Ubi Soft was showing off a pre-alpha build of Rainbow Six 3 for the Xbox at a press event yesterday, and we got a good bit of playtime with the game. Rainbow Six 3 is in development at Ubi Soft Montreal, the studio that produced Splinter Cell and is currently working on the upcoming Prince of Persia game. Ubi Soft has stressed that Rainbow Six 3 for the Xbox is not the same game as Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield, which was released earlier this year for the PC. The games share the same license, but the Xbox Rainbow Six 3 is an entirely new game that puts players in the shoes of Ding Chavez, the hero of the series. The game forgoes most of the PC game's tedious mission planning in favor of fast, accessible action that utilizes the tactical, squad-based gameplay that is the series' trademark.
We got to play two single-player maps in the Rainbow Six 3 demo. One of them was set in the prison on Alcatraz, of all places, and it had you starting out in a sewer underneath the penitentiary and working your way up into the complex itself to root out the terrorists who had overrun the island. The other map was set in a snowy Swiss village and featured more outdoor combat and a fair amount of close-quarters fighting inside some houses. The game played very well, even in its early state, and the fast-action design approach that Ubi Soft Montreal is taking with the game was evident after just a few minutes at the controls. Moving about, switching weapons, taking out terrorists, and issuing orders to your team were all easy to accomplish, despite our inexperience with the game. You'll even be able to issue a multitude of voice commands to your team with the Xbox Live headset.
The coolest and most innovative feature we saw in Rainbow Six 3 was the new targeting reticle. Visually, this new reticle works differently from the reticles used in most first-person shooters. Whereas in a game like Counter-Strike or the original Rainbow Six games your crosshair grows larger as you move, your targeting reticle in Rainbow Six 3 is represented by a circle that grows smaller as your accuracy is diminished. For example, if you're in a stationary crouch position, you'll have quite a large circle to aim with, and if you fire at an enemy while he's inside the circle, you'll score a hit. If you're running, though, your reticle will shrink to the size of a dot, and you'll have to line this dot up with an enemy precisely to hit him. We found this new visual metaphor much more appropriate for describing your effective area of accuracy.
We got to play one multiplayer map in Rainbow Six 3 as part of an impromptu deathmatch tournament. The gameplay was fast and generally felt easy to control here, though we performed rather poorly. You can pick from a variety of primary and secondary weapons for use in the multiplayer, and the aiming rules in the single-player mode also come into play here. Though the core of Rainbow Six 3's gameplay is pretty calculated and slowly paced, it seemed to translate well into the multiplayer setting. The game will allow you to play through the entire single-player campaign in cooperative fashion, and it will also have several competitive multiplayer modes using system link or Xbox Live (up to 16 players are supported online).
Graphically, Rainbow Six 3 looks very good. Like Splinter Cell, it uses a modified version of the Unreal engine, and it features many of the graphical effects that made that game's visuals so solid. The lighting, shadowing, and other effects all looked quite realistic, and the frame rate was generally pretty smooth. Most of the audio in the game was simply there as a placeholder at this point, but the developers said they plan to pay special attention to the game's voice work when it's recorded.
We're impressed with what we've seen of Rainbow Six 3 on the Xbox so far. It seems that Ubi Soft's decision to make an entirely new game rather than simply port Raven Shield will pay off in the long run. We'll bring you more on the game very soon.