to switch between three different types of vision, including night vision, thermal goggles, and of course, your own unfiltered eyes. From the very start it’s pretty clear that you will have to use all of these visions in each level. The problems arise when you realize that the night vision is far too bright, and tends to make everything look hideous. Things aren’t much better on the thermal vision side, where you have to squint and hope what you’re looking at really is a warm body. I applaud the developers for giving us different ways of seeing the action, but like so much else in this game, it feels like it should have been tweaked a little more.
The good news is how easy it is to control your squad. While you are able to use the USB headset to bark orders at your team mates (similar to the way it’s used in SOCOM), most people will find it faster and easier to just use the control to give your group purpose. Thanks to a pop-up menu it’s easy to order your back-up around, control when they strike, and more. Though your squad doesn’t always do what it’s told to, that’s more a problem with the game’s flawed A.I. than a control issue.
The faulty artificial intelligence doesn’t stop with your back-up; it’s blatant throughout the game in every single computer controlled character. The enemies are especially bad; rarely paying attention to what’s going on around them. You can shoot a guy right in front of two other enemies and they won’t bat an eye, it’s as if they didn’t notice their colleague hit the ground or hear the loud sound of my gun firing. Years ago I would have put up with this kind of shoddy programming, but in 2004 there’s just no excuse for poor artificial intelligence.
The levels themselves are good, if not a bit on the simple side. Many of the levels are straight forward corridor challenges, with you ordering your team to blow up doors and find the fastest way to your objective. While there are usually a couple of paths your team can take to complete each task, it’s pretty linear when compared to games like Hitman or Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell.
Rainbow Six 3 actually suffers from a lot of the problems that plagued the original Splinter Cell, namely its trial and error game play. It’s common for you to have to play through a level a few times just to learn the location of the enemies. The game is nice enough to give players a check point after tough sections, but you’ll still need to play each part multiple times just to have enough life to complete the mission.
Some missions are gratifying, yet other missions, especially those that require you to sneak around unnoticed, will test every inch of your willingness to endure pain. Though there are a good 15 different missions, none of them really inspired much excitement, and a few are just downright boring.
Part of the problem can be attributed to a general lack of detail found in the indoor environments. Some levels, like the oil refinery or the office building, Crespo Foundation, are nothing more than one colorless background after another. With nothing to set each section apart, these levels combine everything you hate about mazes with the worst aspects of corridor games.
Other levels, like Alcatraz, sound cool, but end up being nothing more than one lifeless tile set after another. To make matters worse, there’s almost nothing to interact with, making the game feel even more unnatural. There is actually so little to see and touch that midway through the seventh level when I accidentally blew-up a vase I had to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me. If you’re looking to wow your friends on the power of the PlayStation 2, Rainbow Six 3 may not be the game for you.
That’s not to say the graphics are bad. Yes, the interiors are completely barren, but there are a few moments when the game is really given a chance to shine. The Penthouse and Island Estate feature well defined landscapes with a lot of detail. The characters, everybody from your squad mates to the enemies, all manage to look pretty good. When it needs to, Rainbow Six 3 can be a really pretty game, one that you almost enjoy playing. But just as soon as you’ve been won over, you’re back to another dull corridor level.
Not surprisingly, the best part of the games presentation comes from the music. From the dramatic music found in the load screen, to the epic score mixed into each level briefing, all the way to the incidental music that manages to underline every part of the game perfectly. There is also a fair amount of good, but not great, voice acting. Most of the dialog tilts a little too far towards to melodramatic, but it’s more what they have to say than how they say it. When you’re supposed to read lines like, “[the terrorists are] dirtier than a dish rag” I don’t think you have any choice but to play it over the top. Still, it’s hardly the worst aspect of the game, and may even provide a few unintentional laughs along the way.
Besides the campaign, you are given a few other game play types, including the ability to customize any of the unlocked levels. You don’t really have much control and it really just boils down to a way for you to relive any of the levels, in case you didn’t see enough of them the first time through. In theory this mode would be a lot of fun had the levels been more action packed, but this version of Rainbow Six 3 is in short supply of excitement, thus only a few of the levels are worth revisiting.
If you can find a friend interested in saving the free world from the likes of terrorists you can attempt the game via a two-player split screen mode. It’s a welcome addition, but unless you have an extremely large television chances are you won’t get much use out of it. Much of the game involves you taking out enemies before they see you, but this is made virtually impossible in the shrunken screen. It would have made more sense for UbiSoft to go the next step and actually provide a two-to-four player LAN mode, so everybody could have their own television.
It also perplexes me why they didn’t just allow two people to play these levels online, since the game already comes packaged with a rather robust multiplayer mode. Online you can have as many as six players competing in either team games or free-for-all, Deathmatch-style challenges. There are a healthy number of levels, each taken from the various locations found in the one-player game. And for a little while, this mode actually provides the excitement you were looking for from the one-player excursion.
In most regards the online front-end is pretty good, offering a buddy list, player rankings, and everything else you would want from this type of game. A player can host a room and change the level whenever they see fit, which is something SOCOM should have implemented long ago. The game also gives you control of what weapons you use and who is allowed to stay in the rooms. This is one aspect of the game I was really impressed with, but the more I played Rainbow Six 3 online, the more I started to hate the little things about it. I found myself running into a lot of rooms where the same level would be played over and over. I ran into a lot of people who were not interested in playing together, but rather had their own agenda. And I found the rounds to be over far too soon, many of them only lasting a minute or two.
You are able to use the headset to communicate with your team (or whoever is around) and there is a nice cross sample of levels, but overall the online game just doesn’t feel as polished as that of far more established PS2 entries, like SOCOM II. Other versions of the game, such as those found on the PC and Xbox, allow as many as 16 players in a room; the PlayStation 2 only allows for six. Still, this mode is fun at short bursts, and will no doubt remind a lot of players of the Counter-Strike rip-offs the industry endured a half dozen years ago.
Confused by why anybody would rave about this game, I confronted my friends and explained what I thought of Rainbow Six 3. Each of them stared at me, a blank look on all of their faces. They simply didn’t understand how it could be so, how could anybody have such disdain for such a high quality product? They concluded that we must have played completely different games. So in an attempt to get to the bottom of this I borrowed the Xbox version and was shocked by what I found.
Not only does the game look and play better, but the levels are more fleshed out, the backgrounds are full of detail and character. The enemies animate with a certain elegance, and the missions seem more intense, a heck of a lot more fun. It really is a completely different game in every regard. At long last I understood why everybody loved Rainbow Six 3 … and just how disappointing it is that PlayStation 2 owners get slighted once again.
More On:Rainbow Six 3
After half a year of waiting, Rainbow Six 3 finally makes its appearance on the PlayStation 2. Problem is, in that time you should have just saved up for the Xbox version. Not only does this Tom Clancy game go nowhere we havenâ€™t been before, but it seems to make even the most interesting plot devices seem tired and clichÃ©.