Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six was originally released on the PC back in 1998, and since then, it's gained a large following. The series, now in its third iteration, has appeared on many different platforms over the years. Now, Gameloft is bringing Rainbow Six 3 to your cell phone. The mobile version, which uses an overhead, isometric perspective, has eschewed its antecessor's first-person-shooter component in favor of a complete emphasis on strategy. The result is a game that could almost be classified as a puzzle title. Although it lacks the multiplayer option that defines the PC and console versions, Rainbow Six 3 for mobile is a highly enjoyable experience in itself.
Gameloft's decision to use a top-down perspective necessitated several changes in design. The game is controlled via a cursor that performs different actions depending on what's beneath it. If you click it on an area of flooring or terrain, your group will run there. If you click the cursor on a particular part of an enemy's body, you and your troops will shoot it (as always, headshots make for quick kills). Additionally, the cursor can be used to open doors, free hostages, and ice thugs with your knife, for that silent kill.
This system allows for an elegant reworking of Rainbow Six's gameplay into a real-time strategy setting. As the gameplay no longer relies on your shooting skill, planning and tactics have naturally been stressed. Knowing when to use stealth and when to rush into battle, guns blazing, is paramount to success. Most of the game involves freeing hostages and disabling bombs. However, this must often be done without alerting special units that will execute their captives or detonate explosives--depending on the case--if you are discovered while attacking. There are even suicide bombers to contend with. Much more so than in other versions of the game, Rainbow Six 3 for mobile stresses the "covert" part of "covert operations."
The game's simple cursor-based system is easy to employ, and it's supplemented by a few number-pad clicks that allow you to control your team in a natural, mindless way that should resonate with fans of Diablo, Dungeon Siege, and similar games. Admittedly, there's not much to control here. In fact, it is no longer necessary or possible to command your troops. They mirror your actions--trailing you unthinkingly--like characters in a role-playing game. Not the voice-commandable, intelligent comrades you remember from the Xbox game, these versions of your teammates are simply there to provide additional firepower for when you target an enemy.
In fact, the game's artificial intelligence, on the whole, is a bit of a disappointment. The countless goons you'll dispatch walk in set patterns, only noticing you if you fall into their direct lines of sight. They also tend to ignore subtleties like the bloody corpses of their fallen comrades. When you occasionally encounter snipers, you will be able to notice and target them long before they get a chance to hit you. In one of the game's easiest levels, you must locate and kill 12 snipers. It's a much easier feat than it sounds, however. On the other hand, enemies do respond appropriately to the sounds of gunfire or to the cries of their fellow terrorists.
If you've played the console version, you'll recognize the game's several locales, which are well represented here in 2D form. The game's large, detailed characters are especially easy on the eyes, and their movements and death animations are all fairly believable. In fact, with graphical niceties such as weather and explosion effects, you may not miss the 3D engine. During large firefights, a considerable amount of slowdown does occur, but this is hardly an impediment to play, especially considering that the game could almost be turn-based.
Rainbow Six 3's sound, on the other hand, does not match the game's otherwise high-production values. The game is completely silent, except for a few bars of jarring introductory music. There are no sound effects to accompany shooting, team orders, or bomb blasts. This problem is especially apparent when inaudible gunfire alerts your enemies.
In each level, you're handed a set of directives that usually involve rescuing hostages. The game will put a variety of obstacles in your way, each of which merits a particular learned response. For example, you will discover that groups of two or more soldiers moving along the same path can't be silently killed and should simply be avoided. Because the game prepares you so well for each encounter, both through practice and through the liberal use of real-time cutscenes designed to give you an overview of each puzzle, you'll never feel the odds are insurmountable or that the game is overly frustrating. It is precisely this feeling that makes Rainbow Six 3 so addictive. Furthermore, the game allows you to retry levels a dozen times without throwing down your handset in disgust. Some multiplayer gameplay would have been nice, but Rainbow Six 3's single-player experience is rich enough that you probably won't miss it.
Even as it challenges you, Rainbow Six 3 empowers you. As you solve its puzzles more and more readily, you'll feel a sense of mastery that can only accompany a well-designed game. Rainbow Six 3 is a great value, and it features numerous missions that are varied just enough to escape monotony. You might complete the game in one sitting--but not for lack of content. More likely, you'll do so because you won't be able to put the game down.