Tom Clancy is responsible for many thrilling stories, from his humble 'Shadow Warriors' to his blockbuster movie 'The Sum of All Fears'. However Clancy doesn't limit his skills to paper, many of his works have been converted to the PC gaming platform, and none of these games have seen more success than his classic 'Rainbow Six'. Coming back for the third time, with many addon packs in-between, Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield combines the awesome technical power of the latest Unreal engine with the gameplay realism of occurring threats in today's world....a combination that was obviously made for each other.
Gameplay - 8.5/10:
Although it is not necessary, training is a good way to get accustomed to the new style of Rainbow Six. I've been playing the series since the first day the very first demo was released, but I still like to brush up on the new features and tactics before taking on a new version. However training mode doesn't really seem to cover the entire feature set. Sure, you get to fire all weapon types but straight after you've learnt the combat subsystem your only training option after that is to play a real scenario in a training mission map. It would have been nice to see indepth training showcasing correct usage of different weapons for different situations, for example, a good way to storm a room using a flash bang. I think at the very least a training module of an anti-terrorist game should feature almost everything the real life counter parts have to go through that is relevant to the game.
Raven Shield features your common story-line of a crazed terrorist organization looking to cause havoc one way or another, in the case of Raven Shield the production and distribution of a chemical weapon agent. Unlike previous versions, where the story didn't seem to have much connection from mission to mission, the story-line in Raven Shield is consistent throughout the entire game giving a much greater sense of purpose than previously experienced in the series. The actual campaign mode lasts for 15 missions which is roughly the same amount since the original Rainbow Six, however besides the odd stealth only and bomb disarmament missions most are essentially the same and can get a little repetitive.
Planning has always been a massive part of Rainbow Six, making sure you have a solid attack plan is just as important as the attack itself, if not more. One problem many gamers had with Rainbow Six was the necessity to pay a lot of attention to the planning stages before each mission, testing the patience of even the most hardcore fan. The developers realized this and have made Raven Shield 'a game for all' so to speak. If you so desire, you can sit there and create the perfect plan presuming patience is at your helm. If you otherwise feel like getting into the action quicker you can load the default plan for the mission in question and change any equipment/team structures as you see fit. If you don't want to bother with changing a thing at all, there is even a "quick play" button which will take you straight into the action. With this setup, Raven Shield is appealing to every type of gamer.
The arsenal has again seen an upgrade with over 57 real world weapons to use at any time, including sub machine guns, assault rifles, shotguns, light machine guns, sniper rifles and handguns. On top of this you can also change ammo types, add weapon accessories like a scope or silencer, use gadgets like a heartbeat sensor and access explosives like door breach charges and frag grenades. The only issue here is that most missions require essentially the same type of weaponry leaving an obvious impression that most of the more unique weapons are designed for multiplayer. Regardless however, Raven Shield easy features the best collection of anti-terrorist weaponry in any game today.
Once in-game the improvements are dead obvious. For one, the Unreal Warfare engine is simply unmatched when it comes to current FPS retail engines. Everything in the game just feels so much smoother and accurate and it really is good to see UbiSoft not trying to improve the engine found in previous Rainbow Six titles that has obviously had its day. The use of the Unreal Warfare engine has also allowed for traditional FPS features like visible guns and hands to be introduced into the Rainbow Six series, which were sorely needed. It is also good to see the series remain ultra realistic, where one bullet can mean the difference between success and failure.
The In-game action in Raven Shield also sees new measures of controlling your teammates. Although the very first Rainbow Six allowed you to switch control of different teams in real-time, in Raven Shield you have to ability to give orders to your own teammates during the action. For example, if you want a teammate to open a door while you throw a smoke grenade in, it can be done with the new control system. The only problem I came across here was that after you order your teammates to do something, if you want them to continue following you, you must reorder them to do so. It isn't hard to remember, but it can be annoying when you order a teammate to open a door, you bust through with your gun blazing only to find your teammates stuck in the previous room, awaiting your command when it is clear you could use some assisted fire. Another feature which is lacking is a real-time waypoint navigation system like the one found in the Ghost Recon series. This would have allowed for changes to be made to the plan on the fly should an unseen circumstance arise.
In today's gaming world the most powerful FPS engine is without a doubt the Unreal Warfare engine, and we see UbiSoft utilize this engine in Raven Shield. Someone in the dev team made the right decision, because simply put Raven Shield looks stunning. The textures are clear and crisp, the animations are fluent and the attention to detail is absolutely amazing. Unlike previous versions, if you pull out the heart beat sensor it will be clearly visible to other players, and the same goes for almost any other accessory. One feature that does not appear in this game is realistically rendered wounds/blood on bodies. Rainbow Six has always been realistic in this department and so it should be, as it is realistic in every other department, however it seems Raven Shield toned down on the gore for whatever reasons.
On top of this, the new rag doll physics give a very realistic impression, although at times it can backfire and produce extremely weird and awkward looking bodies on the ground. However the awe in witnessing a terrorist falling down a set of stairs or off a boucany and knowing it isn't a pre-recorded animation is unmatched.
It is amazing what a true FPS perspective can do. I'll say now that you would be hard pressed to find someone as enthusiastic about a Rainbow Six game as me, but the original versions of RS just felt a little dull in their controls. Now that you can actually see the gun during gameplay in true FPS fashion, aiming and walking around is generally a little more involving. It is a relatively small detail, but to me it makes the world of difference.
New to Raven Shield is the 'fluid posture' feature. Instead of having to use a default move like the peek left and right functions, you can press the fluid posture button and change your position and stance exactly how you like it using the analog motions of the mouse. This is a great way to mould yourself around the environment instead of having to make do with standard moves.
With a few minor glitches here and there put aside, Raven Shield is easily the improvement to the series I had hoped for. It is not common nor easy for a first person shooter game to succeed based purely on realism these days, but if one game can do it Raven Shield can. Alongside the brilliant Unreal Warfare engine Rainbow Six now has more grunt to portray its realism which is always going to be a good thing. Whether you're a fan of the series or intrigued into trying a "one shot one kill" type of game, Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield will not disappoint.
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