As is shown by the sales of both Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six on the PC, gamers love strategic shooters. Later this year Ubisoft will release Rainbow Six 3 for the Xbox and with some excellent features up its sleeve and full online compatibility they should be on to a winner. Recently I was given a demonstration of the game in action and here are my impressions.
The Xbox version of Rainbow Six 3 is not Raven Shield or Athena Sword (or both together for that matter!). It is a completely new storyline. Whilst Ubisoft had planned to port Raven Shield originally, the decision was made to create an entirely new storyline for the Xbox version earlier this year. You will take the role of team RAINBOW again as they work secretly to thwart the work of terrorists around the globe. Many veterans such as Ding Chavez have returned for the ride, so if you have played the other games on the PC you should be right at home in Rainbow Six 3.
A significant change from the PC versions is the planning phase, its gone. With a mouse and keyboard in use on a PC it was useable, however it would have been a task in frustration with a controller. This makes the game more dynamic during missions. It is likely that the same mission will never play the same way twice. Mission objectives are reminiscent of those featured in Raven Shield. Storm buildings, rescue hostages and get out alive all in quick time. This is really Counter-Strike for people who want a more realistic experience.
Another significant change from the PC versions is voice communication. Ubisoft will be shipping two versions of this game. One will come with a headset, one will not. If a player is using a headset, rather then using the DPAD to give commands (which seems to work really well I might add) they can talk to their team mates like in SOCOM. It works like this. The players reticle becomes mission control. For instance if a player tells his or her team to move, they move to where the reticle is pointing. Voice communication is likely to add another dimension to the Rainbow Six 3 series both offline and online. Unfortunately I haven't been able to see it in action as of yet.
Even at this stage, the AI of both the team mates and enemy characters is looking superb. When your team moves around with you, at a standstill they position themselves to cover all angles. This is so hidden enemies can not sneak up behind and attack. They respond well to all commands given, and are fluent in their motions. All the players tools such as night and thermal vision will have to be used to snuff out the tough AI featured in the current build. They will hide, pop out to take a few pot shots at you and your team and then hide again.
Being a world counter-terrorist group, RAINBOW will visit many different locations. Locations such as London, the Cayman Islands and Rio de Janeiro just to name a few. Most of the mission environments will be familiar to Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield players but the objectives and layouts will not. The level which was displayed to me was set in an Alcatraz-like prison, and environmental effects included fog from steam and darkness due to there being no light. Splinter Cell's fantastic lighting system will again show its beautiful face in Rainbow Six 3.
Unlike previous Rainbow Six titles, the engine has not been developed in house. The Unreal engine from Epic has been licensed and it has significantly improved on previous versions. Incredible lighting effects are possible thanks to the Splinter Cell lighting engine, and 3D animations and somewhat destructible environments are now also possible.
The models in the game look superb with high levels of detail. They are so individual that at times it may be possible to pick out a team member by their looks. The sound has had some significant changes as well. If you drop a flashbang and look at it you will be blinded, however if a player is to close to a loud explosion, they will lose hearing and become disoriented. The same effect occurs with tear gas and it adds to the realism of the game and looks fantastic.
Rainbow Six 3 will ship with full multiplayer capability over Xbox Live. With the success of Ghost Recon online growing by the day, it is almost safe to say that Rainbow Six 3 will be a huge hit once launched. Players will be able to either take each either on, or co-operate through the single player campaign missions. It is also likely that some downloadable content will be made available in the form of new missions and weapons.
For those Xbox owners who are looking out for a strategic shooter fix after Ghost Recon and its mission pack this is definitely it. Ubisoft appear to have games like this down to a fine art on the Xbox. Voice communication and online play will make this a superior version to the earlier released PC version and also increase the longevity of the title. Rainbow Six 3 Xbox is due for release this November.