Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield Review

Ask many modern gamers if they’re familiar with Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six series, and a lot of them will bring up Vegas, and Vegas 2. While in their own right they were solid games, they were a far cry from where the series began. Rainbow Six started out as a tactical shooter, one of the earliest departures from the death matches, and flag capturing rounds of Doom, Quake, and Unreal Tournament. Based loosely on the late Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six novel, these games had more variety than their contemporary versions.

PROS: Solid mechanics. Fun multiplayer. Strategy, and action meld nicely.

CONS: PC Multiplayer is mainly LAN nowadays. Console Multiplayer is mainly split screen.

AWESOME: The gold edition includes the Athena Sword expansion pack.

Tom Clancy’s books had been adapted into many hit movies. The Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger were turned into theatrical thrillers. Video game adaptations were also inevitable. Red Storm Entertainment was partially conceived by Tom Clancy, and one of his earliest books, Red Storm Rising was adapted into a game for 8-bit computers like the Commodore 64, and Atari ST by Micro Prose. Years later Red Storm Entertainment would become a competent studio, making games based off of Tom Clancy’s novels as well as original games. When First Person Shooters were hitting their stride, Red Storm gave the world Rainbow Six.

The earliest Rainbow Six games took a different approach to the FPS. Instead of throwing you into a giant labyrinth to explore, or an arena to battle in, they went tactical. Maps were shown from an overhead view before each mission, and you could select a number of characters to put into teams. From there you could mark entry points to the level for each team, and would be tasked with sneaking in, subduing enemies, and rescuing hostages. The games also had a very strict damage system. Getting shot by a terrorist or other nefarious enemy would impede your movement. A second shot would be fatal. You could then control one of your NPCs. If all of your crew perished, or if a key target died you would fail a mission.

Rainbow Six 3 is the apex of these titles. Rainbow Six 3 takes all of the game play foundation of the originals, and builds upon it. When you fire up Rainbow Six 3 you will be greeted with a number of tabs. You can play through the single player campaign, play a single solo mission, or hop on for some multiplayer. The campaign opens up with a brief prologue describing the end of World War II, and how two high-ranking officials of the NDH puppet state of Nazi Germany, and Italy made off with untold amounts of loot. Sixty years pass, and suddenly there are attacks happening around the world. The  counter terrorist team, Rainbow is contacted to investigate, and thwart these attacks. The team follows a trail of attacks on banks, energy sources, and other interests that ultimately lead to South America. It is revealed that one of the two World War II war criminals is using the stolen money to try to resurrect a Fascist empire.

Along the course of 15 stages, Rainbow goes through all kinds of environments. Snow capped mountain towns.  An oil refinery. A shipyard. A penthouse. Just to name a few. Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield’s game play will start each mission with a detailed briefing. Each of the stages will have different objectives. Sometimes you’ll have to rescue a key person, or save multiple hostages. Other times you’ll have to kill every bad guy in the map. Before the mission begins you have the option to plan your course of action.

Players can first go to a screen where they can select which members of Rainbow to put on each of the teams.  Similar to the first game. From there each soldier’s load out can be configured in the gear room. Each soldier can have access to a primary weapon, a secondary weapon, and a few gadgets. There are many weapons, and gadgets to choose from. Rifles. Shotguns. Machineguns. Explosives. Heartbeat sensors. Infrared goggles. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll want to be careful when choosing load outs too. Because each mission can be easier or harder depending on the gear you choose to bring along.

Once you have your members, and equipment sorted out, it’s time to make a plan of action. The overhead view of the map is then displayed in vectors with icons for certain pathways. One can even see plans for each of the floors, and elevations. After surveying the entire map, players then choose entrances for each team to enter. From there it’s time to deploy your team, and make the best of your decisions. You can also let the game decide everything for you, if you just want to jump in, and play. But this won’t necessarily give you the best setup for the mission at hand.

Each group enters the stage, and proceeds to attempt to complete their objectives. You will find icons come up on interactive objects. When this happens you can press or hold the space bar (or another key if you change your binds) to do just that. There are all kinds of interactive moments. Mundane things like climbing ladders, to the more advanced stuff, like giving your NPC’s commands. In the case of opening or closing doors, This will kick them wide open. If you need to be more discreet, (9 times out of 10 you’ll want to) You can use the wheel on your mouse to slowly open it or close it. You can also use the Q, and E keys to peek around corners. This is a must. Because terrorists love to flank the doorways in this game. You’re definitely going to want to ensure your safety when entering areas.

You’ll also want to use some of the specialized gear for the same reasons. Heartbeat sensors give you a rough estimation of where hostile threats may be ducking out in a room you are about to enter. Night vision is useful in darker rooms or other areas. Putting silencers on your guns also makes it a little bit harder for enemies to know where you’re shooting from. Of course, there are the big loud weapons too, as I’ve already mentioned.

If things do go awry, and you end up getting killed, you can take control of one of your NPCs to try to complete the mission. In this regard they can also act as extra lives. But don’t get too comfortable with that idea either. Losing everyone in the mission isn’t the only way you can lose. If an objective isn’t completed, you fail. If time runs out, you fail. If the mission involves rescuing hostages, and even one of them dies, you fail. Rainbow Six 3 can be very difficult. Especially on the higher settings where the AI improves a lot. Also keep in mind the game puts in a fairly respectable attempt at realism in terms of ballistics. Your cross hair will widen farther, and farther in size if you aren’t in an accurate shooting position. So you can’t run, and gun the enemies, and expect to hit them. Many times your shots will miss if the cross hair isn’t positioned as tiny, and knit together as possible. You’ll also be killed in two bullets MAX. So stealth, and accuracy are key.

After every stage you have the option to either accept the outcome or re-do the stage. This is because if any of your characters die during the mission, they’re gone forever. Replaying the stage gives you the chance to succeed without losing anyone. Though you still very well may. Accepting the outcome moves you onto the next stage.

AI is about the only area that isn’t quite up to the bar set by the rest of the game. It is very good most of the time. Usually bad guys will use cover properly. If you’re using a shotgun to kill a terrorist, others will hear it, and give them back up. They’ll react to footsteps. They’ll run away if they feel out classed. Sometimes they’ll actually surrender, and you can arrest them. Unfortunately, the AI is also pretty inconsistent. Sometimes you can shoot one terrorist, and his comrade who is standing six inches away won’t react at all. Other times, a terrorist will go from not being able to hit anything one round, to becoming a crack shot the next. It makes for some unintentionally funny moments in a game that truly tries to be serious.

Once you’ve completed all of the missions there is still a lot of fun to be had. The game allows you to play individual stages with custom settings. Lone Wolf tasks you with trying to beat the stage using only one character with no NPC backup. Die, or fail to complete an objective, and it’s game over. Terrorist Hunt of course, peppers in however many terrorists you select, and it’s up to you to clear the level of them. Hostage mode tasks you with rescuing the hostages. You can also do individual story missions here.

Multiplayer in Rainbow Six 3 is a lot of fun provided these days you can get some workarounds going. Regrettably, Rainbow Six 3 is one of the games that used Ubisoft’s old account system which was replaced with Uplay. As such there aren’t anymore official servers for it. Thankfully, the game was coded with LAN support. So there are a number of ways you can still play this gem with friends. The first is the ever common P2P (Peer to Peer) way. Most homes these days have a P2P network set up, and don’t even realize it. If you have more than one computer in the house, networked through a router you can play multiplayer. Each person with a copy puts it on their respective computer, one person hosts, and everyone else can connect locally.  This is why the game was a popular choice for LAN parties (gaming parties where everybody brought their computer to a mutual friend’s home or other venue).

But if you don’t have the luxury of the time to organize a LAN party, there is a second way. You can use tunneling software to simulate a LAN over the internet. I’m not going to include a walk-through in this review, as explaining it is rather laborious. but I will say with a little tinkering it can be done. Everyone will need the same software, but once you have it the software simulates a local network by giving everyone a simulated IP. It’s generally secure, but there is one thing to be aware of. There is a security risk in that other players can possibly see your machine’s contents. So if you do go this route be sure it is only with friends you can trust.

Once you have everyone set up, you can play either Cooperative modes or Adversarial modes. Cooperative modes are essentially the same as the custom single player modes. Except that there will be a number of you playing together. Adversarial modes are mostly very different. There are death match modes for single, or teams. These act more like a Last Man Standing game type as they go on until one man or team is left. More interestingly, is a bomb mode, where one team of bad guys tries to set bombs, while the other tries to disarm them. It’s similar to the mode found in Counter-Strike. There is also a variation on Team Fortress’ Hunted Style. In it there is a downed pilot one team needs to lead to an extraction point on the map. The other team needs to kill the pilot before he can get there. Finally, there’s a variant of the cooperative Hostage mode, where one team controls the terrorists, and has to stop the other team from rescuing them.

Overall the game is still a blast some eleven years later. Don’t let the antiquated graphics fool you.  The game’s fuzzy skyboxes, and lower geometry may not look that impressive today. But there is a lot of fun, and challenge to be had here. The audio also excels. The score is right out of the sort of Hollywood thrillers other Tom Clancy novels were converted into. Sound effects are well crafted. The game was also one of the earliest to support 3D audio cards like the SoundBlaster Audigy. Being an older title it’s also an inexpensive title, that nearly anyone today should be able to run.  Considering the minimum requirements were an 800mhz Pentium III, 128MB of RAM, and 32MB of Video RAM on DX8.1 I think it’s safe to say, that old laptop you have in the cellar can handle it.

Although I should mention the game was ported to consoles. The Xbox actually saw two versions of the game, Rainbow Six 3 Raven Shield, and Rainbow Six 3 Black Arrow. The latter of which added a couple of new modes to the game. The PlayStation 2, and Gamecube received a port simply titled Rainbow Six 3. The key differences between these ports, are that the Xbox supported more players online, and had a few minor enhancements added to the visuals. It also received Downloadable Content like new multiplayer maps. The PlayStation 2 supported fewer players online, while the Gamecube had the online modes completely cut. Oddly enough however, the PlayStation 2, and Gamecube did feature two player split-screen. So if you were to want to revisit a console port today, those would be the ones to nab.  The other reason would be the console versions replace some of the PC versions multiplayer maps. So if you’re curious you can certainly track them down. They are ridiculously cheap should you decide to go that route instead.

No matter which version you pick up though, Rainbow Six 3 is a far cry from the norm. It combines some strategy elements into team shooting. Something all of its subsequent sequels thus far have seemingly abandoned. If you weren’t around for it when it came out, or missed it for some reason, check it out.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

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