1. a literary work, movie, etc., that is complete in itself but continues the narrative of a preceding work.
In most other industries the definition of a sequel holds true, but in the video game industry the noun is held to a much higher standard. Much more is expected of a video game sequel. In video game terms, unless significant technological advances have been made, a mere continuation of the narrative is deemed to be an expansion, not a sequel. We are a cynical bunch, aren’t we? Or maybe we’d just rather not be ripped off to the tune of $60. That’s a topic of debate for another time. Right now, let’s find out if the sequel to Rainbow Six Vegas is worth gambling on.
Rainbow Six Vegas 2 actually pulls double duty as both a prequel and a sequel. The opening act takes place in France, five years before the events in Las Vegas. Doubling as a tutorial, this act gives us a glimpse of the past relationship between Rainbow operatives Logan, Gabriel and Bishop. After the brief history lesson it’s back to Vegas where as Bishop, you’ll lead a Rainbow team through a series of missions in the grittier areas of Las Vegas, missions that run parallel to Logan’s Mexican assignment in the original Rainbow Six Vegas. The plot eventually catches up to the end of the first game, with former Rainbow Six operative and now terrorist leader Gabriel Nowak fleeing the Nevada Dam. In the last act, you’ll track Gabe to an estate in Central America for the final showdown. The sequel does a decent job filling in the narrative gaps of the original Rainbow Six Vegas but unless you recall the major characters and events from the last game, you can get lost in the plot real quick.
Unlike Logan Keller, the operative you controlled in the original game, Bishop is not a defined character. You’ll create Bishop – gender, race, facial features and all – much like you would have your multiplayer character in Rainbow Six Vegas. That’s because in Rainbow Six Vegas 2, PEC permeates the entire experience, not just multiplayer, so you’ll be able to use your customized character in both single and multiplayer, gaining experience and rewards throughout both modes.
The experience and reward system has undergone a significant overhaul. There are now two types of experience points in Rainbow Six Vegas 2. The first is general experience that is earned by reaching checkpoints and completing scenes in single player, and in most of the same ways in multiplayer as the original Rainbow Six Vegas. Earn enough general experience and you’ll gain new military ranks that unlock new camouflages and armor that you can use to suit up your character in. The other type of experience is a new system called ACES. There are numerous ways to kill a terrorist and each method falls into one of three categories: Marksmanship, Close Quarters and Assault. So for example if you kill an enemy from long range or with a headshot, you’ll earn Marksmanship points. If you kill an enemy at short range or using blind fire, you’ll earn Close Quarters points, and if you kill a terrorist through cover or by using C4 or some other explosive device, you’ll gain Assault points. As you rank up in these three areas, you’ll unlock new weapons specific to that discipline. Not unlike Call of Duty 4, this new system constantly rewards players regardless of success, and encourages replay well beyond the conclusion of the single player campaign or a few multiplayer matches.
While the core gameplay remains unchanged in Rainbow Six Vegas 2, there are a couple of significant enhancements that have been made. Taking a page from Call of Duty 4, a sprint button has been added to the controls, allowing players a short burst of speed to escape a blast radius or to move quickly to cover in the middle of a firefight. Bullet penetration has also been enabled, meaning you can shoot enemies through various covers, such as drywall, wooden doors and crates, depending on the weapon you’re firing. Unfortunately bullet penetration can seem a little random. I’ve had moments when I thought for sure I’d be able to shoot an enemy through some light form of cover only to be unsuccessful, and then get killed myself moments later behind six inches of concrete.
There are a number of smaller enhancements present as well, such as the ability to request a thermal scan of the area, allowing the player to see the location of hostiles around their position on the tactical map for a short duration (this is only available in the single player campaign). Additionally, players now have three slots to equip weapons within, both in single and multiplayer. One of those slots is reserved for a handgun but at least now if you decide to equip a sniper rifle, you won’t be relegated to just using it or your handgun, you can also bring along another weapon such as a submachine gun for those close-quarters encounters.
On the AI side, you can now order your team to throw flash, smoke and frag grenades at any point during a mission, not just when they’re stacking up to a door. As usual, the squadmate AI is deadly proficient at clearing rooms, so much so that it can become a crutch for the player. The enemy provides a much stiffer challenge this time around. They move faster, wear more body armor and are generally better equipped with a wider assortment of weapons and gear, including riot shields (though shielded enemies only appear in the story mode, not in terrorist hunts).
Visually, Rainbow Six Vegas 2 looks pretty much like Rainbow Six Vegas, which is to say it’s a very nice looking game. As usual, the character models are excellent, the levels are well designed from a tactical standpoint with multiple entry points, the environments are detailed, and the various visual effects are all really well done. However, moving away from the glitz and glamour to the grittier side of Vegas has made the game less memorable this time around. The set pieces aren’t quite as grand and when I finished the story mode, there were only two or three scenes that stuck in my head. There are also some inconsistencies throughout the game. For example, sometimes you can blow a wooden crate apart or disperse a stack of tires with gunfire or an explosive, while other times such objects are immovable. Surprisingly, the most disappointing aspect of the presentation is the fact Rainbow Six Vegas 2 simply doesn’t perform as well as Rainbow Six Vegas. I ran into a handful of glitches in the single player campaign, from falling through a wall to watching one of my squadmates sink into the ground. The framerate isn’t always stable and the issues extend to the multiplayer experience as well where not only can it take several seconds for textures to load between maps, but some gamers have experienced enough lag to disable multiplayer altogether (a patch is on the way for, says Ubisoft).
On the topic of multiplayer, this is where the most disappointing aspect of Rainbow Six Vegas 2 lies: it only supports two-player co-op through the story mode. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that the second player can drop in and out of the story at any moment, and that the story is presented in a seamless fashion without losing any key scenes of dialogue, something the original Vegas failed to do, but even the developers know you need more than two operatives to counter the terrorists because they still provide you with two additional AI squadmates. This in itself is a problem because only the host can order the AI squadmates around. It might have worked better if each player had an AI squadmate assigned to him to command but as it stands, the guest player has to have a lot of patience while the host micromanages the team. It’s just not an ideal situation.
Aside from that, Rainbow Six Vegas 2 offers a robust suite of multiplayer modes including the usual four-player co-op terrorist hunts that are famous for their spawning enemies. On realistic difficulty level, even the most skilled operatives will find this mode to be very challenging. All of the adversarial modes return along with the addition of two new competitive modes: Team Leader and Demolition. Team Leader is a lot of like Counterstrike VIP. Each team designates a team leader and for as long as the team leader remains alive, squad members on their team will be able to respawn. The goal is to either have the leader reach the extraction point, or to eliminate everyone on the opposing team, which means eliminating their leader. In a great twist, team leaders, and team leaders alone, can see where the opposing team’s leader is on the tactical map, so communication by the team leaders is paramount to success. The other new mode, Demolition, sees one team trying to arm and detonate bombs in enemy territory, while the opposing team attempts to disarm the bombs. With an arsenal of new weapons and a variety of new and older maps, there’s more than enough multiplayer content to keep Rainbow Six operatives coming back long after the conclusion of the story mode.
Rainbow Six Vegas 2 doesn’t quite have as big an impact as Rainbow Six Vegas. For one, it doesn’t have the wow factor the original game had. Two-player co-op is a disappointing step backwards for the franchise and the fact the sequel performs worse than the original is odd to say the least. That being said, the story mode is just as long as the original and brings a satisfying conclusion to the plot, some of the new features like the sprint button and bullet penetration add a new dimension to gameplay, and the multiplayer suite is as robust as ever. Ultimately, I have little doubt Rainbow Six Vegas 2 will satisfy its fan base for as long as it takes for the next Rainbow Six title to come along.