The Rainbow 6 series would have to be an all time personal favourite of mine. I remember scrounging endlessly to locate the demo of the very first Rainbow 6, and once I had finally managed to play it I could never look back - finally a game where the realism and danger of real life counter terrorism is showcased almost flawlessly. Sure, Counter Strike was available at the time, and so was SWAT 2, but they never seemed to do justice for me, they never seemed to be able to match the experience of Rainbow 6.
However the world of the 3D shooter changes rapidly, and after a few more releases including the add on pack Eagle Watch and Rogue Spear, well, the engine just started to lose its edge, it became somewhat dated. Sure, the new features in Rogue Spear added some much needed depth, however the competition caught up with such titles as SWAT 3 and countless mods for many games, and proved that their speed and flexibility were identical if not superior to that of Rainbow 6.
After the RedStorm team reported that they were wanting to focus less on the police style action of the Rainbow 6 series and start looking towards Army style gameplay, we saw Ghost Recon hit the shelves, thanks to the primary development Ubi Soft. Ghost Recon instantly received its deserved attention and became a successful title, even if the primary engine was very similar to that of Rainbow 6. All was well, except for the fact that the world supreme virtual counter terrorist squad known as "Rainbow 6" were given the boot, and they didn't appear to be coming back. That is, until Rainbow 6: Raven Shield was announced by Ubi Soft on March 4th of 2002.
Welcome to the new world of the elite Rainbow squad, where deadly threats are taken with unforgiving force. These guys don't know the meaning of negotiation, and with a lineup of the world's most advanced weaponry at hand, why should they. However this time around the Rainbow 6 gang aren't being powered by the traditional engine found in all previous titles, but instead by the extremely powerful and flexible next generation Unreal engine.
Another major change in the series is the fact that Ubi Soft's Montreal office will actually be developing the title rather than RedStorm. Although the aid of RedStorm will be at hand, this is a rather big step in the Rainbow 6 series as new ideas and concepts will be delivered through the new team. However, with the job that Ubi Soft did on Black Thorn, that should be something to look forward to rather and worry about.
The choice of the Unreal engine comes at a very good time for the Rainbow 6 series. Not only will it be, without a doubt, the most powerful counter terrorist based game out, but it will also be one of the first out to feature the impressive engine. Although many say the next generation Unreal engine will require some hefty processing and graphical power, the sheer visual brilliance that can be delivered is to much to disregard.
However the graphics aren't the only thing that will be improved upon implementation of the new engine, almost every aspect of the game will be presented with much greater flexibility and efficiency that is required to fully showcase the realism of such deadly activities. Players will be able to manipulate their stance with greater ease than the previous versions, in fact the whole control system will be greatly improved. One of the weak aspects of the original versions was that movement came of with an unorthodox type feeling. Now, with an engine that is proven successful for the FPS genre, we should see movement as easily and flexible as any game. This also means that the combat interface will be changed from the previous version. Where we used to simply see a cross hair we will now have a complete perspective of the weapon in hand, which may not be new to the FPS game but it is certainly new to a Rainbow 6 game.
Raven Shield should also see some hefty improvements in the area of artificial intelligence. Although this was reasonably well implemented in the earlier games, there were a few bugs here and there that seemed to be faulted to the structure of the game mostly. The AI in Raven Shield will be greatly detailed and should come out to be one of the best ever seen by any game currently on the market.
Multiplayer is one aspect that has always been strong with the Rainbow 6 series. With the enhanced net code of this new engine, and the simple fact it is somewhat designed for the use of multiplayer means we should be seeing some nice improvements. Included are new multiplayer modes which we usually see with every Rainbow 6 update.
One aspect that will stay similar is the story line and locations of the story. With the standard 15 missions, players will be pitted against the threat of terror in snow, desert, mountain, day, night, rain and outdoor environments. Each event in the story will be, naturally, supplemented with a related location and weather. Although the variety of locations isn't great, most are in Europe and South America, the circumstances and tasks will be.
The Rainbow 6 squad are back in business, with a new look and a new team behind the development process, one has to wonder just what is going to be made of this game. With help from the Unreal Warfare engine, the already strong community and multiplayer potential to boot we could be seeing what is the next big title to hit the retail market. Look forward to this title as it is released later this year, I know I will be.