N Amer - 06/12/2007
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas Review
Having been a Rainbow Six fan since the series first appeared on the PC so long ago, I’ve watched the series evolve and add new elements to the tactical shooter genre that would make the Tom Clancy franchise such a fan favorite. When Rainbow Six Vegas was released not to long ago on the Xbox 360 and finally on the PlayStation 3, the game was not only one of the best first-person shooters to be released on the next-generation platform but also one that would change the way we look at the Rainbow Six series. Now Rainbow Six Vegas makes it to the Sony PSP but, unlike the console version, this one is far from gaming perfection.
Then again, this is the first time a Rainbow Six game appeared on the PSP and for a first attempt, the game isn’t altogether bad. Surprisingly enough, even though the game’s title is the same as the console version, the game revolves around different characters whose actions are connected to the events told in the console game. The game’s story begins after a terrorist cell has taken two Rainbow team members hostage during a mission in Mexico. Intel comes in from an unknown source that the two Rainbow operatives have been taken to a place in Nevada. You assume the role of Brian Armstrong, a seasoned field operative as well as a second teammate named Shawn Rivers who acts as Armstrong’s sniper backup. Together, the pair fights the same terrorist threat their brothers Keller, Walter and Park are fighting in the Sunset Strip.
You’ll start the game as Armstrong who is an expert in field operations of the tactical kind so his load-out equipment consists of submachine guns, heavy arms or pistols. After a short mission briefing you can pick the equipment that best suits the environment or mission scenario. As Armstrong, though, you’ll be doing a lot of close quarter fighting so the more compact your firearms are the better. Meanwhile, when you take control of Rivers, you’ll be armed with your trusty sniper rifle, a handgun and both flash bang and explosive grenades. The game switches between the two men in different checkpoints throughout a level and both play quite differently. For one thing, Rivers is tasked with clearing a path for Armstrong by getting the higher ground and picking off bad guys with is sniper rifle. Meanwhile, Armstrong is bursting through doors to complete the primary objective and clearing enemies scattered throughout.
Naturally, the PSP version of Rainbow Six Vegas doesn’t play a lot like the console version but there are a few gameplay elements that do show up in this one. Lean against the wall and the game’s primarily first-person view moves into a third-person view just like in the console game. This allows you to peek around the corner without having to lean like in most shooters as well as shoot without exposing yourself too much. It’s good to see the series’ tactical elements intact even though a few gameplay features have been stripped away in the process. There are no bins in the game that allow you to grab more ammo clips, switch weapons or even do something about your health. Breaching feels less precise than in the console version, although you can still slide in a Snake Cam underneath a door to see who is behind the door and you can target enemies to keep track of their position.
The game’s mission structure has also been stripped down along with the level design to make for a series of five bite-sized levels. If you wanted to you can zip through each level, seeing all the you really need to see the game without missing very much. Now this does sound bad but considering the fact that this is a PSP game, the short level design might be a perfect fit for those who take their game on the go. You can actually play the single-campaign mode in short bursts, saving the game at each checkpoint and picking the game up again to finish a level. For those who like to sit back at home and play a lengthy single-player campaign mode you’ll be in for a very unpleasant surprise.
Still, what is here is actually pretty good and you’ll even make your way to Calypso Casino as well as areas the other Rainbow team did get to go during their portion of the dangerous mission to save Las Vegas. It’s a nice tough having to deal with familiar Vegas characters like Johanna Torres who feeds you information on board a helicopter as she does in the console version as well as deal with associates of the nasty terrorist Irena Morales who is but a bit player in a much bigger picture.
Control-wise, everyone who has ever played a first-person shooter on the PSP can tell you that without a second analog stick the shooting action can get a bit awkward. You’ll be using the face buttons as a way to look in any direction while movement is handled using the analog stick. Thanks to some framerate stutters, sometimes switching weapons doesn’t happen immediately and sometimes taking quick potshots don’t register as quickly as you would like it to in a game that requires fast reflexes. Then there’s the enemy AI that is often too dumb for their own good.
The good news is that the game included an online and offline multiplayer mode. Up to four players can take each another on in a Survival and Team Survival game mode and battle it out in a number of maps like a bank or familiar classic Rainbow Six maps from the early PC games. I had logged on to a few four-player matches and experience a drop in the framerate like in the single-player mode but, for the most part, the action was good. This will be reason enough to keep playing this game long after you finish the single-player mode.
The game’s visuals aren’t exactly pretty either, although there are certain levels that do look decent enough. Still, the PSP can handle better visuals than this but at least the overall presentation isn’t bad at all. Your Rainbow team isn’t detailed when you get a good look at them in the third-person perspective but you can tell Armstrong apart from Rivers. The backgrounds are the biggest disappointment, though.
I’m a huge fan of the way the console Rainbow games handle sound whether it’s the soundtrack or the incredibly detailed sound effects. You’ll find a score in the game but it’s not heard too often and the sound effects are barely there so don’t expect to hear an enemy toss a frag grenade or change ammo magazines. At least the voice acting is top notch.
Rainbow Six Vegas for the PSP is a decent attempt to bring the series to a portable format and despite some weak control issues, framerate problems and a short single-player campaign the game could have been better. The fact that the game isn’t a port of the Xbox 360 and PS3 version is a nice touch and online multiplayer works well enough serves to make this a game hardcore Rainbow Six fans will like but not love. You might want to consider renting this one before considering a purchase.
#Review Scoring Details for Rainbow Six Vegas
The game’s controls take some getting use to but once you get the hang of it you’ll be intercepting enemies as a field operative and taking out bad guys from a distance as the team sniper. Unfortunately, the single-player campaign is pretty short and stops when things get interesting. At least there’s online and offline multiplayer.
Visually, the game isn’t pretty but it gets the job done. The character models, much like the backgrounds, look really plain. The game’s visual effects aren’t stunning either but at least the game’s menu looks good and there are some familiar areas from the console version.
The music is dramatic and fits the theme nicely throughout the game and the voice acting is actually very good. The sound effects lack some punch and sometimes you won’t hear an enemy open a door until it’s too late.
The game is challenging but not for the right reasons. It’s the controls that will give you the most trouble because the enemy isn’t as smart as they are in the console version. Rivers’ role in the game sees less action thanks to his sniper status.
The fact that this two-man team working to aid the other Rainbow team from the console version is a nice touch and it works well for the portable medium. There are enough weapons to pick from in the load out screen for both the single-player and multiplayer modes.
A few framerate stutters aside, the online multiplayer works rather well but doesn’t light the PSP on fire with its Survival and Team Survival action. Up to four players can take each another out in a number of different maps like the Presidio or the Siberian Base from the PC original Rainbow Six.
While the game is a worthy attempt that falls a bit flat in certain areas, Rainbow Six Vegas for the PSP isn’t perfect but is a small step in the right direction. With a short campaign mode and a number of features cut from the gameplay, this does feel like a stripped down version of the amazing console version. Still, for what it’s worth, Rainbow Six fans will get a kick out of this one.
While the game is a worthy attempt that falls a bit flat in certain areas, Rainbow Six Vegas for the PSP isn’t perfect but is a small step in the right direction
Reviewer: Eduardo Zacarias
Review Date: 07/05/2007