Rainbow Six is back on form. No, better: Rainbow Six is in the prime of its life. Forget all those memories of Lockdown (look, it never happened, alright?), this is a fresh team with new moves, superior weapons, and the burning desire to empty terrorist skulls of their brain-matter in the name of truth and freedom. And where better to prove themselves as the ultimate all-American heroes than in Sin City, home of the gamble-happy tourist? Thing is, this game doesn't actually start off in Vegas.
It begins in a seedy Mexican border town, where you've been sent to capture an insurgent called Irena Morales, who has been smuggling fellow terrorists across the Mexico/US border. Oh, and as the intensely American sounding Logan Keller, it's your first mission in command. So no pressure.
At first glance you get an overwhelming feeling of deja vu, because this opening stage bares an uncanny resemblance to GhostRecon Advanced Warfighter's Mexico City, albeit even sharper and sexier. From the very start when you fast-rope out of the chopper, it's clear that this is an orgy for the eyes. Ghost Recon, Splinter Cell, Battlefield Modern Combat - they all pale in comparison to the visual beauty of the sweeter areas of Vegas. Even Gears Of War will have to kick up the eye-charm an extra notch to beat this one.
BRIGHT LIGHTS CITY
So where does Vegas fit in to the story? Well, without giving too much of the plot away, during the first level of the game your men, Kan and Gabriel, are captured and shipped as hostages to Sin City where the terrorists are starting to cause a few headaches for local law enforcement. What are we talking about? Offing tourists, kidnapping scientists, blowing the entire roof off a handful of casinos - the usual. After escaping the terrorists in Mexico, Logan clambers into the extraction chopper and makes a bid to save his combat buddies. The rest of the game is a seamless journey through the 24-hour attack on Vegas, which sees you flying to each location in a helicopter, changing your gear as you're briefed, before fast-roping straight into the fight. And once you step into Keller's boots, they're laced up for the whole duration.
In true Rainbow Six series style, even the 'training' level is harder than Mr Ekko in concrete gloves, so you're very much learning on the job. The display may have been cleaned up a touch, and the controls simplified, but thankfully no dumbing down has taken place. From the beginning, if you start getting cocky and refuse to learn from the onscreen hints, Vegas' whip-smart, democracy-hating enemies will perforate your body with lead. Think you can tear through the game without planning ahead? You're halfway into the body bag, guy.
Don't look so worried, though. Sure, this may be another devilishly tough shooter from the Clancy stable, but it's such a pleasure to play, you won't mind hitting the Restart at Checkpoint option over and over again. Importantly, the action is quick and intense. Each level is a series of short, sharp, but utterly lethal encounters that never, ever, grow tiresome or repetitive. The reason for this is the brand new cover system, and the fleshing out of your ability to issue orders.
Let's start with cover. The idea of a dyed-in-the-wool first-person shooter flicking into third-person sounds like madness, and before we actually got our hands on the finished product, we were bracing ourselves to swallow the bitter pill of another massively inappropriate gimmick shoehorned into Rainbow Six to try and justify its existence on 360.