The newest entry in the Rainbow Six series is simultaneously getting back to basics and pushing the franchise forward. It's getting back to basics with a development team that previously worked on the acclaimed Rainbow Six 3. But it's also pushing the franchise forward with new mechanics, such as inverted rappelling and the use of third-person cover. Rainbow Six Vegas' single-player campaign features new gameplay and the unusual, eponymous setting. However, this series has always lived and died by its multiplayer component, with its intensely tactical trappings and committed clans of players vying for online dominance. Now that the game's nearly finished, we were understandably interested to see how the multiplayer has shaped up in Vegas.
Ubisoft Montreal has taken the character-creation engine in Vegas to the next level by billing it as the 2.0 version of the "persistent elite creation" system that was featured in previous games. There are so many combinations of gender, face type, facial hair, and other features, such as scars, face paint, clothing, body armor, and camouflage, that you might never see another identical player online. And if you use the Xbox Live Vision camera, you'll definitely never see a player like yourself because the game will create a custom character that bears your likeness with well-lit front and profile shots of your face. Ubi is using an accomplished middleware solution for this, and the game will actually generate facial geometry based on your profile. So you're not just getting a low-res texture that is slapped onto a generic mesh. Check out the interview that is linked at the top of this story for a video demonstration of this in action.
Previous Rainbow Six games let you access new multiplayer weapons and equipment as you ranked up online, and Vegas will be no different. But if you spend extra time gaining new ranks, you won't necessarily find yourself at a distinct advantage. Instead of granting better weaponry that will let you steamroll the opposition even more easily, the designers have opted to include different but tactically equivalent gear options for your character. There will also be a few slightly droll customization options. Who's going to use pink camouflage and expect not to be seen?
Once you get to the action, the big new addition to Vegas' multiplayer is the "attack and defend" mode. This mode is team-based and has varying objectives, depending on which map you're playing. Some maps will require you to seek out and defuse a bomb; others will make you secure a group of hostages and lead them to safety; and yet others will feature a priority item that you have to retrieve to an extraction point. The bottom line is this: One team will attack a position that the other team has to defend (hence, the name).
The sample map we played had the assaulting team select from two spawn points on the roof of a casino, and then fast-rope down through the skylight or head down some staircases to join a number of shoot-outs amid thrumming slot machines and game tables. This map also had an extraction objective, where we had to breach the casino's data room several floors down, grab a heavily protected briefcase, and successfully get the item back to the helipad on the roof to win the round. Between the three different objective types in the attack-and-defend mode and the wildly disparate styles of settings you'll encounter, the casino themes run the gamut from Asian to Mayan--to hellish. There ought to be some good variety here to keep devoted online clans coming back.
We imagine that the attack-and-defend mode will be the most popular among hardcore players because it requires the most team strategy. But you've still got the old standby competitive modes, such as survival and sharpshooter. Speaking of old favorites, a number of "classic" Rainbow Six maps, such as Streets, will be on offer, and they've naturally been given an impressive graphical makeover for their appearance in Vegas. And then there's the cooperative mode, which will let you play through the entire campaign mode with real people who control your allies instead of the computer. In fact, while you'll have only two teammates in the single-player game, up to four players total can jump into co-op. The ever-popular terrorist hunt will also be available for all maps. And the cooperative modes can be played online, through system link or split-screen on one console.
If you've downloaded the recent single-player demo of Vegas from Xbox Live, you've no doubt seen that the game is putting Unreal Engine 3 to good use with its detailed environments and overall lavish visuals. There's no word on whether a multiplayer demo will surface, but with the game due out in a little more than two weeks, we'll have the final word on all aspects of Rainbow Six Vegas soon enough.