When we reviewed Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas back in 2006, one of the things that stood out was a rewarding multiplayer experience, something that has been tacked on as an afterthought in some shooters.
Rainbow Six Vegas 2 was under wraps until recently and is now just around the corner. Not long ago we went to Montreal and had a look at the single-player campaign, but we hadn't seen the multiplayer mode until now. We recently caught up with Ubisoft Montreal's game designer Philippe Therien in London, and he took us through some of the new additions to the multiplayer side of the game.
Ubisoft has tweaked the cooperative campaign mode and added a series of multiplayer modes with Vegas 2. We played a near-final build on the Xbox 360. The final version will be out in stores on March 14 in Europe and will support up to 16 players, online and offline, on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. Downloadable content was strongly hinted at, but there is no official word as yet.
Because Vegas 2 uses the same Unreal Engine used in the first game, Ubisoft has been able to spend more development time improving the artificial intelligence, graphics, and multiplayer experience. One important aspect for Ubisoft in developing Vegas 2 was to make sure there was no reduction in graphics quality in multiplayer games. Rest assured that the graphics certainly looked promising.
There are 11 new weapons in Vegas 2, and some of the existing weapons have been tweaked--the shotgun reload speed, for example, has been increased from somewhat sluggish to a speedy half-second between shots. The changes in bullet penetration mean that choosing your weapon has taken on a new level of importance. The physics associated with your chosen cover will determine how much damage you'll sustain when hiding behind it--while solid concrete and metal are pretty hard to penetrate, hiding behind a plywood wall is just asking for trouble.
Ubisoft has added a new sprint function to Vegas 2, which is activated by a quick button press. While it can be used only in short bursts, unlike in Gears of War, it's still good for dashing between cover or trying to cross smaller open areas. However, like in Gears of War, you won't be able to shoot while sprinting.
Cooperative play in Vegas has been revamped, and the whole story campaign can now be played from start to finish with seamless switching between one and two players. If you're playing through the campaign, a friend can jump in and play as one of your team--if your friend quits out, the system will resume control of the character.
In addition to a reworked co-op mode, new competitive multiplayer modes should provide some fresh experiences for seasoned Rainbow Six fans. We played them over an Xbox 360 system link with two five-person teams, and what we saw was plenty of fun.
The first new mode, team leader, involves protecting your leader from elimination. To successfully complete the match, you'll need to get your leader to an extraction zone or eliminate the other team. There is a twist, however--both leaders can see where the opposite team leader is on the map, which appears as a star in your heads-up display. As long as a team's leader is alive, the members of that team can respawn back into the action if killed. However, if the team leader kills an opponent, the victim can no longer respawn. If a team leader is killed, the members of his team can no longer respawn. If both team leaders are eliminated, it becomes a survival mode with no more respawning. We played team leader on an indoor/outdoor construction site with plenty of objects to hide behind--think cars, burning oil drums, half-finished brick walls, and those seemingly paper-thin plywood walls. Team leader will be no surprise for those familiar with Counter-Strike's VIP mode, but it has a distinctive Rainbow Six flavour.
Team demolition has also been borrowed from Counter-Strike: One team is required to plant a bomb, and the other must deactivate it within the given time limit. There are two possible bomb planting locations, though, so the defenders must defend both, and then converge upon the bomb if it is planted. They have 60 seconds to defuse the bomb. Unlike in Counter-Strike, both teams will know exactly when and where the bomb has been planted, as it is illustrated by an icon on your HUD.
We played bomb mode on an indoor map modelled after a gaming tournament, which seemed a cleverly ironic touch. Once the bomb was planted, carnage ensued, with both teams swarming to the bomb site to try to seize control. As with many actions in Vegas 2, you'll be rewarded with experience points when you successfully plant a bomb. After playing a few games, our rank was upgraded to private second class, and we unlocked the ballistic goggles, tactical helmet, and balaclava as a bonus.
Total conquest, the third new multiplayer mode, was particularly memorable and could provide hours of frustration, or glee, depending on your skill and teamwork. The match we tried involved holding three choke points in Villa, which is a small map of a single mansion, a courtyard, and a garage. The goal is to activate three satellite dishes and keep them in your team's control during a 30-second countdown while an uplink is established. This sounds a lot easier than it is. All players know where the dishes are--they're visible as points on the screen--and icons at the bottom right corner of your HUD show which team controls them. If you manage to control all of the dishes, you'll then have to protect them for the duration of the countdown. It can be quite frantic when control of the choke points switches back and forth between the teams, but it's also rewarding when your team manages to win the match.
Once we'd successfully endured several skirmishes, and some slightly out-of-place Enya-esque relaxation music, our rank was increased to specialist. We also unlocked three new camouflage patterns: DPM desert (red), Cadpat (green), and Russian (blue).
Like the single-player campaign in Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2, multiplayer looks and sounds quite promising and, while not a huge creative--or geographic--departure from the previous Vegas, should hopefully live up to the standard set by Rainbow Six Vegas. Multiplayer maps will take you to many of the single-player locales not seen in the first game, including the Nevada desert, the Las Vegas monorail, "old Vegas," the industrial refinery, and a strip club.
For more on Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2, see GameSpot's previous coverage.