Reviewed: April 30, 2004
Released: March 16, 2004
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a video game based on your life? As a former Army Ranger and Special Forces sniper, the Tom Clancy-inspired games offer an interesting insight into what myself, and hundreds of other dedicated soldiers go through on a daily basis.
Red Storm titles have always been a huge hit with the guys on base dating as far back as the original Rainbow Six in 1998. Followed by Rogue Spear, and Black Thorn, the Rainbow Six legacy has had a long and successful run leading up to Rainbow Six 3 released late last year for the PC and Xbox. Even though we were able to critique these games at a level the average gamer would never be able to, it was still surprising at just how many things the designers actually got “right”, especially considering the sensitive and often top-secret nature of the material.
Rainbow Six 3 has finally arrived on the PS2 and while Ubisoft has continually proven they are more than capable of porting their titles over to Sony’s little black box, Rainbow Six 3 seems to have eluded their technical expertise. I knew the PS2 port would never rival Raven Shield on the PC but after witnessing the miraculous transition of Splinter Cell I had high hopes that it would at least remain competitive with the Xbox version.
Completely redesigned for next-gen consoles, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 for the PlayStation 2 gives players 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. A voice-activated command system and comprehensive offline and online multiplayer capabilities round out this tactical FPS title.
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.
You control the team leader and issue commands to your AI-controlled team, either with the intuitive controller interface or by using voice commands and a USB headset. The game has a substantial vocabulary and will recognize single and multi-word commands that actually allow you to chain multiple actions or create complex sequences and attach them to a Zulu action code. When not under your direct control the AI performs admirably on its own initiative.
Ubisoft has tweaked the campaign and snuck in an extra and exclusive PS2 level to bring the total to 15. The missions are all strangely detached and even though they follow a subtle underlying plot they just don’t come together in anything truly epic, or at least as interesting as a Clancy novel.
Patience is a virtue that will quickly be tested with some painfully long load screens when the game first starts and for each of the single-player levels. It would have been nice if they could have disguised this process during a mission briefing, or with background info, trivia, or informational displays.
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. However, it is the missions (the single-player missions) that have been compromised to the point where anyone who has seen Rainbow Six 3 on any other system will shake their head in dismay and walk away.
The PS2 is simply not up to the task to recreate the same stunning environments that the PC and Xbox delivered with ease. The levels are smaller, have less detailed textures, feature fewer objects, and can still barely maintain a consistent 30fps. But perhaps the worst compromise is the overall reduction of rooms with multiple access points essentially eliminating nearly half the potential Zulu points and a lot of strategic gameplay possibilities.
Multiplayer has always been the core element of Rainbow Six ever since it debuted six years ago, and the PS2 manages to deliver a small taste of the experience with both on and offline multiplayer support. Online, you can have up to six players participate in games like Survival, Team Survival, and Sharpshooter. Six is a far cry from the 16-player games of the Xbox and PC, and when you are limited to 3-on-3 battles the game is only a fraction of the possible experience. And even though the game has been retooled for the PS2, the multiplayer levels are still designed around the larger teams so online games can feel a bit empty.
Even so, the online multiplayer is hardcore, perhaps the best online experience since SOCOM and certainly more original with greater tactical potential. The USB headset allows you to communicate with your team and taunt your enemy and four of the ten multiplayer levels are exclusive to the PS2. No AI in the world can match the unpredictability of human opposition.
Ubisoft has eliminated all the hassles of playing online. Their servers are fast and accessible and you can communicate with other players using a USB keyboard or headset. Menus are intuitive and load times for the online levels are surprisingly fast compared to the single-player game.
For those who want to experience the multiplayer thrill can fire-up the split-screen versus mode, but this is a weak substitution for online play. Rainbow Six is about stealth and covert attacks and when you can see your enemy in the window above or below yours there is little guesswork involved and the game quickly becomes a standard shooter.
Rainbow Six 3 features what very well may be the best opening movie in video game history. We then move on to some nice menus, detailed information displays, animated mission briefings, and standard pre-mission loadout screens.
Once in the actual mission you are treated to some impressive lighting and shadows courtesy of Splinter Cell technology, but even that is subject to some annoying banding issues and fuzzy resolutions. The night vision is overly bright, hard to see, and even a bit painful on the eyes.
As previously mentioned, the complexity of the levels has been greatly reduced including level design and artistic detail. There are fewer rooms, hallways, entry points, and many of the subtle visual details that give these environments a life of their own are either missing or significantly reduced. Textures are lower in resolution and repeat more often and even the character animation has been taken down a notch.
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 two more powerful systems capable of delivering a much better game experience. For those with nothing to compare to, Rainbow Six 3 is a decent looking game, falling somewhere between titles like SOCOM and Splinter Cell.
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. Of course if you are using a headset the surround feature is no longer a viable feature.
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. Those with a USB headset will enjoy the option to issue voice commands to control your team. The speech recognition is very responsive and offers that extra level of immersion.
Even with an extra level you can probably finish a single-player tour of duty in 15 hours or less. The split-screen mode may offer a bit of additional gameplay, but unlike traditional FPS games, Rainbow Six gameplay simply doesn’t work when you can see the other player on the same screen.
Even though you are limited to six players there is still some fun to be had with the online component of Rainbow Six 3 and Ubisoft has taken every step possible to make sure this feature is easy to access and fun to play.
Many gamers don’t have the luxury of multiple systems, and for those of you where the PS2 is your only gaming platform, I can comfortably recommend Rainbow Six 3, even if it is a compacted version of what’s available on the other formats. And while the genre may feel comparable to games like SOCOM and Ghost Recon, this is truly a unique gameplay experience, both on and offline and the voice-command system is second to none.
Conversely, 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. This is one game that Clancy veterans won’t want to miss regardless of which system you ultimately end up playing it on.