So Rainbow Six Vegas brought the Tom Clancy, Rainbow Six brand into the next generation, it souped up the action and provided us with artificially intelligent enemies that we could really get out teeth into. They were capable of giving a reasonable challenge and using the environment to get around, rappel points, fast ropes and ladders.
It gave us a limited cooperative story in which the story itself was cut-down, there were no cut-scenes and you could play it with four people. You could go online in a variety of game modes and team based action. It was almost perfect apart from a few issues with dodgy AI for your team mates in single player and a few spawn bugs in terrorist hunts for multiplayer.
Rainbow Six Vegas is back, bigger and somewhat better than the last instalment, billed as a bit of a prequel to the first game in terms of story, you play as Bishop (a Rainbow operative who has been responsible for Michael and Jung's training) five years before the Rainbow Six Vegas mission kicks off. Bishop is tasked with overseeing a couple of new rookies on their first assignment, one Logan and one Gabriel to be precise.
After the first mission, it's five years later and you're given Michael and Jung as AI team-mates, Logan Keller's team is somewhere else at that point (in Vegas 1's story) so you get to play events from another perspective and varied locations as Bishop works to unravel a bigger plot and mow down hordes of enemies, using brute force or team tactics. There are still hostage situations and time critical events to deal with; these are similar in many ways to the first game.
The controls are similar to Vegas with a couple of tweaks, hold down the RB and you'll sprint for a short distance. You can now use the D-Pad to order your team mates to throw grenades on the map, smoke, frag, flashbangs etc. The ROE (rules of engagement) can be altered by tapping the BACK button, or the map can be displayed by holding down the BACK button. This is a bit pesky when you accidentally order your team from Infiltrate to Assault in the middle of a room packed with tangos.
The biggest change in the game comes from the way that the Persistent Elite Creation works. You have a character hub now, My Character. This can be accessed at most points during the game, from the main menu or from within the various game modes. From the moment you make this male or female character, you will watch it evolve as you earn two kinds of experience in the game, off or online.
One of the biggest gripes about the PEC and XP last time was that you had to really battle online to get anything unlocked, your rank was hard to attain unless you played the game with lots of people solidly and you couldn't kick back with some friends and earn XP as a team. This has been addressed with Rainbow Six Vegas 2 in a big way; a lot of noise prior to Vegas 2's release has been made about the ACES that are individual experience rewards in three separate areas, Assault, Close Quarters Combat and Marksmanship.
You earn these in a variety of ways, destroying enemies with explosives for Assault, shooting from behind cover in blind-fire for CQB and popping tangos as they use ropes or ladders for Marksmanship. These are not the only ways to earn XP for your different ACES, there's quite a few.
As you kill tangos, you're given regular XP (variable based on the difficulty setting, with the highest rewards being for Realistic) along with your ACES XP (again varies depending on difficulty settings, between Casual and Realistic, Normal gives you the same ACES as Realistic). You are given unlocks per milestone in your ACES, these vary from new weapons to XP boost awards (500, 1000, 4000, 5000 and so on) as you get closer to your maximum ACES rank 20.
As you gain your regular XP you'll change rank and that will unlock even more goodies, from new armours to extra camouflage patterns and visual upgrades that can be used to further evolve the look of your character so you can create a pretty unique personalised Bishop for your experience. As in Vegas you can change attachments on your weapons and there's still only 1 attachment that can be used at any given time, so you have to pick wisely. The cover system in Vegas 2 remains untouched from Vegas (thankfully) and to further add realism to the game, each weapon possesses a penetration value that can chew through light materials and some hardened concrete. It's wise to try and take cover behind something heavy and metal since a big gun will rip right through and kill you in a couple of shots.
There are 11 new guns and completely new maps added to the game, with the singleplayer story taking place in brightly lit daytime locales now as well as seedy Vegas rooftops and back alleys. Terrorist Hunt has been revamped and there are new maps added for multiplayer with several maps you could unlock if you had the code or if you have an Ubisoft account. The game rewards old players by giving them a rank advantage and welcoming them back, this rank is not enough to unbalance the game however since the weapons are unlocked through the ACES and not ranks.
Multiplayer has been overhauled and you can system link or play split screen with a friend over the whole singleplayer game, complete with your AI team. Player one (Bishop) has full control over the tactical use of the team whilst Player Two (Knight) joins in as support and acts as a silent partner to the action that's going on. You're allowed to take on Terrorist Hunts with four players and there's no option to allow more than one person to play the singleplayer story with you. This we feel might have been a bit of an oversight, but understand that it would mean reworking new custom characters into the story and they would require dialogue, both for male and female characters.
The adversarial multiplayer has been changed a little, there are new modes to go along with the various maps and Vegas 2 has very little in the way of server based hiccups online. It does have some issues we'll come to later on in the review, mostly to deal with Terrorist Hunts and glitches that were noticed in multiplayer, especially across the singleplayer co-operative portion of the game.
There are new modes as previously mentioned, like Team Leader where you have to kill the opposing team's leader to prevent their ability to respawn. Respawns in the game are based on the difficulty level (in Terrorist Hunts) and in the co-op campaign you can continually respawn as long as either Bishop or Knight is alive. If both of you die, its game over, if the team goes down (Jung, Michael) its game over. You'll restart at a checkpoint of course and these are mostly well placed.
As previously stated, everything you earn online or off directly adds to your character, there's no difference in online and offline play and someone who only goes online once in a blue moon with the game will find out that they're not left behind like a newbie whilst everyone is running around with the best gear/weapons. It is this particular use of experience that has really amped the game up for me. I have been slowly climbing up the ranks by playing nothing but online Terrorist Hunts and Campaign mode, enjoying the game immensely.
Vegas 2 has been given a shiny coat of paint for both the multiplayer and the singleplayer portions of the game. The graphics that were lacking in the mp side of Vegas have been polished for Vegas 2 and they are just as good as the singleplayer graphics this time around, there are still the annoying texture load issues when first starting a map and the custom characters can take a while to load in again. Overall though it's graphically a step up from the first game and the detail on the custom characters is great. You can also see the animation engine has been improved and the movement of the characters tweaked.
The AI is just as ruthless as it ever was; it uses more tactics now and makes fewer mistakes in terms of your own team. However Michael and Jung can still make some awesome errors that get them killed or peg a grenade in the wrong place even when you've told them /where/ to throw it. The enemy AI can be confused at times by loud noises and a carefully timed shot or explosion may get them to turn their backs, perhaps this is a human failing and their curiosity definitely gets them killed. They use rappels, fast ropes and the works once more and some of them are armed with heavy weapons that can chew through cover.
The music is stirring, the voice acting is decent with a few annoying performances here and there by some of the lesser cast. The sounds are nice, the gun effects are particularly meaty and nothing in the game sounds like a pop-gun. The Desert Eagle and the Raging Bull make convincing loud reports that shake your eardrums.
It should be awesome, it should be right up there with a 9.5. It's not though, because it has some problems. The AI path-finding can go awry so badly that it glitches them elsewhere on the map, this can grind the screen to a slow and reduce the otherwise smooth game into a slide-show as the engine panics because Mike or Jung have vanished and can't get back to Bishop. It can have moments where you'll lose control of the team, you can stack them on the door, and they won't obey a single command during co-operative play. Both of these require a check-point reload or sometimes a complete game restart.
Terrorists seem to be able to see through solid walls at certain times, they are given a superhuman sense in the pitch black. Some of them do have NV goggles, but most of them should be as blind as bat, not be able to headshot you from across the room. And the most annoying of all, the Terrorist Hunt spawning. I've actually watched terrorists appear from thin air behind buddies whilst playing online, I've walked out of one room that's been cleared, only to be shot in the back because the bastards have respawned behind me. I remember the glory days of Rainbow Six 3 on the PC where the terrorists were spawned into the map already, they were right there and all you had to do was go find them and hunt them down. Now I understand that when you've got 35-45 tangos in a big map like these are, it might be a bit of a strain on the engine, but this is next generation, these problems are supposed to be a thing of the past - that's what we were told about the Xbox360, PS3 and so far all I hear are excuses, excuses, excuses.
So yeah, Terrorist Hunts are great and annoying at the same time. In fact you can use this new spawn-in against the tangos, since they'll come running in to investigate a noise all you have to do is lay down some c4 when an area is clear on a map like Import/Export House. Have a team stack up against one door, sneak forwards, shoot a few times and listen for their alarmed voices. By working the map like this you can lure most of the tangos into a kill zone with a little planning.
It's nice to see a sequel to Vegas and even though it's got a those glitches and bugs, it's still a great game that's tremendous fun to play alone or with friends. I just wish that I could have scored it higher, in all good conscience though with the glitches et-al I can only give it the same score as I did Vegas, even if it's a better game.