Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 Reader Review
It�s hardly uncommon to see Ubisoft churning out successful titles year after year, but is Vegas 2 blackjack or bust?
Rainbow Six: Vegas was undoubtedly one of the biggest sellers in the dusk of 2006, its Gears of War-esque third-person cover mechanic provided an intense and action orientated aspect that the previously tactic-heavy versions seemed to lack. Combine this with solid shooting mechanics, a variety of weapons, relatively good AI and an almost tongue-in-cheek Clancy story, and it all seemed to come together; so surely more of the same is all that�s needed to provide the fans with another good slice of Rainbow Six action, right? Well, the answer is a mixed bag, a bag that theoretically makes sense, but at the same time seems to be laughing right in our faces. That horrible, naughty bag.
So firstly, let�s focus on the positives, of which there are actually quite a few. Ubisoft have quite rightfully put everything back in its place since we left Vegas two years ago; the third-person mechanic has returned untouched, still proving to be a reliable and intuitive way of taking cover when under fire. Likewise the cover system still allows you to fire blindly from around your table/wall/car/Jacuzzi/other generic object found in Las Vegas, as well allowing you to reveal your character completely for a few seconds to finish off the plentiful amount of bad guys. While you may find that blind-firing rarely works (due to its astonishing inaccuracy), it can still occasionally save your life if an enemy is getting rather too close to your cover than you�d like, meaning that provided you are in some kind of cover, you can usually take care of yourself.
However if you do find yourself in a bit of a pickle, either being flanked or desperately fumbling around for bullets, you always have your two trusty AI team-mates to back you up, that�s if they aren�t on the floor bleeding to death because you threw a grenade at them. Your two culturally diverse and stereotypical sidekicks Michael and Jung are back for another outing, fighting for democracy and probably wearing their own nation�s flag as underwear. Fortunately when it comes down to it, they are genuinely helpful, and it�s only when they are both down in need of a quick adrenaline shot that you realise how much you rely on them to do your dirty work.
Their AI, as well as the enemies� is pretty on par with Vegas; enemies will happily use cover when under fire, and often move around to keep the pressure on. One scene saw a terrorist and I circle the same set of fruit machines twice, taking shots at each other through any gaps we could find, then Jung just shot him for me, kill-stealer. Claustrophobic environments add to the atmosphere and make the close quarter fighting generally much more intense, stressing the need for quick movements between cover, and the need to keep all your corners covered. Couple this with the AI, and each small confrontation can be actually be a little exciting at times, with a slight element of unpredictability.
One last feature that has been expanded on is the environments themselves; they were brilliantly destructible (to an extent) in the first Vegas, with everything from coin-spewing fruit machines to exploding cars adding yet another layer of intensity to the combat. Vegas 2 does expand on this (again however, to an extent), simply with the introduction of more things to blow up; with everything from exploding barbeques and leaking gap pipes, to glass and plants. Running on the Unreal Engine 3, the same engine behind Gears of War, Medal of Honour: Airborne and Unreal Tournament 3, the game looks good, but calling it a step forward would be a pretty large compliment. It�s hard to tell the difference between Vegas and Vegas 2 graphics-wise, with the exception of slightly higher resolution models. It�s pretty clear that the engine isn�t being pushed, and it�s especially noticeable when compared to games like Gears of War and the upcoming Brothers in Arms: Hell�s Highway. While it doesn�t detract from the gameplay very much, it does make you wonder how much effort Ubisoft really put into this.
Which rather neatly leads me to the negatives of the game, some of which are so obvious; it almost makes me wonder how much longer Ubisoft could potentially get away with making the same game twice. While the gameplay basics that made the first game good are still in place, there is little else that actually makes this worthy of the name Vegas 2, if anything it�s more of a Vegas 1.5, something which is definitely disappointing to see from a game priced at £34.99.
In theory of course, the principle of making more of the same makes a lot of sense, the original Vegas was a great game but simply changing the maps and adding one or two more guns certainly does not suffice when it comes to the current gaming market. Admittedly Ubisoft has implemented some new features, such as an XP counter which resides at the bottom of the screen, toting up points (or XP, funnily enough) for kills using bullets, grenades, team-mates etc., which gradually adds up to unlock new accessories and weapons (many of which are locked at the beginning of the game, something I personally found a little frustrating seeing as Vegas gave you all the guns from the start). While it certainly can increase the chances of replaying the game in order to unlock weapons, gear and err, clothes; it�s no more than a tiny reward for completing each level. Also, the incredible ease in which you can rack up XP often makes it seem like even less of a reward - as points are simply thrown at you for things you barely even notice at the time - and makes it more of an unavoidable happening there to try and keep you interested. I think I even got 3 XP for shooting someone in the arse when they weren�t looking.
�Penetrable cover� is another feature that is sadly quite overlooked and underused. While it�s boasted as a revolutionary feature that supposedly changes the game, I actually forgot I could do it until I accidentally killed someone through a door, then I forgot about it until I started writing this review. The only problem with the system, is that it�s not always obvious where it can and where it can�t be done; sometimes letting you gun down unsuspecting Mexicans through doors, and other times letting you waste precious bullets just spraying a flimsy cardboard box to no affect. Perhaps due to Call of Duty 4 pulling off penetrable cover with aplomb makes this seem a little harsh, but it certainly feels a little more tacked on for something to write on the back of the box.
In summary however, there is still the unavoidable fact that it�s still a fairly solid experience. If you can overlook the slightly superfluous features, the heart of the game is still there in its full form. If you really are desperate for more Rainbow Six action, then you will probably find some sanction within Vegas 2, but if you are looking for the next step in the series, or just something different, you may want to save your money. Personally I still can�t get away from the phrase: "haven�t we been here before?" with so many things directly lifted from the first game e.g. Michael and Jung, hostage situations, gruff, democracy-loving squad leaders, diffusing bombs and Mexican terrorists, it almost feel a little cheeky for Ubisoft to release this as an official sequel and more importantly, as a full priced game. Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that if Vegas 2 was the first in the Vegas series, it would have been brilliant, and it�s a shame that Ubisoft really didn�t try to make another with a bit more originality, because then it could have been a lot more than 'Vegas 1.5'.
7 / 10