Late last year Ubisoft released Rainbow Six 3 on the Xbox to much fanfare and anticipation. Microsoft was hoping that it would become a major competitor to Sony's formidable SOCOM franchise and the game did deliver on its promise of tactical action gameplay. Six months later and we have the PS2 version, an impressive port with a new map and online play.
The storyline is fairly cliche and remains the same from the Xbox version. OPEC have placed an oil embargo on the United States, with all countries except one agreeing to this. Venezuela continues to ship oil to the United States much to the dismay of other countries. A summit is held in Geneva to try and sort out the issue and low and behold terrorists hit it, taking hostages and demanding the trade of oil to the United States stop. This begins a web of intrigue involving a presidential race in Venezuela and a large worldwide oil company.
If you have played some of the PC versions of the franchise then you may be expecting squad based gameplay. To a degree this game features it, but it a totally different fashion to the PC version and we for one think its better. You take the persona of Ding Chavez, one of the team who has stuck around from the very beginning (and is even featured in Tom Clancy's book). Everything you do is attached to Ding, but you do have a team backing you up. Sometimes the team is made up of four characters, other times only two and occasionally Ding will be all on his lonesome.
The major change for the console versions of the game is this. You can't control any other character except Ding Chavez. This means that Ding is critical to each mission. Should he die, the mission ends and you have to start over. Also you don't have countless recruits to call upon should other team members become incapacitated. If they are taken down they are only incapacitated until the next mission and will return fighting fit for your next task. This has allowed the developers to give the three characters a degree of personality. The three team mates are French, German and British and have different outlooks on the whole situation. They are also independent and you can't tell them what their loadout should be. However should you choose something critical such as a gas mask, they will follow suit.
In terms of the mission structure of the game, for the PS2 version some changes have been made. Some levels are now divided into two sections which has changed the game quite a bit. You can't save anywhere like the Xbox version. A checkpoint system has been put in place but on the upside, choosing insertion to restart a level once you've reached the second area does not take you back to the very beginning of the mission. Only the current area. Some missions such as the CEO rescue are not divided up but do have some structure changes such as only one door, whereas on the Xbox there is two and therefore two ways to attack a situation.
There is also a new mission added to the PS2 version of the game, but unfortunately it does not add anything to the actual storyline. The mission tasks you to rescue two team mates who have been captured in Italy and there is numerous restrictions which throws somewhat of a curveball at the player. You can't have any of your team mates incapacitated during the mission, and it isn't an easy task either with numerous tangos to take down.
Showing that the game is very much built around the console style of gaming there is no planning phase and no checkpoints to follow, other then the goals of the mission. The team is dumped into an area and told to finish tasks before getting out of there. How you attack it is up to you. This allows you to play the game differently each time and whilst this style of gameplay was possible with the PC version, the planning took a while and most people probably used the default system.
Communication with your team members is vital to mission success and like the Xbox version you can use the PS2 headset to communicate with team members. To do this you give commands such as demo up which disarms a bomb. For those of you without the headset, commands can also be given with the dual shock controller but obviously the immersion factor given by the headset is missed. The voice communications is also supported in online play..
The game features the same weapon loadout as the Xbox with guns such as the Steyer AUG, PSG-1, AK-47, MP5 and others. For those who aren't weapons experts the game gives ratings in three categories for each gun to help you decide which is the best for you. One of the puzzling aspects about the weapons featured in the game comes to the fore in multiplayer. For some reason you have a restricted loadout and not every gun available in single player can be used online. This is in stark contrast to the Xbox version where the choice remained the same.
There is really two main ways to tackle the challenges presented in the game; go in yourself or guide your team mates. Using your team mates can be of great advantage at times because their reaction time to enemies can be much quicker then your own. Most of the time we found ourselves sending the AI in to check out and clear areas before moving on. Due to the way the game is structured, this is the way most people will probably play the game. Due to the fact that if Ding dies the mission is failed, but if any other team member becomes incapacitated the game continues except for in the new mission. The AI still offer a decent challenge, but don't seem to be as on the ball as the Xbox version at times. Those of you who have finished the Xbox game may feel that the PS2 port is easier.
The developers have done a great job porting the game in terms of visuals to the PS2 console. There are some jagged effects on some of the guns, but overall the game does feel great and for most of the time retains a stable frame rate. The only time this becomes an issue is when a grenade or flashbang is detonated. The graphic detail of etching the screen has been retained but leads to a significant framerate drop. This can cause chaos in online games because it is possible to throw a grenade and charge in whilst the other player is fighting the frame rate.
The game contains online multiplayer via the PS2 online network but the servers are situated in Europe. With this in mind we were quite surprised at how well the game performed. You will encounter lag, most noticeable when throwing a grenade, but it doesn't seem to get to the point of an unplayable, jerky mess like the Xbox version did at times. Split screen multiplayer is also available in the PS2 version.
Rainbow Six 3 is one of the better games on the Xbox and PS2 fans can finally now pick up a copy for themselves. The developers have done a fantastic job porting the game except for a few graphics problems although the online play was surprisingly tolerable even with the servers in Europe. If you want a tactical action game on your PS2 then look no further as this is one of the better games from the genre.