Irena Morales is a very naughty girl. Not only has she been sticking soggy pieces of chewing gum to the underside of tables, she and her team of Mexican terrorists are also dabbling with the idea of blowing up Las Vegas with a big bomb that goes boom and breaks stuff into little pieces. Sounds like a job for the Rainbow team and I'm not talking about Zippy, Bungle and George.
Rainbow Six: Vegas is a fairly triumphant return to form for the venerable Rainbow Six series, with Ubisoft Montreal striking an excellent compromise between the visceral realism so revered in the original Rainbow Six games and the all-out action approach so reviled in Rainbow Six: Lockdown. There's also far more location diversity this time around, with tight, claustrophobic areas mixed up with wide-open, sprawling spaces.
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The result is a superbly paced campaign of room-clearing carnage, as you and your two AI-controlled sidekicks (the usual third member of your team seems to have gone AWOL) work your way through enemy-infested territories in order to save hostages and shatter Irena's plan of making the contents of a 100,000 slot machines rain down on the Nevada desert.
But before we get into the meat of the game, I need to make a confession. I like wearing... No, wait, wrong confession. What I meant to say was that for the first couple of missions, Vegas excited me about as much as a naked, wart-ridden granny (which is to say not at all, in case there was any lingering doubt your mind on that one). Starting out in a dusty Mexican town, Vegas makes the kind of first impression usually reserved for someone who's just turned up at a party and pissed on the carpet.
After having your eyes offended by the blocky front-end, the campaign's early missions then proceed to totter on the verge of tedium, feeling starved of entertainment, direction or tension, and lulling you into a false sense of insecurity for what's to come. Pockets of enemy resistance are wiped away with nonchalant ease as you cleave your way through the first couple of missions like a scimitar through butter. But then, all of a sudden, everything changes...
After such a slow opening, you suddenly find yourself immersed in what's undoubtedly the most intense Rainbow Six game to date as the action switches to the light-drenched streets of Sin City itself.
It's here that you first start to appreciate Vegas's excellent damage system, which breathes new life into the series by allowing you to take anything from a couple to four or five shots before you drop dead (depending on whether you're playing on the 'Normal' or 'Realistic' difficulty setting).
However, unlike the 'three strikes and you're out' mechanic employed in previous Rainbow games, Vegas offers a tad more respiration space, by enabling you to duck down behind cover for a few seconds in order to regenerate your health.
What's that you read? Regenerating health? In a Rainbow Six game? Surely not! To which I retort, worry not my would-be anti-terrorist friend, because it's actually great and works in perfect unison with the well-spaced checkpoint save system.
When a chunk of searing lead pounds into you, your vision blurs violently, temporarily incapacitating you (or as good as). In this brief period, the enemy has the opportunity to close in and outflank you.
Brilliant, right? Well, almost. See, it would have been brilliant had the AI showed a consistent level of intelligence and tactical guile. Once again, the developers seem only too keen to push out the boundaries of graphical fidelity while the field of artificial intelligence is left miserably overlooked.