Tom Clancy games have been gold for the Xbox. While other titles have come and gone, Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon and Island Thunder still hold spots in my regular gaming rotation; that was until Rainbow Six 3 infiltrated my home. Suffice to say, it’s been keeping my Xbox toasty warm these many cold winter nights.
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 fourteen 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. Besides 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 communicator 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. 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. Although the game doesn’t support split-screen play, it does offer five modes via system link or Xbox Live in what is easily the most rewarding component of the game. Cooperative game types include Mission and Terrorist Hunt, the later being the equivalent of a Firefight for Ghost Recon fans. Why is it better than Ghost Recon you may ask? Three words: random enemy placement. You could run through a dozen terrorist hunts on the same map and it’ll feel fresh each time out. You never know when and where you might encounter a terrorist, and that alone with keep you coming back for more. Adversarial game types include Survival, Sharpshooter and Team Survival, although the “team” part is a little misleading. All three of these modes are basically run-and-gun affairs that require few tactical skills. I found them to be a little disappointing and unbalanced when you account for the all-powerful .50 cal rifle. Considering some of the incredible level design, I can’t believe they omitted such modes as Siege or Search & Rescue. Still, Rainbow Six 3 is easily one of the best Xbox Live games out there.
The moment you step into the initial Alpine Village mission, arguably the game’s most visually captivating level, you’ll know what I mean when I say Rainbow Six 3 is an absolutely stunning game. It makes a case for not using thermal or night vision, just to enjoy the surroundings. The game borrows a few tricks from Splinter Cell with respect to lighting effects and environmental textures, 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 incredible effects.
The character models are well detailed. Ragdoll physics are employed in the death animations. After laying waste to a terrorist, don’t be surprised to find his body in a twisted mess the likes only an invertebrate could achieve. Even the little details are accounted for, like leaving footprints in the snow, or seeing your frosty breath outside in the cold. The only downside to the visual presentation is the lack of consistency in terms of environmental objects. Why is it that you can shoot a water cooler to pieces but not a light bulb? Why can you shoot through doors and windows, but not through hanging drapes?
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, and as you get closer to the casino area, the slot machines start to take over. Similarly, in a mission in an Island Estate, you can hear opera music playing in the background, and as you get closer to the living room, the music gets louder. Heck, when you get to the living room, you can even play a tune on the piano with your assault rifle. Great stuff.
It’s the little details in Rainbow Six 3 that really impress me, like the ability to open a door only slightly so you can toss in a flash bang grenade without anyone noticing, or the ability to shoot a fire extinguisher to get a terrorist to turn his back momentarily, or the fact that your mouth actually moves when you talk into the headset during a cooperative mission or terrorist hunt. It shows the length the developers went in order to fully immerse the gamer into the world of counter terrorism. Combine that with the stunning visuals, top-notch sound, compelling multiplayer and an intense single-player campaign, and you’ve got a must-have tactical shooter for the Xbox. So what are you waiting for? Buy and Play on Zulu. Go Go Go!