Rainbow Six games are, and always have been, sheer gun porn. The story is inconsequential, the characters are inconsequential and any kind of real-world logic is thoroughly prohibited. What's important is having a vast rack of grenades, scopes and boomsticks for you to peruse and abuse and various corridor-based terror-holes in exotic locales. Whereas other FPS games have long since dropped the Bond/Mullins habit of inter-level long-haul flights between continents, Ding Chavez and pals remain proud owners of many an air mile and pair of fluffy Virgin Atlantic travel socks. And not a single ounce of jetlag either. That's army training for you.
The main fear for Lockdown was always the lingering touch of console - after all, in the build-up to the (somewhat mottled) living-room release, the dual PC version disappeared from the radar only to bob back up to the surface towards the end of last year. Presumably it was thought that if released on PC in its previous multiplatform guise we would scream and shout, "Looks like console! Smells like console!" and stamp our little feet; whereas after some fiddling on behalf of Red Storm, we're instead shouting, "Looks like console! But doesn't smell, if we're being honest!"
The controls feel tight and accurate, kills are satisfying and the fuzziness around the edges that we were fearing are impressive in their absence. In terms of the basics, working your way through tens upon hundreds of ragdoll villains through the Scottish Parliament building or an Arabian market town, the game works pretty well. The 'three gun-strikes and you're out' damage system has just enough give in it to make affairs pretty tricky without ever straying into the realms of the unfair, and there's an undeniable 10cc (or so) of adrenalin that pumps through you when bullets start punching shattered glass out of the window you're slinking past. This is a fun game to play.
Your squad, however, aren't the most mentally gifted urban warriors around. They're great fun to stack up in front of a door and to scream a "Go! Go!" signal at, but unfortunately never really feel like anything more than an in-game tool rather than a group of fellow terror-haters: and it's here that comparisons to the ineffably superior SWAT 4 start to kick in. While the Rainbow Six kids are quietly competent in terms of self preservation for the most part, when they die (a crime for which you pretty much go unpunished), it feels like it's the game's fault and not yours. Also, you may be trying to play tactically - but you also know that on the normal difficulty setting, you might as well leg it through the level spraying bullets at whoever you come across willynilly. There's just no tangible connection between you and your followers; yes, you have various commands to give them, but when your kill-count is invariably going to skyrocket towards the hundred barrier while they're lolling around on a (admittedly more moral) 20, it all just seems a bit silly.
Another stumbling block is the AI of the evil terrorist masterminds that you're chasing.
Compared to the improved smarts of enemies we've been seeing in squad shooters like Brothers In Arms: Earned In Blood, the way that Lockdown's (always near identical) enemies can stand in front of your guns with little more than an expression of "Now did I lock the front door?" has become unacceptable. True, they can surprise you - but, in these days of F.E.A.R., squad AI goons like these look like pure cannon fodder more than ever. Matters aren't helped by some supremely boring level design in the saggier parts of the game, when (wrong-doings of all wrong-doings) endless corridors adorned with unopenable doors become the norm. Once again, the shadow of SWAT 4, with its realistic building lay-outs and more obviously varying environments looms large.