I had the good fortune to review the original Rainbow Six sequel, Rogue Spear when it was first released, being new to the genre the game captivated me and in actual fact, was the game to "break me into" the strategic fps genre. Fast forward to present day and you'll find me playing Op Flashpoint, Delta Force or Project IGI - admittedly, not exactly the same, but a long way off the quake styled fast paced fps games.
Unfortunately, games like Rogue Spear don't just pop up every month and once you complete a game there is rarely anything but multiplayer to bring you back. This is one of the reasons expansion packs are so popular, extending a favourite game with a new set of missions, new characters and sometimes totally new storylines, they have been a staple of pc gamers diets; Half-Life anyone?
Black Thorn was meant as an expansion disc but has been released as a full priced, stand-alone mission pack. It features a new terrorist threat told over 9 new single player maps. The game boasts more weapons, additional missions, new multiplayer modes and some technical advancement in the Rogue Spear engine.
All the menu systems and presentation are strait from Rogue Spear, there's a new menu background picture of course, but all the menu and loading music are the same as are the in game music tracks. This isn't a problem though as the presentation was always adequate and I personally loved the sweeping musical scores.
To be honest, I've played Black Thorn through to the end and in my opinion the Black Thorn specific engine tweaks appear no more evident than slightly higher texture resolutions. There is really not a lot different from the initial release. The architecture is still blocky, the polygon count is about the same as before and while the original was at best adequate, two years down the line this is just insulting to the eyes.
Another problem that compounds the dated graphics is the new maps themselves. Originally, I raved about the tight level design and the excellent use they put the limited Rogue Spear engine too. It really was an ingenious game and had me sneaking around for weeks unfortunately; Black Thorn's maps seem shorter and deal more in open spaces. The external maps wouldn't be as bad if they were anywhere near as well mapped as say, the Kosovo mission in Rogue Spear, but sadly they're not.
The new weapons are nice, still based in reality, we find ourselves armed with favourites like the P90 and the M60 but still, I find myself running around with a suppressed pistol, it's just so much fun...
There seems to be more emphasis on multiplayer this time with 6 brand new multiplayer only maps and a new game style "Lone Wolf" where a group hunts down a single man and the guy who kills him becomes the lone wolf. Online gaming back in the days of Rogue Spear was a bit hit or miss, 56k really isn't a gamers friend, be honest, but now with broadband becoming more popular, this and of course, all other games are now much smoother online. There really is a lot of fun to be had online with this game, sadly though, not as much fun as can be had with counterstrike.
Other features such as sound, controls and AI are exactly the same as rogue spear; perfectly suited to the game, not much else to say, move along please...
Reading this review, you would probably think I hate this game; this couldn't be further from the truth! The game for all its limitations is still Rogue Spear with perhaps some slightly inferior missions. As a token gesture, they could have added the original game and kept this as an expansion set but regardless, it's still a lot of fun to play. The greatest shame is this is coming out so soon to the other tactical shooter by red storm, Ghost Recon; which does look pretty neat...
The bottom line is, enjoy the game, it is good fun, but its limited and don't go expecting fancy graphics because you will be disappointed. The benefit of course is to be had by low-end users who should all be able to enjoy the game, I remember being able to run Rogue spear on my old AMD K6-2 at 300 MHz with a TNT2 graphics card and that can't be said of many new games today.