Reviewed: June 21, 2004
Released: June 15, 2004
Rainbow Six 3 has finally arrived on the GameCube, the final stop on its multi-console tour of duty and unfortunately, its worse showing yet. Having played every other version of this game it's hard not to make comparisons, but even reviewing the game on its own merit takes a huge effort in tolerance. As Rainbow Six 3 has dropped from one less-powerful system to the next features and gameplay elements have slowly been stripped away until we arrive at this final version, a mere shadow of its former self.
Everything that made the game fun on the PC, Xbox, and PS2 is now gone, simply for the fact that the GameCube cannot support those features, and while I cannot fault Ubisoft for limitations of the hardware, I do have to question the decision to sacrifice the quality of the franchise. Anyone who has ever played a Rainbow game will know these games are all about multiplayer. With the exception of a limited two-player co-op mode via splitscreen multiplayer has all but been stripped away on the GameCube. Issuing squad commands via the headset is also gone since the Cube doesn't even have a headset. Then there are some technical issues which we will cover shortly.
Of course all of these concerns are only relative if you have one of the other systems to play and compare Rainbow Six 3. For those loyal to Nintendo's system the absence of online play won't matter since you've never had it and the same goes for voice input. In which case you are still left with a challenging and strategic first-person tactical shooter where players are given the opportunity to command an elite, four-man international anti-terrorist squad. The game features the trademark realism of the Clancy games: immediate, immersive close-quarters action, state-of-the-art in-game cinematics, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell-quality graphics and a nail-biting plot ripped from today's headlines.
Rainbow Six 3 Features:
For those unfamiliar with the squad-based Rainbow Six games, you are in control of an elite team of commandos, each with unique weapons and skills that complement the team and encourage the player to strategize and execute carefully planned attacks. Going “rogue” or trying to play this game as a standard FPS is suicide.
Patience is a virtue that will quickly be tested with some painfully long load screens for menus and the game levels, both before the mission and during the missions. It would have been nice if they could have disguised this process during a mission briefing, or with background info, trivia, or informational displays. It's just a huge jolt that takes you out of the experience.
Once in the actual mission, the game flows nicely with smooth animation, slick controls, and an intuitive interface. You control your team with basic commands, either verbal or by bringing up a command list and using selections in combination with positioning your targeting crosshairs. You can order your team to perform instant actions or position individual team members and have them act in unison on the Zulu go code. All of the commands and protocols used in this game are quite realistic. Obviously, somebody did their homework or the designers had the support of some actual military consultants.
There is an amazing selection of real-world weaponry, more than 30 items in all that give you great flexibility in the way you plan and execute your missions. Even more impressive is the fact that Ubisoft was able to map a vast assortment of commands to the often troublesome GameCube controller and make it seem natural. The default layout is highly intuitive and you probably won't need to chance a thing unless you prefer to invert your Y-axis.
You control the team leader and issue commands to your AI-controlled team with an intuitive command interface that is context-sensitive to where the cursor is pointing when you issue an order. Point at the floor and you can rally your men, point at a door and you get a sub-menu of options, all having to do with various room entry scenarios.
AI ranges from good to seriously flawed, with the flawed AI usually resting on your own men. Their pathfinding is less than perfect and your team can often have a straggler that gets stuck on an object. Sometimes you can go back and get him loose and other times I was forced to restart a mission. Normally, if you are managing your team properly and issuing timely orders everyone performs at a level that is more than adequate to win the missions.
Rainbow Six 3 features what very well may be the best opening movie in video game history, but the GameCube version has compressed these wonderful movies so you now have some visible MPEG artifacts - again, another limitation of the smaller disc format. We then move on to some nice menus, detailed information displays, animated mission briefings, and standard pre-mission loadout screens. Enjoy them - the load times are so long you will be seeing a lot of them.
The GameCube uses some interesting 'tricks" to give the game a slightly better appearance than the PS2, but it still falls short of the Xbox. The levels use pre-lit textures giving the illusion of real-time lighting and it works surprisingly well. The levels, which were scaled down for the PS2 are back to their expansive size, but are still sparsely populated giving them an empty feel.
Character animation seem to be using the scaled down PS2 animations rather than the smoother and more realistic movements of the Xbox. I'm not sure if it's the larger levels or the fancy textures but there are some framerate issues, both in the single player and even more so in the splitscreen co-op mode. It's not terrible but it is noticeable.
Again, while all these issues may seem like I am being overly critical, please keep in mind I am coming from the position of having seen this same game on the PC and all three consoles. For those with nothing to compare to, Rainbow Six 3 is a good looking game, and the progressive scan support makes it just that much nicer.
The soundtrack is the standard Clancy military themes you have already heard a dozen times if you have played any other Red Storm game. It’s most predominate in the menus and pre-mission setup screens. Once you are in the game you are left to the sounds of your surroundings and the Dolby Pro Logic II surround lends itself to some interesting gameplay moments where you can pinpoint the enemy location by the sound.
Sound effects are spot-on from the digitally sampled weapons fire and reloading sounds to the varying environmental noises that manage to breath life into these sparse levels. Speaking of breathing, there is an effective use of heavy breathing to enhance the tension of injured players. Speech is equally as well done with plenty of chatter, comments, and order confirmations from your men.
You can probably finish the single-player tour of duty in 15 hours or less. The split-screen mode may offer a bit of additional gameplay, but the lack of true online play is the ultimate thorn in this game's longevity. Considering you are getting half the game (no online, fewer modes, no voice input, no future content) you should be paying about half the price, yet this is being marketed as a $49 title. Casual gamers will certainly want to rent, but only true Clancy fans will want to consider a purchase.
Many gamers don’t have the luxury of multiple systems, and for those of you where the GameCube is your only gaming platform, I can only recommend Rainbow Six 3 as a rental at best. There is just too much missing here for this game to become a permanent fixture in your game library. Of course, if you have an Xbox or a PC then you will certainly want to play the much better and more complete version of this game on either or both of those systems.