The Rainbow Six tag seems to have attached itself to quality like a balaclava to a sweaty terrorist's scalp. It's like Splinter Cell, or Gran Turismo, or Mario - you know what to expect, and you expect it to be great.
So Ubisoft and developer Red Storm Entertainment's decision to take the Rainbow Six series in a new direction could be seen as a little unusual - and a little bit brave, too.
We're not talking a totally new game here, but Rainbow Six: Lockdown is being armed with enough firepower to take down more casual players as well as the Tom Clancy-loving hardcore fans. Lockdown is more story and character driven, with additional aiming assistance and a new Sniper Mode (read about it here) to keep the action flowing faster than a commando knife through an exposed jugular.
Don't expect to get too trigger happy, though - the classic Rainbow Six one-shot-kills are still in full effect. Stick your nugget where it shouldn't be and a terrorist will be more than happy to perforate it.
And fans of Rainbow Six 3's legendary Xbox Live mode are in for a treat. Lockdown will be online across PS2, Xbox and PC, and the new online modes should offer even more tango-twatting action than before.
Rainbow Six: Lockdown has accepted a mission to take the series in a new direction, while still staying true to the roots that have made it such a favourite. Can it succeed?
We caught up with Stuart White, Lockdown's publisher at Red Storm Entertainment, to find out.
It's not been that long since the last Rainbow Six game was released, but Rainbow Six 4 isn't simply a new story using the same technology as the previous game, is it?
Stuart White: Rainbow Six: Lockdown has actually been in production for a couple of years now. We have a proprietary engine that Red Storm Entertainment has built and are quite proud of. The graphics, AI, and sound produced for the Playstation 2 will simply blow you away. As far as story goes, we have been working on and tweaking the story about the same length of time that we have been working on the engine. We feel that people will be in for quite a ride when they see the Lockdown storyline unfold before their eyes.
We've heard a few details about Rainbow Six 4's plot, but could you elaborate on what we've already been told? Like, where does the action take place?
Stuart White: In Rainbow Six: Lockdown, the team is called in to neutralize the Global Liberation Front. The GLF, a terror group with cells all over the world, has obtained a lethal bio-weapon which they plan to deploy - but no one knows when or where the attack will take place. Ding Chavez and Team-2 track the GLF terrorists from Algeria to Gibraltar to South Africa, and the clock is ticking. Along the way, the team must undertake a dangerous hostage-rescue in the middle of a civil war, save the life of a terrorist that they'd rather kill, and chase terrorists through the bone-strewn catacombs under the city of Paris.
Could we be introduced to Rainbow Six 4's squad members?
Stuart White: The team members are:
Ding Chavez, Team Leader - formerly US Army and CIA. Strong-willed, decisive, and fiercely loyal to his team, Chavez is a natural leader.
Dieter Weber, Sniper - formerly GSG-9. Weber is a competitive, disciplined soldier who finds tranquility and happiness in the outdoors.
Annika Lofquist, Electronics Specialist - formerly ONI. An electronics genius with multiple patents, Anna is extremely confident and courageous, although at times her lack of military training can lead her to overestimate her ability to handle a situation.
Roger McAllen, Demolitions Specialist - formerly SERT and JTF-2. Has participated in counter-terrorist actions on three continents. Extensive experience with bomb disposal and demolitions.
Pak Suo-Won, Reconnaissance Specialist - formerly South Korean Army. No intel available [ooooh, mysterious...].
Louis Loiselle, Assault Specialist - formerly DGSE. Involved in tactical espionage and counter-espionage throughout Europe.
Jamal Murad, Assault Specialist - formerly Unit 777. Joined Task Force 777, Egypt's counter-terrorism team. Cross-trained with SAS, developed contacts with US, British and German training units. Recruited by Rainbow.
Eddie Price, Assault Specialist - formerly SAS. Fought terrorism in Northern Ireland with the 14th Intelligence Company. Mild-mannered and quiet, but good-natured.
Renee Raymond, Assault Specialist - formerly US Army and PSYOPS. Raymond is a protector. Her first instinct in a combat situation is to defend those around her, and to protect innocent civilians from harm.
Ayana Yacoby, Assault Specialist - formerly Sayeret Mat'Kal and Mossad. Specialises in infiltration and intelligence gathering. Yacoby doesn't have a lot of patience for anyone, including teammates, hostages, and civilians
What role do the new elite operatives play, and how do they work alongside the base team?
Stuart White: In Rainbow Six Lockdown, you'll be partnered with five assault specialists and three elite specialists. On each mission, you will be assigned a total of three teammates. Which teammates you're assigned will depend on the information presented in the briefings. For example, if the upcoming mission requires bomb disposal, you'll be assigned Roger McAllen, the demolitions specialist. If the mission objectives include hacking into a computer system, you'll be taking Swedish operative Annika Lofquist into battle.
New weapons and equipment - what can we expect here?
Stuart White: One of the coolest new pieces of equipment in Rainbow Six: Lockdown is the motion sensor. This device allows you to see motion, even through walls. You can use it to get the drop on what the bad guys are doing in the next room. As far as weapons go, we have 13 new weapons that the player has not seen in any previous Rainbow game. Of these weapons my personal favorite is the M249 which can mow through just about anything in your way!
It sounds as though enemies will, in the later stages, be playing a very similar 'game' to Team Rainbow and using the same tactics - what exactly can we expect from enemy AI?
Stuart White: In Rainbow Six: Lockdown the player will face three very different types of enemies. The first is what we're calling Militia - these guys will not coordinate much with each other but will keep you on your toes with their penchant for charging at Rainbow. The second enemy type is the Terrorist - they know how to take advantage of cover and use basic tactics, but rely on numbers to overwhelm highly trained foes. Finally, we have the Mercenaries - they coordinate their efforts well and will turn Rainbow's tactics back against them. They are trained in room clearing procedures, and are accurate and reliable soldiers.
We've had details on the Rivalry Mode and Career mode being added to multiplayer, but could we get more information on these?
Stuart White: For the PS2 version, we have the brand new Rivalry mode in which Rainbow and Mercenary teams compete against each other to be the first to complete the majority of objectives to win the match. Rescue or capture hostages, disarm or detonate bombs, hack into computers or secure them to protect valuable information. Rainbow fights to protect society from the Mercenaries. Players get to use the multiplayer weapons and equipment in Rivalry to add additional layers of strategy. This is the first opportunity that Rainbow fans will have to play against Rainbow as a mercenary and I know that many fans are looking forward to this.
Anything being added to existing multiplayer modes?
Stuart White: Our three adversarial multiplayer modes each feature team-based combat between two different groups: Team Rainbow vs the Mercenaries. Each team has some unique equipment and weapon options that are not available to the other team. We're pretty excited about the dynamics of the different teams and their strengths and weaknesses. We're also doing two different Co-op game types, available for 2 players splitscreen, or 2 - 4 players through a Local Area Network, or online at ubi.com. There's enough variety to appeal to both the casual and the hardcore gamers.
What other key new features are you adding to the series with Rainbow Six 4 that you haven't already mentioned?
Stuart White: In Lockdown, the player will notice that their AI teammates will now check corners for enemies and give the player the feedback on what they see around the corners. In general, the player should notice their teammates doing things they have not seen in previous Rainbow titles. Expect the enemies to also give the player a run for his money. We have also implemented Iron sights in Lockdown. This should allow the player to have a more realistic sense of pulling the gun up to their eye to fire.
Finally, what's the greatest challenge in keeping a long-running series like Rainbow Six alive and fresh?
Stuart White: The greatest challenge we face is to take all of the excellent feedback that we get from fans and get all of the ideas into the newest game. We get tons of good ideas from fans who spend countless hours playing our games and we want to get all of the ideas implemented into the game but we simply cannot do this due to development time. We love feedback from players and cannot wait to hear what people have to say about Lockdown.
Rainbow Six: Lockdown will be available for PS2 and Xbox in March, with the standalone PC version following later in the year.