Previously on Rainbow Six
Tom Clancy is the master of the spy thriller and is becoming synonymous with games based on that genre, you can't look at the Xbox now without seeing his highly acclaimed gaming titles gracing the top shelf of many a game store.
And why not, after all they're usually excellent games and the Rainbow Six series on Xbox is no exception.
If you're looking for more Rainbow Six fun, then the fourth in the series: Lockdown should provide you with ample opportunities to gun down some Tangos.
Legion, a super weapon...a bio-engineered virus capable of killing millions has been formulated, tested and developed in South Africa. Under the cover of an attempted Coup a canny group of terrorists has stolen it and now plans to unleash the virus unless they can be stopped. Enter Rainbow, the crack anti-terror squad, their mission is to uncover the group behind it and stop them at all costs before the virus is released.
The core gameplay of Lockdown hasn't really changed all that much and the series is starting to feel a little bit more like a repeat. It feels a lot like the previous games and no real advances have been made in the actual control of your team, the only difference this time around apart from a few menu changes and tweaks is that you get to play as either Ding leading a 3 man element or the sniper Dieter Weber as he covers the element from the rooftops.
My problem with this is that I love being a sniper but the sniping side of Lockdown actually feels like its taken a step back, it should handle more like say, Silent Scope or some of the Time Crises games but with enemies appearing from odd locations and annoying RPG firing goons showing up with little or no warning, it becomes an exercise in trial-and-error, taking the fun away.
You can give the whole gamut of orders that you could before, ordering your men to advance, hold and scout. If you're armed with a headset you can even give these orders via voice.
As in the previous games, the A button whips up the quick order interface and that allows you to assign commands, order your team and is based on a context sensitive cursor.
Zulu codes are implemented, allowing you to set up actions with your men and coordinate attacks.
There are a few nice actions that you can use in the singleplayer side of the game, such as breaching a door with a battering ram, blowing off the door's hinges with a shotgun and of course using a breaching charge. But overall the game plays in a similar way to the previous Xbox games and not much has changed, apart from it does feel a lot more arcade-ish this time around.
You'll find the new motion-sensor equipment that has been added to the game a great help and this tool becomes invaluable later on, especially if you've been shot to ribbons and are on your last vestiges of health, it allows you to get a heads-up on what's behind that closed door and while tangos can move after the reading has been taken you're at least clued in to what could be waiting for you on the other side.
As per usual in the Rainbow Six games there is a plethora of weapons and gadgets, with a points based currency to gain more weapons as play progresses, you'll be exploring the maps for extra points and goals just so you can get the bigger and better toys.
The enemy AI and even the team AI in Lockdown has been improved, the enemy now uses a mixture of tactics and will hurl grenades in a much more aggressive manner. The whole enemy AI feels more aggressive and it provides the player with a sufficient challenge. They use mines; have trip-wires which will force you to use your vision modes and team to the full.
Your own team AI has been souped up a lot more as well, with additions to their room clearing skill and positioning they seem to be a lot better (most of the time) they will sometimes place themselves in an idiotic position and end up dead as the Tangos take advantage of their stupidity.
But most often as not they'll win the day and live to fight again.
One tip to watch out for, the enemy snipers are ruthless and often placed in out of the way areas - be on your guard since their AI is fine-tuned to the max.
Lockdown is a nice looking game, the graphics and the textures are on-a-par with the previous games and they have a new HUD visor for the singleplayer, which degrades with cracks and holes when you're shot. The levels of texturing and light effects are good and provide enough atmospherics to immerse you in the war torn areas of the game.
There are a lot more in the way of bullet effects too, with tracer-fire and flashier pyrotechnics transforming this instalment into more of an action-fest than the previous ones. The poly-count has been slightly increased and the level of detail on the models has been enhanced in the tweaked engine.
While the graphics have been enhanced it is as though the animations have taken a big step backwards, they don't look or feel as fluid as the last game. The reloading animations, the walking and running animations all have a clunky feel to them that makes the characters appear less-than-professional when they should look like they're well trained member of an elite special forces squad.
Ragdoll physics are the order of the day and they don't stint in this game, it definitely has a Hollywood approach to combat as Tangos fly upwards and around from a grenade blast or pinwheel backwards and slam into a wall when nailed by a shotgun. Highly satisfying stuff and I have no gripes at all with the physics in the game.
Good quality level design is once of the keys to creating an enjoyable experience in these kinds of games and thankfully, Lockdown is full of 14 levels of great design with some very nice set pieces and moments to enjoy. I won't spoil any of it but I will say that the team has once again kept to the excellent quality of the last games.
The ambient sound is excellent in Lockdown, from the gunfire and explosions to the spot effects and strange buzzing flies in one level. There are numerous sound effects that help to elevate the suspense and provide enough tension to crack a player who's been sitting nail-biting at their joypad for a few hours of play.
There is very little music most of the time, and then when there are breaks it rises and plays in the background. The music in the game is well done and I really have no complaints about it. So on to the next bit.
The dispassionate delivery of some of the lines, one-liner comments and the nature that the AI team has, of repeatedly sighing and pointing out that they're awaiting orders got right on my nerves this time around and had me frantically hunting for an option to turn it off - seriously annoying. So the voice acting is a mixed bag and for those of you that hate to hear repeated comments, Lockdown won't do you any favours.
The enemy voice acting has some nice moments and the mix of screams and comments rescues the rest from a mind-numbingly tedious rinse-and-repeat dialogue. I would still like to see more games take advantage of random conversation trees and tricks like Half Life and Far Cry employed.
Cooperative mode can be played with friends, hunting down the terrorists in the singleplayer missions or Terrorist Hunt: where you can hunt down the Tangos and not have to worry about things like hostages and mission objectives.
Adversarial mode boasts the following game modes:
Team Survival where when you die, there are no respawns. Last team standing wins people!
Total Conquest where your team has to take control of all the satellite transmitters for a certain amount of time to win.
Retrieval: Like capture the flag only with bio-hazard containers.
Team Sharpshooter: Two teams must battle it out, the player with the most score wins for their team. A little like Team Deathmatch then.
These modes are available offline and online, but when you fire up the game online and hit LIVE you're allowed to enter.
P.E.C. Mode (Persistant Elite Creation) and store your character data on the XB Live servers, taking kills, achievements and so on from game to game. This is a nice addition to the series and should feature in more games.
In PEC mode you can tailor your characters look and their specialisation, buy new equipment and with an RPG-style system upgrade/repair items that you have bought or scrounged. You can even upgrade your characters skills.
You can choose from:
Commando: Big guns, lots of big guns and can take major punishment.
Spec-Op: Sneaky specialists, they can use a knife to silence enemies.
Engineer: Electronics, countering traps and so on.
Medic: Patch up your team, earn the love of your fellow operatives.
This set up must owe something to Team Fortress and it made my heart sing to see it appear in a game again.
Online the game plays like Black Arrow and will provide a great deal of fun/challenge to the LIVE player. The PEC mode adds something new and gives a real reason for spending hours and hours learning the game, the maps are overall very good and they have a distinct feel to them.
There are some nice innovations in Lockdown and the team obviously had set themselves some high goals to meet, this is where I am of two-minds and neither is truly made up. When you have one step forward with this game, something else seems to take two steps back and as much as I hate to say it, Lockdown doesn't feel as polished as it should. The animations have really let the series down this time around and they are often one of the keys to immersing the player into the game world - if you're laughing at the chicken-footed run of some of the characters, you're not concentrating on the game.
Still with all my minor prickles aside, the game is still engaging and fun and that should be the most important thing of all. I just can't score it as highly as I did Black Arrow, as much as I'd like to - because of its short comings. Hopefully the developers will slow the pace down and return to a more tactical game for the next in the series, where no doubt we'll have to shift the score-bar to accommodate the advances from the Xbox 360.
I'm more of a singleplayer fanatic than a multiplayer guru, but even I had fun in the online parts. I think PEC is the way to go, but at the moment for this game and I am sure someone out there will feel differently to me, it's a nice addition but needs a lot more work to fully implement.