Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Lockdown Xbox Review
It must be a hard life being a member of Rainbow team, what with having to maintain their record of 100% hostages rescued and their reputation of killing more terrorists than having hot dinners. But things just took a turn for the worse for them, now they’re not just facing your average terrorists with little or no training; they’re up against some real terrorists, with the same training as they’ve had. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, one of their own team is now the hostage to be rescued (they’d better not mess up that 100% record this time). Luckily though, Rainbow team have been on a recruitment drive, and have more than doubled their ranks with some new lads, and, heaven forbid, lasses.
Rainbow Six has never been a slouch in the graphics department, but this latest instalment takes things up a notch. The scenery is all well detailed and very atmospheric, especially the weather effects which are all the more realistic due to your team now wearing goggles. It’s been done before, but it’s always nice to see the raindrops running down your screen when you’re meant to be in the rain; a small touch, but one that adds to the realism of the game. Character models have also been improved, and it almost looks like you could give Eddie’s moustache a little tug. Smoke/gas and lighting effects are all nice too, all adding to the realism, and it all moves along at a nice steady framerate (at least in the single player), making this one of the best looking console first-person shooters out there.
At the core of it, this is still pretty much standard Rainbow Six. There have been a few additions and the controls have been changed a bit, but when it comes down to it, if you’ve played Rainbow Six before then you’re in familiar territory. Story wise you’ll be facing the same bunch of bad guys throughout the campaign mode’s 14 missions; a well armed, well organized terrorist group who have seized a bio-engineered virus which makes the ebola virus look like a bad cold, luckily for you though they won’t be using it against you.
As usual, these missions take you all around the world, with locales ranging from Amsterdam to South Africa, even stopping off on an ocean liner along the way. Missions follow the standard format; clear buildings of terrorists, rescue hostages, defuse bombs, that sort of thing. But a good number of these missions are preceded by the games major new feature; sniper missions. In these missions you control Dieter Weber, situated in a high vantage spot, be it aboard a helicopter, atop a building, or just at a window, and you must supply Rainbow team with covering fire so that they can get to the starting point of the mission proper. The team can take hits during this part of the mission, but lose just one member and it’s game over. Those parts of your team that do take hits will have lost an appropriate amount of health when the mission proper starts, making the main mission harder for you. Personally, I’m not a big fan of sniping in games and found this addition to the game annoying, especially when it meant starting a mission with my team at half, or less, health. Mind you, others like this sort of thing, so I’m not going to hold it against the game.
The control system has had a few changes for the better. Now, rather than having to change weapons to use grenades, your third and fourth weapon slots are accessed by a single pull on the left trigger, making it easier to lob a grenade ahead of you, without having to lose firepower. When using grenades, holding the trigger will bring up a series of circles showing the path your grenade will take, which can be adjusted with the right thumbstick. You switch between your third and fourth weapon slots with a press on the ‘Y’ button, and the slots can be equipped with all sorts of things ranging from a wide selection of grenades, to the new items such as a hammer for opening doors. Your primary and secondary weapons are, as usual, operated using the right trigger and you switch between the two by using the ‘B’ button. Your vision mode can be changed using the white button on the controller, first going to infra red, then thermal, before going back to standard. As usual the ‘X’ button is used for reload and the ‘A’ button is used for squad control. Squad control has been blessed with some improvements too; the standard move command is as it was previously, but other commands, such as opening doors, now come in two parts. Rather than your team opening a door and clearing a room immediately when you give the command, they just take up position at the door, waiting for the go ahead, which is given by a press on the black button, making it easier to form a two pronged attack on rooms with more than one entrance. Another new addition to the game is the heartbeat sensor, which can be accessed using the back button, allowing you to see through walls via highlighting anybody, both terrorist and hostage, from their heartbeat. This would make the game a lot easier if it wasn’t for the fact that it only has limited power, so cannot be used constantly and it’s best to use it as an extra precaution when your team is low on health or numbers.
All these improvements and additions, along with just two difficulty levels and a better health bar, go a long way to make the single player game more accessible to your average gamer, which is a good thing, as Rainbow Six has always been more of specialist’s game and could be very frustrating for some people.
Multiplayer offers the usual options of split screen, system link and Live play. Split screen just offers mission played co-operatively and system link features all the game types from Black Arrow making a return appearance, except for sharpshooter, which has been changed to team sharpshooter. The online game has everything that system link has to offer, plus another new addition; Persistent Elite Campaign, or PEC for short. In PEC you choose a character type (either commando, spec-ops, engineer or medic), all of which have their own special abilities and skills. Money and rank points are obtained by playing games in PEC mode. Rank points give you skill points each time you move up a rank, which can then be used to upgrade your abilities. Extra skills are unlocked every five ranks, and the money may be used to buy equipment, which includes standard things like grenades and claymores suitable for every character type, and specialized equipment for the character classes, such as med kits for the medic, gun turrets for the engineers and ballistic shields for the commandos. Medals are also earned for simple things, like getting 100 kills, or for doing ridiculous things, like laying 500 claymores. Medals earn you rank points and money too.
Now, the bad news about the online game is that, as with all of Ubisofts online games, there are problems and with some of these problems there are questions over whether they are fixable or not. There is lag at times, some of which is caused by players with bad connections, and nothing can be done about that, but some maps suffer no matter how great a connection everybody is playing on. Most notably, when some weapons are fired, the game will just freeze, and when it restarts, you’ll have been gunned down. There are a few other minor things like stats not being recorded sometimes, but they are nothing in comparison to the lag problems. As much as I love Ubisoft’s single player games, they have got to stop releasing games with an online component that hasn’t been tested first. I’d gladly be a beta tester for them, but I don’t like paying to do it.
As is to be expected from a Tom Clancy game, the sound effects are outstanding, with all weapons effects being authentic. Ambient sound effects are also great, from rain hitting the ground to dogs barking in the background. All of it is available in 5.1 surround sound, so if you’ve got the equipment it’ll really enhance your immersion in the game world.
Very little on the music side, just the one tune as normal, the Rainbow Six theme, but this time it’s been reworked into a more metal version. Still, this isn’t the type of game you play to listen to the music.
With 14 missions in the single player to keep you occupied, plus multiplayer co-op, terrorist hunt and all adversarial game types, there is a lot of gameplay to be had here. Sadly, it’s reduced if you don’t have Live, or any friends with an Xbox to do system link with, but it should still keep you occupied for a good while. And, whilst the online game does have its faults, it’s still a good, fun, team game, and if Ubisoft can fix its major faults it’ll be outstanding.
Overall, Rainbow Six: Lockdown is a worthy addition to the Rainbow Six series, even despite its flaws online. It is certainly one of the better squad-based shooters out there. Rightfully, this should be a must-have for fans of the series, and I would say it is a worthy purchase for anybody who likes their first-person shooters.
8.4 out of 10