Six in one hand, half a clip in the other.
I bet you didn't know this, but sometimes life really sucks. For instance: I need to register my car. But I can't because it needs to be smogged. Can't smog it, 'cause the "check engine" light is on. I can't get the check engine light off 'cause the braniac who sold it to me re-wired it totally goofy – and I can't fix the wiring because it would cost more money than any one repair has the right to…
But do I "fall down" in the repair shop? Do I try to feed the smart-mouthed mechanic through my tailpipe? Well…uh, yes I do!
But afterwards I went home and vented on UbiSoft's latest FPS jaunt – Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow. It's a solid fun-filled shooter with an average single player campaign, but the multiplayer more than makes up for it. It's amazing how, with a good game in your system, pressing a few buttons and watching digital bodies fall can feel so rewarding.
Make no mistake; Black Arrow is no more an expansion to the original Rainbow Six 3 already available for Xbox. There has been no upgrade or change in graphics and don't look for additions to the gameplay or play mechanics. But hey, if it ain't broke… [Don't rewire it? ~Ed] You still play Ding Chavez, the stoic field leader of Team Rainbow. Over a series of 10 new missions, you must lead your team of four (you and 3 other operatives) through the Black Sea region of the Middle East and other hot spots around the globe, to stop a group of terrorist from assembling a stock pile of what…? All together now: "Weapons of Mass Destruction".
Controlling your guys is made very easy with an incredibly intuitive command tool; you simply point your gun or place your cursor on any area in the game world. When a "team action" icon appears then press "A" or say "Go, go, go!" (Via the Xbox headset) to have your team perform the default action (open/close doors, defuse bombs, secure/escort hostages etc.). Pretty simple huh?
You can also prime their actions by using the "Zulu" command. This allows you to queue an action for a later time. After attaching Zulu to a command, your team will hold their given position until you initiate the "go" signal. This allows you and your team to storm a room from two different vantages simultaneously, as well as perform other simultaneous commands – very handy!
Your guys take pretty good aim, cover themselves well and are very aggressive, almost too aggressive. Make sure you get in on the action or they may just do your job for you. But with a team called "Rainbow" you can't expect everything to be perfect. Often your team will take their own sweet time to initiate an order, there are some slight pathfinding issues and more than once your guys will just run head-long into enemy fire.
Like most games, the early missions are pretty simple. But it's not long before things really heat up. That's a good thing since the game is rather short (10 hours at best).
The game world is well designed with plenty of cover and tight corridors for intense fraggin'. So make sure you choose your weapons carefully. A sniper rifle may not be the best choice in close-quarter firefights. An assortment of rifles, a gas mask, mines, various explosive charges, frag, flash, teargas, smoke and phosphorus grenades round out your arsenal. The weapons choices are great with just the right amount to choose from. You never feel bogged down nor do you feel anything is missing.
Shooting these puppies is a lot of fun. The sound and recoil are handled pretty well, with just the right punch to make you feel like you're kicking major butt, even if your aim sucks. I will say, the weapon models do seem a bit large, taking up more of the screen than they should. You'll get used to it but it's a hindrance nonetheless.
Speaking of such, the player models are proportioned a lot better then before. Textures are fine, but uninteresting, and the use of ragdoll physics could be implemented more convincingly. The death animations just don't seem as random as ragdoll physics purports. Max Payne 2 still holds the Xbox rag doll crown.
But never fear, once you hop online for a little fraggin-with-friends action, the above complaints won't seem so serious. While the original Rainbow Six 3 served up a great range of multiplayer game modes and options, Black Arrow expands this with two new games types, totaling seven in all and several maps – many of which are new.
Cooperative gameplay is always more than and welcome and Black Arrow offers two types: Practice Mission (Single player with friends) and Terrorist Hunt, where you and three other buddies hunt down terrorists without worrying about hostages or other objectives. Definitely a lot of fun for those who just want to run and gun!
On the adversarial side, there is Survival (last man standing), Team Survival, Total Conquest (goal is for one team to control all COMSAT locations simultaneously for a certain amount of time), Retrieval (capture the flag) and Sharpshooter (deathmatch). Retrieval and total Conquest I found to be the most enjoyable. But clearly there is something for everyone. The developers really did a great job filling out the multiplayer component.
Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow is easily just as good as its progenitor, if not a bit more impressive with the better, stronger, faster online feature. It does suffer from some hang-ups but nothing that should keep you from dropping the coin to check this one out. If you're anything like me, you'll find it very therapeutic.