Game Over Online ~ Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow

GameOver Game Reviews - Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow (c) Ubi Soft, Reviewed by - Thomas Wilde

Game & Publisher Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow (c) Ubi Soft
System Requirements Xbox
Overall Rating 87%
Date Published Wednesday, August 11th, 2004 at 05:25 PM

Divider Left By: Thomas Wilde Divider Right

The phrase "mission pack" comes to mind. It's a very good mission pack, full of new maps and game types, but it's still a mission pack.

If you liked last year's Rainbow Six 3, you'll like Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow, because it's pretty much the same thing, right down to using the same map for its training level.

Once again, you'll take control of the slightly inappropriately named Rainbow squad (is there another elite antiterrorism unit named "Puppy" or "Dandelion"?). As Domingo "Ding" Chavez, you get to go around the world pursuing terrorists, while using a crude approximation of squad tactics with your cohorts Eddie Price, Dieter Weber, and Louis LaSalle.

As FPSes go, Rainbow Six 3 was and is one of the harder ones, because of its unforgiving approach to character damage; a few bullets or one grenade will kill an operative, and there are no magical health packs lying around. This, too, has not changed, so winning the singleplayer mode involves an elaborate combination of luck, skill, pattern recognition, and going to ridiculous lengths to kill people before they so much as see you.

The central hook of singleplayer is still in place, allowing you to give your squad orders with your controller or the Xbox Live headset. This is still extremely cool, and in its best moments, provides a uniquely immersive experience. It's a lot of fun to send your crew in to back you up, clear a room, or storm an area at the same time you kick in another door.

Unfortunately, as with the last RS3, singleplayer mode is also hampered to some extent by poor AI. I've found that for every time the CPU Rainbow operatives do something well, such as nail a guy across the room with one shot, they'll commit at least two amazing acts of lunacy. They don't know enough to take cover, and will continue to yell that they're "taking fire!" until they kill their assailant or pitch over dead. They've also developed a strange habit of standing right in front of an empty doorway while they throw grenades into it, or of running off in random directions if you tell them to regroup after you've gone up a flight of stairs. Just for extra grins, they've also started getting stuck behind furniture or inside obstacles, which essentially takes them out of the fight.

At the same time, the enemy AI has improved slightly, but only slightly. They've become very fond of running away when they see you, so they can retreat to a better position, but Black Arrow's terrorists are still fearless and repetitive. Suppressive fire simply does not work on CPU opponents, and they're still remarkably easy to get the drop on, even if you've been firing unsuppressed weapons on full-auto for the last ten minutes. They're still dangerous, because there are a lot of them, they've been positioned well, and more of them are carrying grenades this time around, but their stupidity is still remarkable.

That's singleplayer in a nutshell: an occasionally fun but flawed process. I'll admit that the new Lone Rush mode is strangely addictive, as it mixes the bonuses and fast pace of a game like Time Crisis with RS3's emphasis on tactics, but I'm not sure it's worth playing through the rest of singleplayer to unlock its later levels.

(I should also admit that I'm biased here, as I had to play through the last RS3's singleplayer mode a few times for a strategy guide, and by the end of it, I'd lost whatever taste for ultra-realistic singleplayer FPSes that I'd had. Give me a fast-paced, high-impact gory cartoon like Painkiller any day.)

Fortunately, Rainbow Six 3 has always been geared more towards online multiplayer, and here's where it shines. Black Arrow features all the same modes from RS3, such as Sharpshooter and Team Survival, while adding new team features, Xbox Live 3 functionality, and two new games to the mix.

I'm a bit more of a fan of the cooperative modes of play, personally. You can play through missions from the singleplayer campaign with a squad of humans, or go on a Terrorist Hunt with up to three buddies in a variety of maps. The aforementioned poor AI can hamper this mode, but it's still a lot of fun.

The adversarial modes are a little more hit-and-miss. I maintain that singleplayer deathmatches like Sharpshooter and Survival are at best misplaced; the point of Black Arrow is squad-based tactical action, so the attempt to give it a twitch-gamer mode doesn't really feel right. Team Survival, on the other hand, is just as fun as it's ever been.

The two new player-vs.-player modes are Total Conquest and Retrieval, and both of them add vital elements to RS3's online gameplay. Total Conquest pits two teams against each other in a struggle to control three separate satellite linkups; whichever team can keep all three COMSATs under their control for twenty seconds wins. Since it's hard to camp in Black Arrow--camping means standing still, which means you might get one or two kills before somebody comes after you with a grenade launcher--Total Conquest forces you to constantly adjust your strategy to guard each of the satellite dishes. It's probably my favorite mode of the lot.

Retrieval, on the other hand, is essentially Capture the Flag. Each team has to steal the biohazard canister three times and return it to their team's depot station. The accepted method of CTF gameplay is to grab the "flag" and doubletime it back to your base, but here, that won't work for a variety of reasons. You've got to plan a strategy and move as a unit, or the flagcarrier won't make it back alive, especially since holding the canister limits its carrier to using pistols or grenades.

In both modes, playing with and against a decent team can make for a really good time, but the problem is finding that decent team. I don't know if I'm just having a run of bad luck or what, but so far, Black Arrow's online community consists of spawn campers and sore losers. The new ability to leave feedback is a big help, but what's really useful is how BA lets you form squads with your friends. It's not hard to figure out which squads are cool, and which ones you should avoid.

(Free plug: look for the guys in the Temporal Knights clan. They appear to actually be adults, as opposed to some kid shrieking obscenities into your ear.)

It's not exactly my kind of game, but Black Arrow is bringing the Rainbow Six series gradually closer to something I'd enjoy. At its best moments, which it makes as easy as possible to find, Black Arrow is a great team-based shooter. I'd prefer a bit more variety in the weapons and a bit more leniency with the health bar, but that's my deal. This remains a series to watch, if only for its online gameplay.


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