Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbow Six Part 1

LogoThe “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six” series began in 1998 as a Windows PC game developed by Red Storm Entertainment, called “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six,” loosely based on a then incomplete book called Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy. Stop me if I’m going too fast. In an time where games like Quake 2 and Half-Life had you shooting aliens, robots and rooms full of explosive barrels; Rainbow Six offered something different: realism, planning, strategy, and teamwork. These key elements were passed down, unscathed and in some cases improved, to the two sequels that followed: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 2: Rogue Spear and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield (seriously who comes up with these ridiculously long names). All seemed good for the series until. . . . Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Lockdown.

Like its predecessors Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Lockdown came out on every gaming system capable of running it and a even a couple that weren’t. The initial design and PlayStation 2 version were developed by Red Storm Entertainment, whereas the Xbox version was developed by the Ubisoft Montreal studio. There was also a GameCube version in there somewhere. Unlike its predecessors the game seems to have been developed for the consoles first and then back ported to the PC, as evidenced by the fact that the PC version was released 5 Months after the initial release on the Xbox and Playstation 2.

HelmetlessBefore I actually start digging into the game I want to make clear that the developers made an effort to differentiate the PC version from the console versions. The console version of the game, the operators lacked helmets. In an attempt to appease the fans of the original games, and bring some degree of realism back into the game, the devs added helmets to the models. The devs also removed the sniper segments and storyline-related cutscenes, and included redesigned levels to match the less linear gameplay of previous entries in the series. However it was clear these efforts at differentiation were in vain, since the console taint associated with this title is blatant and inescapable.

Before starting first mission I noticed that the briefing interface was significantly streamlined, I guess budget cuts at RAINBOW HQ forced out the analysts that kept you informed of the importance of your mission, as well as the newswire feed that kept you up to date of the worlds events. Now all you’re left with is your commander, giving you a brief description of what’s going on and your orders, there’s also an intel tab with easily forgettable and mostly useless layouts of the levels.

Lets move on to the next menu item: Equipment. First thing I noticed was that HQ can’t afford to send as many operatives out in to the field as they once could, instead of the usual 10 operative group broken into 3 teams, you are stuck with one 4 man team. I also noticed that the HQ can’t afford variety in weaponry anymore, as gun selection was trimmed down when compared to the originals. What kind of anti-terror force doesn’t even have sniper rifles?

After arming my group budget black operatives usually there’s planning, but planning is boring and gets in the way of the action for console gamers so the devs removed that part too. When I started actually playing the game, I discovered that Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Lockdown, like other games ported to the PC from the consoles, suffers from lots and lots of loading screens and really tiny maps. I also noticed that my 3 computer controlled teammates would constantly get lost or wander into my field of fire, I found it was just easier to tell them to wait in the corner while the grownup took care of all of the scary bad men.

The only thing dumber than your team was the enemy. Playing this game made me feel really guilty, it was just so easy. The designers must have developed the precursors for the Star Wars stormtroopers, because I’ve never seen an AI miss me so many times despite me being at near point blank range. Changing the difficulty from “Normal” to “Challenge” doesn’t make the AI any smarter or more accurate; all I can tell that it does is removes your reticle forcing you to guess where the gun is aiming when not looking down the sights and issues the enemy low profile body armor, since they now take more than a couple bullets to kill. I get the feeling that the developers gimped the enemies so that the console player fumbling with tumbsticks trying to aim wouldn’t get killed too often. . . or at all. It seems the devs didn’t bother changing it when the game was ported to the PC.

Eventually, I just charged the enemies in a straight line with guns blazing, since it seemed much cooler (and fair for the enemies). On the odd occasion I did get hit during one of these charges, my character didn’t really break stride or keel over like in the previous games. In fact I learned that I could take a two more hits before meeting the reaper. I finally discovered where RAINBOW’s analyst, operative and gun budget went. Advanced body armor r&d!

Despite having an extension on the development cycle, the PC version still gives off the same air as a classy girl you ask out to the prom that shows up an hour late, wearing an ill fitting borrowed dress and gussied up like she took lessons from Ronald McDonald. When you asked her out you were expecting a perfect night out, but when she shows you can’t help but wonder what horrible thing happened in her life that made things turn out this way, but you take some degree of solace that she showed up, and that’s what matters, right? . . . right? In the end, I feel compelled to congratulate Ubisoft or Red Storm Entertainment or whoever was responsible for this proof that face palms are sometimes more enjoyable than video games. They’ve managed to take one of the most unique and realistic shooters and remove almost everything that made the series special, resulting in an easy and unremarkable walk and gun. The enemy is about as effective as using foul language against a raging bull, removing any need for tactics. When the enemy does hit you, you could take 3 hits before you’re dead, so realism is also out the window. There is no mission planning whatsoever aside from equipment loadouts. There are 60% fewer computer controlled teammates than there were in previous games, considering the AI this might have been a good idea, either way teamwork is out the window. So. . .uh yeah. . . good work guys.

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