Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2 Review

David Creech

The latest installment in the ever-present Tom Clancy line of games is Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2 from Ubisoft. Each group of the Clancy games have a unique approach to combat: Splinter Cell is stealth based, Ghost Recon is third person modern combat, and Vegas is a tactical shooter that rewards those players who take their time and tends to punish the run and gun approach. The second in the Vegas series starts with a flashback that serves to provide a modicum of story and also serves as a training mission. After that it moves back to modern day Vegas and has a story that interlaces with the first game. There is not a lot of explanation about how the stories are related, other than explaining the traitorous team member’s actions that occur at the end of the first game.

Hey, they have shields!

The story mode is quite a bit shorter and easier than the first one, with a plethora of checkpoints and ammo stockpiles. You lead a team of three through various backstreet locations in Las Vegas, including a sweat shop, an oil refinery, and a convention center that oddly enough is hosting a video game convention filled with advertising for MLG and various vehicles. There are some expansive venues which help to justify bringing a sniper rifle on occasion, as well as some environments that are so busy that it can be challenging to find the terrorist bastard who just blew your head off. However, it is odd to break into a hotel room and find several of your ammo chests in there just waiting for you to refill your supply of C4 and grenades. The placement of the ammunition supply and checkpoints after almost every room contribute to a much more run and gun style of game play instead of the tactical shooter that Rainbow Six Vegas was.

Your AI teammates, Michael and Jung, are more intelligent in Vegas 2, with an increased awareness of their surroundings, more options for you to give them commands, and they aim significantly better. However, they can still make bonehead moves, and you have to be reasonably cautious about sending them running through open areas. You also have a limited ability to call for thermal scans, which provides you information for a limited time in a small inset image of the area immediately around you, highlighting terrorists and hostages. Also new are a much more realistic environment and ballistics package. Instead of having terrorists hiding behind a curtain and being invulnerable, you can turn on your thermal vision, see them through walls, and shoot through much of the environment for kills. There are still some strange glitches in this – such as not being able to shoot through some chain link fences – but for the most part this is very well done and definitely makes you choose your cover more carefully since the terrorists can kill you the same way.

There are some noticeable improvements to the AI’s tactics. They tend to be much more aggressive and profligate in the use of grenades and ammunition than the first game. In addition, they have access to more equipment – such as shields – and tend to use it reasonably well. That being said, they still don’t usually hear a door open even if they are standing right next to it or hear a body drop to the ground next to them, neither of which seem realistic. This puts you in the position of being able to open a door and shoot several terrorists in the head with silenced weapons before any of them react. It is easier to clear rooms this way, but it detracts from the challenge.

Another normal day in Vegas

The online play for the story mode is quite changed from the last version. Only two players are permitted instead of four, but you can drop in or leave throughout the game seamlessly. As with many changes, this is both good and bad. In the first game if you were playing online with a friend through the story, it was just the two of you, whereas in Vegas 2, it is you, your friend, and your two trusty AI teammates. On the downside, if you were playing with a group of four, having an extra person and replacing the two AI characters with humans made for a very fun experience that is just not the same in Vegas 2. There also are some problems with lag in Vegas 2 that did not appear in the first game. As with the first game, you do not have the option of going online split screen which is disappointing. GRAW and HALO have done this for years now, and GRAW is even from the same company, yet this feature is still not included.

Laser sights make enemies very easy to locate.

The online play has five adversarial modes: Attack and Defend, Team Deathmatch, Deathmatch, Team Leader, and Total Conquest. Attack and Defend games have different objectives based on which map is being played on: Hostage Rescue, Extraction, and Demolition. Total Conquest is a territories type game where teams have to capture and hold three locations on the map simultaneously for 30 seconds. Team Leader is a Team Deathmatch variant, where each team has a leader with special abilities. Leaders can always see where the other team leader is, and as long as they are alive their teammates have unlimited respawns. However, any enemy that the leader kills is permanently out of the game and will not respawn. If you prefer ranked games over casual play, you have the ability to invite friends to ranked team games until your team is full. You cannot invite them to be on the other team, however, and anyone you invite in cannot change teams. This permits clans and friends to play on the same team in ranked matches while still preserving the integrity of ranked matches.

Terrorist hunts are by far the most challenging and enjoyable aspect of the game. The maps are set up with multiple paths as a standard rule, which means you have to always watch your back and act as a team. This is also where the AI changes shine the most, as they tend to react very well to any tactics you use, forcing players to be innovative and cautious to be successful. However, despite significant efforts on the part of the developers, there are still issues with terrorists spawning directly in front of you, or even in a room with no exits that you just cleared out and left. This does get frustrating, especially after being shot in the back a couple of times. Still, this mode is where players will find the most challenge, the most fun, and will likely spend the most of their time.

Kill the guy on the rope to rank up your ACES fast!

The Persistent Elite Creation (PEC) is not particularly changed, although it now displays progress toward your next rank across the bottom of the screen as you play. The only significant changes are that actions taken in single player also affect your rank, and experience is granted per kill rather than at the end of a terrorist hunt. This lets players rank up much faster, as even a lost battle will often score significant experience points. There is a subsection of the PEC which is referred to in the game as A.C.E.S. The Advanced Combat Enhancement Specialization concept encourages and rewards certain activities in three different fields of combat: Marksman, Close Quarters Battle, and Assault. As you earn points in each of these different areas, you unlock equipment and earn extra experience points. This is a pretty cool addition to the PEC system, but is underutilized. It could have been extended out significantly instead of capping out quite early. Especially if you start by playing multi-player matches, you can easily top out the ACES system in one day since it is heavily weighted toward multi-player. One last note on experience points: they are shared among all team members as well, so kill hogs don’t ruin the game for those they play with.

The achievements in the game are split between completing story mode (250 GS, all of which can be obtained either single player, co-op via XBL, or split screen), playing as the secondary player in story mode (35 GS via XBL or split screen), playing Terrorist Hunt missions (85 GS), some that can be acquired in either the story or Terrorist Hunt (70 GS), character development (150 GS, 20 of which requires a Vision Camera), and online play (410 GS, 30 GS of which is for ranked games). Far too much emphasis on multi-player adversarial games for my liking, especially since the achievements related to them are so bland and predictable (kill 100 people with this weapon…kill 100 people with a different weapon…oh yeah, kill 100 people with this weapon also). They might have some of the best names for achievements so far this year (My Name Is Sam is a clear reference to Splinter Cell, another Ubisoft Tom Clancy series) but the achievements themselves are stupid with very few exceptions.

If you want to play the campaign with friends or are looking for a challenging single player story mode, play the first game for an unbeatable experience. If you want to do terrorist hunts, Vegas 2 is definitely where it is at. The multi-player adversarial games are largely available in any game, but Team Leader is a unique game type that is quite fun.

The game has excellent background noise, meaningful chatter on the radio, and realistic weapon sounds all of which adds up to an outstanding audio experience. Unfortunately, there are still bugs that permeated the first game as well, such as the dialog cutting out and the sounds of machine guns firing long after the gunner is dead.

Vegas 2 is filled with rich and diverse environments, both inside buildings and outdoors. Many of the maps are designed with vertical approaches and as such even the roofs are filled with detail. Vivid colors and a huge variety of objects make for a very visually pleasing experience. However, there is no noticeable improvement from last year, which is disappointing. There are also textures that up close are clearly mediocre.

This game is not exactly pick-up-and-play if you want to use all the features of your team, but the integrated tutorial and the simple control pattern make it quite easy to learn. An increased amount of checkpoints from the first installment make the game significantly easier on Realistic, which detracts a bit from the experience.

Menus are easy to use and the available options are displayed at all times with simple but effective graphics. The only negative is related to the online experience: When creating a room for your friends to get together, it launches the game before you can invite people into the room. You then have to quit the mission to get to the lobby. Other than that, the delivery is pretty much flawless.

There are too many online achievements, and not much imagination in the offline achievements. There are some gems in the names of the achievements – many of which show some imagination – but it certainly is not going to win any awards for unique or memorable achievements.

Quite the fun game, and with the adaptive AI the terrorist hunts ensure an ongoing challenge that is never the same twice. Vegas 2 is definitely worthy of a purchase despite the easy story play and crappy achievements.

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