Rainbow Six Lockdown – Hands on Preview Xbox

We were invited by Ubisoft to experience the latest Rainbow Six game in person, long before its release to the public. The exclusive event took place at Microsoft’s MSN headquarters in Soho, London.

First of all, let me thank Ubisoft for inviting us and Microsoft for their hospitality.

The day started with a presentation about some of the game’s new features and an overview of the story, which is the standard terrorists attack affair typical of a Rainbow Six game. The CGI intro wasn’t exactly pushing any boundaries but was pretty solid.

After this we were allowed to play the game on LCD TVs, each attached to their own Xbox. Multiplayer and single player were on offer, both in an unfinished state as one would expect, but the single player build was more advanced so I focused on that.

The in-game interface was nicely designed and fitted the game well. Various aspects of the gameplay could be customised in the options area, such as aiming assistance in the form of arcade style target boxes around enemies to make them easier to spot.

Single player missions take place across numerous continents and as you would expect you have to play through them in order. Possibly the most notable thing is how much time the missions took to complete; not just because of the long, repetitive levels, but because of the difficulty. On the build we were playing on ‘normal’ was the easiest setting, but I found it quite difficult when trying to play in a natural way. As in past Rainbow Six games it only takes a few shots to fully lower you health, and you can’t help but send your 3 colleagues into each room ahead of you. This becomes extremely repetitive and because of the way the game plays you are practically forced into letting your team-mates do much of the dangerous work, essentially making the game quite dull. Strange gameplay elements also made the missions very tedious; the most obvious I can think of is when a door would not open until all bad guys in the previous area have been killed. This was totally unexplained and illogical as there was a sniper hidden away who didn’t shoot at anyone, so without noticing him many would have simply thought there was nowhere to go as your team-mates simply stand facing the door.

When approaching a door you can hold down the ‘A’ button to bring up a Rogue Leader style menu that can be controlled using the d-pad. This enables you to open the door in a variety of ways, including: shotgun the door off its hinges, throw a flash-bang through, throw a grenade through, use a ram that looks like a little silver hammer to break it down, or simply open it normally. I found this menu to be quite unreliable and sometimes your AI team-mates did not perform the specified task. I can only think this was because of the slightly dodgy AI. Now I can fully accept this is an unfinished version, but there was a huge amount of bugs. Frequently did my rather dim team-mates stand moonwalking against a door or simply block me from going through a door. Even when getting shot repeatedly they would not try to find cover but just stand in a doorway as the bullets hit them. Possibly the worst example was when I told my colleagues to throw a frag grenade into a room. They ended up killing themselves as they managed to miss the doorway they were standing right next to. Clearly much still needs to be done in this department.

Collision detection was also quite problematic as I found that shooting enemies in the legs had no effect. As a result only the upper torso and head seemed to accept the bullets. One thing that I hope is fixed by the time the game is released is the variety of enemies. In this version only one type existed: bald, green jacket, blue trousers. I’ve never seen any terrorists look like they did, but there is obviously a new fashion trend spreading throughout the underground terrorist network.

Load times were far too long for my liking and to my amazement there was a long one right in the middle of a level when I reached a checkpoint. The use of checkpoints shows just how long the levels are, and as there are no health packs you basically have to restart if you get shot. This made the game extremely repetitive as in a shooting game one tends to get shot quite often. The first level took place in a car park and it felt like a never-ending progression up identical looking levels, in fact it was so confusing that I found myself at the start of the level a few times.

Graphically the game was quite good in some respects; there were no apparent glitches and they flowed smoothly without any frame rate drops. The main reason for this though was the sheer simplicity of the game. Levels were totally static without any interactive elements (other than doors) and there was nothing we’ve not seen done before (and better) in other games. Textures were very blurry and poor (almost PSone style) and as this is a late arriving Xbox title I expected decent high-end PC standard graphics, not something that looked worse than Counterstrike. One of the few surprises was the introduction of a graphical effect that appears if you enter a bright area; there is a blurring effect closely resembling the dizzy effect in Perfect Dark that kicked in once someone had hit you with an arse full of tranquillisers. In this case I’m not sure players will want such effects as it will be highly off-putting and annoying.

In all I felt the game was in such a bad state that it wasn’t worth Ubisoft showing it off. It was almost as if they didn’t realise quite how unfinished it was. I must confess that I have not played a Rainbow Six game for quite some time, but nothing seemed improved over the very original game that appeared on PC many years ago. I was quite disappointed to see the pre-mission customisation removed; in the original you could equip your team with specific weapons and give them set routes upon which to approach the target. In this version you are stuck with two guns – a sort of rifle/machine gun and a pistol. Navigating your team is done via pressing the A button, which places a light source on the floor that your team-mates follow. This system worked pretty well, but it all felt shallow and rather unskillful. Generally the controls were implemented well, using Halo’s shoulder button setup (left =grenade, right=gun).

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to play the multiplayer mode, but I suspect that those would have been much more entertaining without the AI team-mates to rely on. After a couple of hours playing through the single player missions I felt like playing a different game altogether.

Pros
– Smooth graphics
– Good control setup
– Nice menus

Cons
– Very uninspiring levels
– No innovation
– Very low-res textures
– Poor AI
– Long loading times