Shooters can generally be divided into two categories: traditional run-and-gun fragfests on the one hand, with your slower paced, team-based tactical shooter on the other. Rainbow 6: Vegas 2 falls squarely into the latter category.
The reason I’m telling what should be patently obvious to anyone who’s been into gaming in the past few years, is quite simple: tactical shooters have to be measure by a somewhat different yardstick. By adding in an element of planning and improvisation, you immediately need to judge the game by its ability to be fun both cerebrally, while also being enjoyable within the traditional framework of the shooter genre. In both these regards, Vegas 2 succeeds admirably, building on the success of the superb first release.
However, Vegas 2 is very much evolutionary – refining and polishing its’ game mechanics to near perfection- as opposed to the revolutionary leaps introduced in R6:Vegas. However, evolving established concepts as opposed to necessarily a bad thing, as the sublime Call of Duty 4 has shown.
Vegas 2 takes place in the same timeframe as the first game, and deals with the same terrorist event, although from a different perspective. This time around, you have a lot more freedom over how your character will look, since you’re able to apply the customization options that were previously restricted to multiplayer to the single player parts of the game. The end result is that you get to see a very much individualized character from the very first level, even if the customization options are restricted at first. The GameFace option even returns, where you can have your virtual likeness imprinted upon the hero of the story if you own a webcam. I tried it with the Xbox Live Vision camera, so I’m unsure if it will work with any webcam.
Much like the previous game, you earn and unlock new customization options – arms, armour and clothing, basically – as you rack up the kills during the game. However, you can now earn experience and essentially level up your character even in single player, addressing the multiplayer-only restriction for this feature in the previous game with a system called ACES. Basically, it awards you points based on the methodology you use to progress through the levels: headshots earn points for the Marksman category, while using explosive does the same for the Assault category, and so forth. The new weapons you gain access to will be based on the playing style you favour, again giving you a large measure of customization without bludgeoning you over the head with it.
I’m very glad that this has been changed, since you need the experience to access the really cool weapons and armour. However, owing to our bandwidth and lag problems, getting that experienced wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Enabling you to do this in the single player part of the game is very much empowering the gamer, and that’s something I can get behind.
The core focus of the gameplay is virtually unchanged from R6:Vegas. If you rush in with all guns blazing, prepare to be soundly beaten six ways from Sunday by the opposition. While skill is important, the game rewards patience and planning, with a healthy dose of adaptability required. The game is very adept at having enemies come from odd firing angles, which means that a lack of proper intelligence gathering will quickly lead to your demise. The cover system functions identically to Vegas, and is still critical to your success.
All that said, the game is no slouch when it comes to action. When the bullets start flying, Vegas 2 offers some terrific set-piece battles, often combining them with challenging environments that force you to be decisive and quick, since you’re almost always guaranteed to be in a less than desirable tactical position. A memorable occasion of this occurs when you need to navigate through the Las Vegas Convention Centre – essentially a large hall with vendor displays all over the place. The fact that you can be assaulted from virtually all angles at unexpected times leads to something best likened to a fast paced game of chess (with bullets, naturally), where tables can be turned in an instant. It’s immersive and fun to play through, even multiple times. The AI makes some stupid tactical decision now and again, but by and large they present an effective impediment to your progress, especially at higher difficulty levels, where a single flaw in the execution of your plan will ensure that you look at the â€˜loading’ screen for a few seconds.
From a technical standpoint, Vegas 2 looks beautiful – especially if you have the hardware to handle it. The textures look sharper than on both console systems, and really bring the alternately glitzy and seedy scenarios of Vegas to life. Unfortunately, much like the console version, there are noticeable slowdowns in framerate, especially when a lot of action is taking place onscreen, or if something explodes. It sorts itself out after a few seconds, but nonetheless, it can be infuriating.
The sound is also very well done, with some music alternating between action-driven percussion and tension-laden synth tracks. The voice acting, while not bad, lays on the cheese in a few places, with the obligatory quota of over the top lines delivered in bad-ass gruntspeak. A minor niggle I have with the dialogue is that it’s often difficult to hear what your controller or teammates are saying via radio, making it difficult to follow the plot or identify objectives in certain instances.
The game features a two player co-op campaign, as well as several â€˜skirmish’ type scenarios where you need to take out x amount of enemies in a map, either alone or with your team. Both modes are reasonably fun, and extend the longevity of the title.
I tried my hand at multiplayer, but there wasn’t a lot of games to be found – possibly owing that I played the game mostly on Saturday, when the amount of copies floating around wasn’t sufficiently high enough to get some serious gaming done. I participated in two games. The lag was acceptable, and the games enjoyable.
Ultimately, Vegas 2 is a very good game, with no real or significant detractors to be found. It builds on everything that was right with R6: Vegas, and introduces the ACES system. Still, it’s clear that the game isn’t very original or groundbreaking, especially when compared to the previous game. If you enjoy tactical shooters, Vegas 2 is definitely for you. It’s a great game, with a lot of replay value on the multiplayer side. That said, the inevitable sequel will have its work cut out for it, having to bring something new to the party. Playing essentially the same (great) game twice is OK, but for the third outing, Ubisoft needs to shake up the formula again.
Gameplay: 80 %
Originality: 70 %
Tilt: 80 %
Overall: 84 %
Last Updated: April 21, 2008