Having logged countless hours as a member of Team Rainbow on the Xbox, I was more than qualified to evaluate the PlayStation 2 version of Rainbow Six 3 when it came across my desk. As expected, I was able to run through the single-player campaign in no time at all, despite the feeling of being in an episode of the Twilight Zone; everything was the same, but different. But after a few multiplayer games, I quickly abandoned the PlayStation 2 version and returned to the Xbox version. Why? Read on to find out.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3 is a squad-based tactical shooter set in the year 2007. The United States is caught in an embargo-induced oil crisis and as terrorist attacks against American interests and citizens escalate, Team Rainbow, an international task force dedicated to combating terrorism, is called into action. You’ll take on the role of Domingo Chavez and command a squad of up to four field operatives as you progress through fifteen counter terror missions all around the globe involving, for the most part, hostage rescues and reconnaissance work. Each mission is set up by a short cinematic, after which you’ll be briefed and have the opportunity to equip Domingo with a wide assortment of firearms, including pistols, assault rifles and grenade launchers. Along with a primary and secondary weapon, you’ll have two inventory slots to fill with the likes of breaching and remote charges, a gas mask, or flash bang and smoke grenades.
The missions are objective-based. As you progress through each environment, John Clark, your boss and eye in the sky, will inform you of what those are. The first mission, for example, is a hostage situation in Switzerland. A group of unknown terrorists have taken members of the Venezuelan delegation hostage in a small alpine village. You’ll be tasked to secure the streets and clear a residence before making your way to a church to investigate an underground hideout located beneath it. Rainbow Six 3 focuses on close-quarters combat, therefore you’ll have to co-ordinate your squadmates in order to gain the upper hand over the terrorists. This is where those inventory items come in handy. Smoke and flash bang grenades will provide you with the precious seconds you’ll need to storm a room and overtake the enemy. One wrong move without the support of your operatives will almost always spell the end of your mission.
While you’re only able to physically control Domingo, you’ll have full control over the movement and tactics of the rest of your team. You can co-ordinate your squad using the controller or, if you have a headset, you can issue orders using voice commands. One, two or three word commands such as “Open and Clear”, “Secure Hostage”, and “Demo Up” not only save potentially valuable seconds on the battlefield, but it also adds to the immersion level of the game. It’s almost like having real people on your side, except sometimes you have to issue commands two or three times before it registers. Still, despite its trouble spots, the voice command technology adds a sense of realism to the game.
The AI is pretty strong in Rainbow Six 3. Terrorists will investigate strange noises, call out when they encounter your team, take cover when fired upon, and run away when a grenade is tossed in their direction or when they’re just generally outnumbered. It’s especially gratifying to see some of the enemies actually make good use of their cover, popping up every few seconds to unleash a round of fire before dropping back down for protection. The terrorists will even use hostages as shields if you don’t act fast enough. But there are some situations they don’t handle well, like smoke grenades. Lay down some smoke in a room and they won’t seem suspicious at all. A smoke grenade accompanied by thermal vision is the most effective way to lay waste to a group of unsuspecting terrorists. On the flipside of the coin, your teammates also handle most situations well enough. Order them to breach and clear a room and they’ll do exactly that, covering each other as they move into place. They rarely get in your way and if they do, you can just run into them and they’ll move to the side.
When you’re done with the single-player campaign, you can trade in your AI-controlled operatives for some living, breathing ones in multiplayer. The PlayStation 2 version supports split-screen co-operative game types, including Mission and Terrorist Hunt, a feature that was surprisingly omitted from the Xbox version. However, these same co-op games are not available online. Yikes! I’d trade split-screen for online co-op any day of the week and twice on Sunday. So what online modes are supported? Adversarial game types such as Survival, Sharpshooter and Team Survival. Suffice to say, the online component of Rainbow Six 3 for the PlayStation 2 is disappointing when compared to the Xbox version.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be comparing the two but I can’t help it, especially when it comes to the graphics department. Visually, the PlayStation 2 version of Rainbow Six 3 is far less attractive and interactive than the Xbox version. The levels are shorter with longer load times (including mid-level jobbers), windows are more often boarded up and doors inaccessible, lighting is less effective, and there are generally fewer objects that you can interact with (read: destroy). Overall, the level of detail and the resulting immersion factor is considerably lower.
With that said, Rainbow Six 3 is still a fairly good-looking game. It borrows a few tricks from Splinter Cell but also introduces a few tricks of its own. Look directly at a flash bang grenade as it goes off or walk into a cloud of gas without a gas mask and you’ll know exactly what I mean; two solid effects. The character models are well detailed. Ragdoll physics are employed in the death animations so after killing a terrorist, don’t be surprised to find his body sprawled over a couch in such a way only an invertebrate could achieve. There is a lack of consistency in terms of the environmental objects though. Why you can shoot open a fire extinguisher but not shoot out a light bulb, or why you can shoot through doors and windows but not through hanging curtains is beyond me.
Aurally, Rainbow Six 3 is a treat. Voice clips are critical when giving orders, and each member of your team has a unique accent, according to their respective country of origin. The same can be said for the enemy. Encounter a terrorist in Montreal, Canada and he’ll speak French, as opposed to a terrorist in Venezuela, speaking in their native Spanish tongue. Ambient noises are equally effective. One of the missions takes place in New Orleans during Mardi Gras and as you walk out onto the street, you can hear the parade in the distance. Later that same mission, when you enter a bar, you can hear jazz music playing in the background; great stuff.
Here’s my problem with Rainbow Six 3 for the PlayStation 2: it’s a solid game but the Xbox version is so much better that it makes the PlayStation 2 version feel pretty dated. Why are the levels shorter and less interactive? Why can’t you play co-operative game types online? Why is the game far less attractive visually? The answer to all these questions is simple: the PlayStation 2 has certain technical limitations. If you can live with a trimmed down version of the squad-based shooter, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. As for me, I’m re-enrolling with Team Rainbow on the Xbox, the difference in quality is just too much.