Taking life one kill at a time.
Last fall, a new game by upstart developer Red Storm Interactive (the computer
gaming outlet of Tom Clancy) took the gaming community by force. The game was
Six, a realistic depiction of 1st person anti-terrorist combat with a heavy
strategic element included for added depth. Without a doubt, Rainbow Six
is one of the most tense, dramatic, and involving games to ever hit the scene,
destined to become a real classic.
Now the sequel, Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear, has been let loose upon the world, and fans of real-world military combat should rejoice. You’ll jump even more for this one.
The basic premise remains
very close to that of the original. You select a team of anti-terrorist operatives
and outfit them with weapons, ammo, equipment (grenades, door charges) and armor.
Then you plan out your attack in a detailed strategic screen where you assign
movement paths, waypoints, and behaviors. You do all of this so that you may
execute a coordinated attack that flows together with just enough syncopation
and focus to ensure the safety of hostages and the failure of terrorists.
In combat, you play from either a 1st or 3rd person view. There’s also an option to just observe (‘Watchmode’), in which the mission will succeed or fail based on the strength of your plan without your heroic interventions. One shot kills are the rule of the day. Your caution must be high and your aim true if you hope to survive and succeed.
New to combat in Rogue Spear is the ability to move while ducking,
to lean around corners, and to shoot multiple targets with one bullet if they
are lined up (remember Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade?). You’ll also
find a bevy of new weapons to play with all the live long day.
The new inclusion of Snipers really ups the ante. Snipers play an integral
role in most missions. They may be assigned targets to take out if you need
just the right Tango (that means ‘terrorist scum’) before you breach a particular
building or room. You can also play as the Snipers if you fancy some
long range target practice, or you can just be fearful of them. The Snipers
help greatly to increase the verisimilitude of Rogue Spear, as most terrorist
situations in the world always seem to attract Sniper units, which were conspicuously
missing in R6.
The missions in Rogue Spear are, without a doubt, the best yet in the series. Whether storming a Dacha in the alps, ‘surgically removing’ a Russian commander from his base, liberating a hijacked 747 (very cool), or rescuing government officials from a bombed-out town in Kosovo, the missions never fail to seriously impress. Enemy placement is superb and the environments present difficult challenges regarding your plan of attack. Everything just looks too damned cool. It’s a pity you have to sift trough the area killing things rather than living there.
Graphically, Rogue Spear takes the Rainbow Six engine and gives
it a lube job. The polygon count has been increased somewhat, resulting in even
more realistic environments. Colored lighting is more widely used and affects
everything in the game instead of just the infrastructure. Facial animations
(such as blinking) have been added to the mix, and you even leave footprints
in the snowy levels. Animation continues to be a high point of the Rainbow
Six series. Your victims spin, sputter, cough, roll, and grope in the throes
of their mortal end. For the sadistic, it’s very cool.
Sound wise, Rogue
Spear remains virtually identical to the original. Everything sounds pretty
real – nothing too exotic.
The music is an entirely different story. While the music in Rainbow Six
was very nicely scored, Rogue Spear easily surpasses it. The themes are
strong, the scoring is intricate, and the music is so compelling that you’ll
find yourself stalling in the menus just to hear the rest of the track, rather
than proceeding into the sans-noticeable-music missions.
Rogue Spear also continues the series tradition of excellent multi-player.
By focusing on team-based play and making death meaningful (ie. you go down,
you are out for the round), multi-player becomes an almost transcendent experience.
Just executing coordinated assaults or cat-and-mouse hunts with other human
players on your six and twelve makes the realism of the game all the more complete
and engaging. If you’re lucky enough to have a LAN with several gaming computers,
don’t worry about Quake 3 – this puppy will keep you happy well into
As good as Rogue Spear is, there are a few problems. Although the AI for the terrorists has been greatly improved (making your job harder and forcing you to plan better strategies), your own team members’ intelligence has not noticeably increased. You occasionally see them run into a line of fire one after another and get mowed down, which really makes you wince.
Also, there aren’t really enough missions. For single player, you have only a short campaign that, if not for the fact that you end up playing each mission again and again until you crack it, will only keep you occupied for a few days. You also have some training missions and a cool mode called Terrorist Hunt, which is a bloodbath, pure and simple. If not for the multiplayer, Rogue Spear would suffer much from its own brevity.
Rogue Spear is, when you get down to it, extremely similar to Rainbow
Six. The engine and gameplay is almost the same. If you are looking for
any sort of radical additions or revolutionary concepts, you wont find them
here. Still, it is impossible to deny how much fun this game offers. It essentially
takes the Rainbow Six formula, adds in everything that we all thought
was missing from the first game, patches it up in a few key points, and raises
the series’ bar in every area. It’s completely addictive, endlessly engaging,
and tense enough to remind you of your heartbeat. Take things one kill at a
time, and you’ll sleep well when it’s over.