Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 as can be expected from the Tom Clancy name is a political thriller. The storyline starts off with OPEC sanctioning the United States and only Venezuela selling them oil. Some terrorists aren't to happy about this and take delegates from the G8 summit hostage. Add to this a new presidential election coming up and you can see the potential for disaster is rife. From then on its up to you to go in and rescue them, and unravel this plot. It features many twists and turns and not everyone turns out to be what they say they are.
The primary game mode of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 is the campaign. Set across fourteen missions you will encounter different objectives and many twists in the plot. Objectives can include rescuing hostages, clearing out enemies, disarming a bomb and others. There is also some stealth missions which can rival Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell in difficulty level. Some missions can be completed in quick time whilst others can take quite sometime. The game does feature the "just one more time" mentality however and you will not be satisfied until a mission is complete. It is then you will be itching for more.
Most of the missions in the game give you three saves to play around with. A good rule of thumb is to save after an objective is completed. You may think that three saves is nothing but we found that number more then enough in most cases. Having unlimited saves would have no doubt ruined the game as players wouldn't feel tense in certain situations. One disappointment with the save system is that if you have progressed into a mission and have some save games, if you switch your system off or go back to the main menu those saves are lost and you have to start from the insertion point again.
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 has gone under many structural changes since Raven Shield and in our opinion they are for the better. Instead of controlling multiple teams, you take control of one team and instead of being able to control each character you are Ding Chavez and nothing changes that. This changes the game significantly because if Ding becomes incapacitated in combat the mission is over. The other three AI team members can become incapacitated, but will return for the next mission. You can't control which weapons they carry, but you can choose your weapons.
Another thing gone from the PC version, and again for the better is the planning phase. No longer do you have way points to follow on each map. You're dropped in and from there it is up to you how you reach your objective, which is shown on the in game map to make things a tad easier. Also throughout the game you will only encounter three operatives, losing them in combat will not render them unusable for the rest of the game. Due to these changes the game feels much more like an action shooter then a strategic shooter, and Xbox gamers should really take to the new design.
Perhaps the biggest and best new addition is the voice communications. We thought that the voice communications was going to be a novelty and it would be better to use the DPAD, how wrong we were. This is simply one of the best features in an Xbox game ever. Sometimes you do have to say commands more then once but most of the time it works quite well. Rather then having to wade through on screen menus you can just say the command and the AI will perform it, brilliant. Another great feature of the headset implementation is that when you are using a headset, during missions John Clark will give you information via that instead of using the TV speakers, again brilliant.
As expected Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 features a multitude of weapons ranging from guns such as the Steyer AUG through to the PSG-1. For people who aren't knowledgeable about the weapons featured, numerous categories are shown for each gun such as range, zoom, damage, accuracy and others. One interesting point to make is your movement speed is not affected by the weapon you are carrying. You can carry a grenade or a heavy machine gun and still move at the same speed. Smaller weapons include phosphorus grenades, flashbangs and items such as a gas mask.
As the developers realised the precision with a console controller is not at the level of a mouse and keyboard, they have changed the way the reticle works. Around the centre dot is a circle and if the enemy is anywhere in that circle they will be hit. The controls are overall fantastic with triggers used to fire and quick change weapons, sticks used to move and the face buttons used to give commands if not using the headset. Halo proved that first person shooters can be done successfully with a console control and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 confirms this fact.
The AI of your team mates is superb. As you move around they will cover your back whilst you perform a task, keep an eye on what's going on behind the group and perform other helpful tasks. It is not until you try a co-operative mission on Live that you realise just how much you need them in the single player campaign. They know the levels back to front so even if you're on an entire different part of a mission and tell them to regroup they will get there without being stuck. The enemy AI is also quite good but only in the higher difficulty levels. On recruit its fairly easy to pick them off from distance but on elite they will charge at you and actively look for cover and generally not need provoking to get ticked off.
One area which definitely is impressive is the player models and rag doll physics. As models are shot down, they will fall in relation to their environment. So if they are standing on a balcony, they may fall down. The Rainbow models are highly detailed as well. The characters look different depending on their load out (for instance if you have picked a gas mask your character will have a gas mask on) and one thing that was unbelievable is online. If you are talking online with some friends, the characters voice on screen actually moves and manages to keep it in sync with your voice. The models also feature positional damage, so hitting someone in the head takes them down much easier then hitting them in the leg.
Missions take place in a variety of environments such as a tunnel, import/export warehouse, an old city and others. The levels do look almost the same as the Splinter Cell style levels and that's because it also uses the latest Unreal engine. Rainbow Six 3 doesn't feature real time lighting like Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell but does feature real time shadows which can be used to discover enemy locations.
Visually Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 is one of the best looking games on the Xbox and features particle effects and the aforementioned superb character models. The levels are highly detailed and varied and feature some impressive architecture. On the sound side of things, most of the gun have distinct sounds and the voice chat between you and the AI is also of high quality. The soundtrack is a cinematic one which can really set the mood. Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 also features the night vision and thermal vision first seen in Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 heavily supports Xbox Live with game modes such as co-operative, survival and team survival. The game also supports deathmatch (sharpshooter) which actually works quite well and this is what we spent most of our time online playing. The one problem with Live support at the moment is that once servers reach over four players it tends to become very laggy, very quickly. Overall a great implementation and we can only hope a patch is released to fix this lag.
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 is the best tactical shooter to be released for the Xbox so far. The developers went back to the drawing board after the PC version and have crafted one of the most console friendly ports they could have produced, hopefully they can fix the online lag problem. If you're waiting for Athena Sword, buy this even if you have to buy an Xbox. Highly recommended.