Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield
In 1998 Rainbow Six made its debut as the original 'thinking mans'? tactical shooter. The series has since garnered a strong and loyal fan base addicted to its unique blend of realistic game play and detailed tactical planning. Ubi Soft attempts to continue this tradition with , the third and highly anticipated addition to the series. While the designers have been careful not to make any radical changes, they do offer some welcome game play refinements to an already great concept. Despite some minor bugs and assorted gripes, this is by far the best Rainbow Six to date.
If you are new to the Rainbow Six franchise, Raven Shield offers a nice series of training levels designed to help introduce its deliberate style. While the 'one-shot-one-kill? dynamic has become increasingly popular, the game can be quite a shock for those who are used to more traditional first person shooters. Rainbow Six is all about making quick and decisive actions in a controlled manner.
Before you jump in and start ridding the world of German militants, terrorists, and hired thugs, you must first make some key decisions. After receiving your briefing and choosing your team members you get to equip your operatives. Raven Shield offers a whopping 58 weapons, with the ability to add attachments such as a silencer or mini scope. From these choices, you select one primary weapon (such as a MP5) and one secondary weapon (Desert Eagle anyone?). You can also choose a couple of items to take along with you such as Frag Grenades, Flash Bangs, Breach Charges, a Heartbeat Sensor, and more.
Once you are happy with your selections you move to the most debated feature of the Rainbow Six franchise, the Mission Planner. Here you plan routes for your team and direct actions to be performed. You can direct team members to follow specific waypoints and coordinate actions by giving the 'go-code.' For instance a team can be assigned to breach a door, clear a room, throw a 'flashbang,'? etc. The Planner has been updated and streamlined and is much more accessible, however it is not for everyone. Thankfully for those of us with no patience, you can simply load the default plan and get straight to the action.
Ubi Soft made a good move and scrapped the internally developed graphics engine opting to use the Unreal Engine. The results speak for themselves as the graphics in game are fantastic. The level designs are excellent, as are the highly detailed modeled character's and textures. I am particularly impressed with how well the Unreal Engine looks in these real life scenarios. The sound is equally dynamic and well done, further immersing you into the game world.
The enemy AI is quite smart and can be a real challenge. At times they will run away, set an ambush, and even react to sounds such as footsteps, breaking glass, or explosions. This makes replaying missions actually viable as you never know exactly how the enemy is going to react.
While the single player mode is engaging, the heart of Raven Shield is its Multiplayer. There are 5 modes of Adversarial play and 3 modes of Cooperative. The adversarial play is set up very similar to Counterstrike with hostage rescue, bomb defuse, and pilot escort game types. Similarly the rounds are fast and frenetic with the smartest man winning rather than the fastest. While the cooperative play is fun, it is rather disappointing that there is not a great variety of options ala Ghost Recon.
Raven Shield is simply the best tactical shooter on the market. The high level of detail and the wealth of options offer a great amount of replay potential. Raven Shield is by far the most accessible of the Rainbow series and the switch to the Unreal engine means user created maps and mods will be plentiful. You might think that a series based on a book by Tom Clancy would have had a memorable storyline by now, but to the game's credit, the single player is still engaging without one. With that said if you are a fan of the genre, or are simply tired of, do your self a favor and pick this one up.