Between Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear (1999) and this year's Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield, the tactical action series was on a long hiatus. There were nearly four years between major installments, not counting the two expansion packs along the way and Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon, which took place in vast outdoor environments, rather than emphasizing the close-quarters combat that made the series famous. When Rainbow Six 3 did arrive this spring, it was worth the wait. The game featured impressive Unreal-powered graphics and a generally high level of realism.
Ubi Soft won't make anyone wait long for more Rainbow Six 3, since the company already has a substantial expansion pack in development, scheduled for release this fall. Athena Sword will continue the globe-trotting adventures of the Rainbow antiterrorist squad and add some new details to the missions to make them more immersive than ever. We've spoken with Ubi Soft Milan's producer Nicola Aitoro to get all the details on what the expansion pack will have to offer.
GameSpot: Tell us about Athena Sword's premise. Who is Team Rainbow up against now?
Nicola Aitoro: Gutierrez, although in prison, is still managing his terrorist group. The chemical threat is not over--not yet.
GS: What's the scope of the expansion pack's campaign? How many missions are there, and where will they take place?
NA: The new campaign is composed of eight new single-player missions. All of them take place in the Mediterranean area: Italy (Milan and Palermo), Monte Carlo, Croatia (Dubrovnik), and Greece (Athens).
GS: What are the new weapons that the expansion will introduce?
NA: There will be seven new weapons. You want to know them all? Here are the details:
Pistol: Beretta M93R--with single- and three-round burst modes
SMG: Spectre M4--9mm with 40-round magazine
Assault Rifle: HK G3KA4--7.62mm short assault rifle based on the G3A3
Assault Rifle: OTs-14 Groza 9/40--the latest Russian MVD weapon firing 9x39mm
Shotgun: Benelli M4 Super 90--the latest Benelli shotgun
Light Machine Gun: M240--7.62mm belt-fed
Sniper Rifle: HK SL8-1--5.56mm
GS: Apart from the new content, will there be any general tweaks to the game? Any new features or interface updates?
NA: We are introducing civilian characters (humans that do not have to be rescued) to add more life in some missions and policemen who patrol and secure the insertion zone for Rainbow. These new features give more depth to the action, and we think players will like them.
Another new feature is a special custom mission mode, called countdown, in which you have to play the single-player missions with a time limit, but with the same objectives. This is especially interesting because it requires the player to act in a very different way than in the standard Rainbow Six game.
GS: Some classic Rainbow Six missions are being reworked for the Rainbow Six 3 engine and included in the expansion. Which missions are they? How did you decided on these particular ones?
NA: The missions are Steel Wind (the embassy mission from the original Rainbow Six), Sargasso Fade (the Siberian base mission from Rogue Spear), and Virgin Moon (the subway mission from Urban Operations).
They were chosen based on their popularity and comments from the player community. When we asked, "Which is the best mission in Rogue Spear?" they always said Siberian Base.
GS: We hear that sound designers who worked on The Matrix will be working on weapon sounds for Athena Sword. Will this just be for the new weapons? How much effort goes into capturing realistic audio for the Rainbow Six games?
NA: Yes, they worked on the weapons sounds for Athena Sword. Weapons sounds are very important in giving the right feeling of a weapon, especially in this kind of realistic game. I am quite sure that the default plan for the first campaign mission will include the new weapons as the primary equipment. The visuals of Athena are astonishing, so sound had to be at that same level. Therefore, realistic audio is necessary. Considering you are controlling a special team, you need to pay attention to every ambient sound and every footstep in order to use the sound to your advantage. I think that sound is really important and worth the investment.
GS: Rainbow Six 3's multiplayer modes seem pretty popular. What sorts of features have players been asking for? Looking back, what sorts of updates have there been since the original game's release?
NA: There were some issues with the multiplayer code and with the key authentication that now have been worked out. The interface is now quite friendly, and people get used to it quickly.
GS: What multiplayer modes and content will be included in Athena Sword?
NA: There will be four new multiplayer modes: adversarial terrorist hunt, adversarial scattered hunt (these should already be familiar), capture the enemy, and kamikaze. The last two are completely new and deserve a detailed explanation. In CTE, players never die, but once shot, they surrender, and the other player has eight seconds to get to them and handcuff them. Once handcuffed, a player can do nothing but move the third-person camera and wait for a teammate to free him.
In kamikaze, a random member of the green team is chosen to be the bomb carrier. He is equipped with a pistol only and a heartbeat sensor. Green team must find the defusing kit, which is located at the red team base, while red team should either kill the bomb carrier or find the detonator at the green team base
GS: Tell us about the team at Ubi Soft Milan. How large a team is it? How long has the expansion pack been in development?
NA: The Athena Sword team is about 20 people (11 artists, four game designers, two sound designers, two engineers, and one producer). The expansion pack development started in October 2002 and is wrapping up now.
GS: When do you expect to ship Athena Sword?
NA: In September.
GS: What else would you like to say about the expansion?
NA: It's Rainbow Six with a special Italian touch. There are subtle enhancements in the graphics that make our levels unique and some good gameplay ideas (like countdown). I am very excited about this mission pack, as it is so big (there are 19 new levels in total) that players will surely like it. We've really focused on realism in reproducing some real buildings in Italy, and we are very proud of the results.
GS: Thanks for your time, Nicola.