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Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 4 due in spring

PS2, Xbox and PC owners get ready for some more team-based man-gunning.

You know, Team Rainbow are so goddamn elite, even their press releases sneak up on you in the dead of night. That's right, fans of squad-based combat, it's that time of year again; a new Rainbow Six is on the horizon, and apparently "This time it's personal."

Co-developed by Red Storm and Ubisoft Montreal, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 4 (well, that's not officially what it's called, but it's the name we're going to use for argument's sake) is due out on PS2, Xbox and PC in spring 2005, with online play for all and various console-specific modes to try and sweeten the deal for fans of particular machines.

The versus and co-operative multiplayer modes are destined to be very popular judging by the previous success of Rainbow Sixes on PS2 Online and Xbox Live, hence the significant billing - PS2 owners can look forward to Rivalry Mode, which pits Rainbow operatives against mercenaries in an objective-based scrap, while Live owners can create their own custom operatives, improving skills and acquiring extra equipment in various similarly objective-based missions.

But although customisation is a distinctly individual experience, it's the single-player campaign where things are now "personal". Team Rainbow, heroic rescuers of people who have been kidnapped by other people, are up against a bioterrorist threat (as opposed to a mechano-terrorist one) on unfamiliar ground - and somewhere along the line it looks like sniper Dieter Weber gets lifted by the bad guys. Cue lots of macho "Let's show them what happens when you [mess] with us!" tirades, and a single-player mode focused on the mission to retrieve the chap who usually sits at the end of the Rainbow. You'll even get to take it on from two perspectives - that of team leader Ding Chavez and as Weber himself.

Alongside Ding and Dieter, there are some ten new multinational elite operatives including Recon, Electronics and Demolitions experts to add to your four-man team, and as ever you'll be able to order them around using the "Quick Order Interface" (that D-pad thing) or voice commands - and we're told that precise orders will be necessary against "improved AI" that tightens up its tactics from level to level, flanking, suppressing and even clearing rooms of its own before long. Fortunately you have some new tricks too - including toys like motion trackers, battering rams and an "MTAR-21 micro assault rifle", whatever that is.

Technically speaking, early screenshots (have 28) and this trailer (I am a superfluous bracketed link) demonstrate a slightly elevated level of detail, which is much-needed change for a series that's started to look decidedly ropey in recent months, and the retention of the ever-so-amusing ragdoll physics we enjoyed in Raven Shield. On the PS2, meanwhile, Red Storm has developed a new engine specifically to extract every last drop of oomph, while a wider range of environmental surroundy sound effects ought to complement the nervy atmosphere.

With the game literally almost upon us, we hope to be able to tell you what it's like to play in due course. Over and out.