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Rainbow Six: Vegas

Terrorists threaten to level a major American city in the next 24 hours. Move over Jack Bauer: team Rainbow team are ready to roll

There's talk that Montreal Studios is under a great deal of pressure. At the beginning of the year, best-selling title Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter wrote the rule book for next-generation war games, and with Sam Fisher about to sneak through the shadowy world of a double agent, Ubisoft must be about to erupt with the tension of inter-studio rivalry.

"Not at all," smiles Philippe Therien, multiplayer game designer on the project. "If anything, it's motivation. We love seeing what everyone's doing, and bounce ideas back off each other. It's a real labour of love and everyone's motivated to make the best games possible."

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It may be a labour of love, but its tough love at that: that much is apparent from the heated air spewing from the main Rainbow Six Vegas presentation room. The air-con may be on full, but the press are turning the air blue as they re-discover that Ubisoft's latest Xbox 360 entry exemplifies the realism that Montreal Studios has striven towards since it last took over development three years ago with Rainbow Six 3.

Its the realism that could turn Vegas into the greatest tactical shooter the console has seen yet. The GR:AW feel has been tightened around the waist - firefights are smaller, but intensified, toned and so hard you could crack a walnut on them.
It's the realism that makes you appreciate every nut and bolt on your cocked weapon, be it a FAMAS assault rifle with scope or a simple handgun, the muzzle flash as you pull the trigger, the unmistakable jerk that tells you Ubisoft Montreal has spent a lot of time in the last two years at weapon ranges.

It's also that realism that creates a Las Vegas strip so believable that you can forget spending a grand on a holiday just to see it. For fifty quid R6V emulates the original Sin City right down to the last money-swallowing slot machine.

Flash back 24 hours and the first day's presentation ends and hands-on begins with a playtest of the single-player. With 70 journalists and only 20 Xbox 360s at hand, we're on first - but jealous punters patrol up and down the aisles, watching the waves of in-game deaths.

After a summer of gung-ho blasting action in Prey, we're being painfully reminded that the foundation of the Rainbow Six franchise is, as ever, focused on solid tactics.
But tactics are put on hold for a minute as the demo's opening scene blazes across our retinas. Montreal Studios has acquired the Unreal 3 engine for Rainbow Six Vegas and we can't think of any better showcase for its power than a night-time helicopter ride down the Las Vegas strip. In its opening 30 seconds Vegas has bitch-slapped the Doom 3 engine and left you feeling ashamed that Tommy's ride in Prey's alien spaceship was the best you thought you'd ever see.

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It's just a pity the ride is over so soon. Once we've landed on the roof of Dante's Casino, the rest of the level consists of moving slowly through the partially constructed interior. It's a far cry from the busy casino floor promised in trailers and screenshots.

After the emphasis on the Vegas backdrop, it would have been nice to feel like we were in the middle of a casino, if only to destroy the gambling machines with a few well-placed shots. But it does mean that our time is spent focusing on the gameplay rather than sightseeing, because we want to know if the game's longevity and replayability is going to last longer than our money on the roulette table.

With only a handful of us surviving, successfully reaching the demo's end, stopping a live-on-air execution and the retaliation by a swarm of terrorists, we wonder at the developer's claim that this is the most accessible Rainbow Six yet.

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