Counter-terrorist teams don't often arrive as late as Rainbow Six. Originally scheduled to appear as a launch title, if this had been a real hostage situation, then everyone would have already been shot or died of starvation. But despite forcing us to wait around for ages, Rainbow Six Vegas is definitely here to deliver. It's a slick combination of strategy, focused aggression and all-out nerves of steel.
Focus is an important word, because this is anything but a run- and-gun FPS. Survival depends on two decisive factors - using cover effectively and making the best use of two AI-assisted companions.
Forget about the game's 50-plus weapons; Michael Walters and Jung Park are the most effective part of your arsenal. These men follow your every command, and rely on you not to put them in the firing line.
Real counter-terrorists use a classic strategy where one team pushes forward as the other provides support. It's an effective tactic, but not as simple to execute when bullets start flying and enemies burst through doors unexpectedly. In any case, if you don't survive, there's no blaming it on the controls. You are the one in charge.
Positioning the team where you want them is really intuitive. It's a case of pointing the crosshair of your weapon over a location and pressing the q button. The team's path finding is good enough that they can go almost anywhere without hassle. Best of all, the same system works for other commands, including breaching and clearing rooms, defusing bombs and healing fallen team-members.
As good as your team is, they're not invincible and the game is realistic enough to shoot them down if you're careless. And although Mike and Jung can be healed an infinite number of times, players who attempt to use them like extra lives almost inevitably come a cropper. Once a team member is down, you only have 90 seconds to revive them, otherwise it's game over. Herein lies some real teeth-grinding tension, where you'll wish you'd never got in this mess in the first place.
One way to guarantee this doesn't happen is to think about your route, take cover effectively and use flanking manoeuvres wherever possible. Cover spots are your biggest lifeline because what an enemy can't see, he definitely can't shoot. It's a simple as running up to a wall or environmental object and holding down the L1 Button. At this point, the perspective switches to third-person, allowing you to either lean out and return shots or just fire blindly to suppress the enemy.
Easily our favourite aspect of Rainbow Six Vegas is the ability to storm rooms from two directions simultaneously. By poking a snake camera underneath doors, its not only possible to identify enemies without them seeing you, but also to mark out dangerous targets for the team to eliminate first. Once Mike and Jung are in position, you move around to a different entrance and issue the command to clear the room. The results of a well-prepared strike are both dramatic and hugely satisfying. It's a real high-five moment when the bad guys are all dead and blown to bits before they even knew what hit them.
For the most dramatic entrances, it's possible to rappel down the sides of buildings and dive in through the windows. It's a testament to the smart level design that you're able to take so many different approaches. Every map contains multiple routes, but not so many that you end up getting lost or confused. It's linear enough to guide you, but not restrictive in how you approach a situation.