Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six was the sort of game whose unique style managed to win people over despite its noticeable flaws. When developer Red Storm Entertainment set out to create a sequel, it must have figured that deviating from Rainbow Six's winning game plan would be a mistake. As a result, though Rogue Spear is in many ways a much better game than its similar predecessor, it too is not without a laundry list of problems.
In Rogue Spear, once again the elite Rainbow team is called upon to put the kibosh on terrorist activity around the globe. At first, these terrorist incidents appear to be random events, but as you progress through the game you will uncover the disturbing forces behind the new wave of terror. Following Mr. Clark's detailed mission briefings and background information, you will lead your team against these sinister powers and help make the world a better place.
The most obvious improvement in Rogue Spear is the graphics engine, which has been heavily modified to allow greater levels of detail, larger mission environments, and better character animations. Most of the scenarios are simply gorgeous and are amazingly detailed. Buildings are richly decorated, while outdoor areas are more lifelike than before. In most indoor areas, even the most out-of-the-way rooms are highly detailed, complete with random civilians wandering around in some areas, like a fat guy in a towel heading to the sauna. Rogue Spear also includes weather effects, such as snow and rain, which can hamper your ability to see and hear terrorists.
One graphic enhancement you definitely won't miss is the vastly improved character animation. Not only do the 3D models in Rogue Spear look more realistic, they also move in a more lifelike fashion. A slew of new motion-captured animations have terrorists bolting out of rooms when you hurl a flashbang, rushing to investigate strange noises, and dying in a seemingly endless array of dramatic Hollywood-quality deaths. Your own team members will also maneuver in a variety of new ways, including moving in a crouched position and limping severely when they've been wounded. The game still suffers from polygonal clipping problems, but overall it looks a lot better than Rainbow Six.
Rogue Spear is at heart the same game as Rainbow Six, only with a number of new features that enhance the overall experience. For starters, you can now crouch and peek around corners. These are perhaps the most useful new features in the game, since they let you remain stealthy and peek into rooms before entering them. Also, you can now bring along dedicated snipers, who set up shop and pick off tangos with deadly accuracy when you give the word. Though there are only a handful of missions where snipers are genuinely useful, it still is nice to have them as an option. Also, you can now order your troops to cover or defend specific areas when they hold for a go-code, which is another great feature that is absolutely critical on several missions.
Rogue Spear has several new weapons, including three different sniper rifles and several new assault rifles. However, this is a mixed blessing since 90 percent of the missions require the utmost stealth and secrecy. Most mission briefings warn you that the terrorists will flee or kill hostages (thereby ruining your operation) if they catch the slightest hint of your approach, and for this reason, you almost always want to carry a suppressed weapon to keep things on the sly.
The watch mode introduced in the Eagle Watch mission pack is still available in Rogue Spear. This lets you plan a mission and then have your operatives carry it out while you look on in safety. You can also jump in and assume control at any time.
The game introduces several new operatives, including a number of characters from the Rainbow Six novel and a few additional leader-types (so you don't have to worry quite so much about losing Chavez any more). Rogue Spear also offers 18 missions, two more than Rainbow Six. Once you complete a mission, you have the option of trying it again in two great new game modes: Lone Wolf, which challenges you to traverse the map alone, with randomly placed tangos on the alert, and Terrorist Hunt, which lets you wander the map in an effort to liquidate each and every bad guy. In both modes, all additional elements are thrown out, including hostages and bombs, so it's just you against the bad guys. Also, Rogue Spear retains the practice mission and branch campaign options from the original game.
Unfortunately, in addition to all the new features, Rogue Spear also includes some significant gameplay imbalances. On the one hand, Red Storm has significantly fine-tuned the enemy AI. Terrorists now react much more realistically to everything that happens around them. Not only that, but they react very quickly and shoot very straight, and they rarely, if ever, miss their targets. By itself, this would not be a problem, but because the friendly team AI is so flaky, the game can be overwhelmingly difficult for all the wrong reasons.
In several areas, particularly on the Kosovo and hijacked airliner missions, the terrorists always react faster than your men - always. In fact, your computer-controlled team members tend to move and react much less effectively than they did in Rainbow Six. True, they don't get hung up in doorways quite as often as they used to, but they don't survive missions as often either. Worse yet, your guys still get stuck on ladders on occasion and even fall off elevated walkways, sometimes fatally.
Part of the problem here lies in the mission-planning phase of each operation. For the most part, this mode is exactly as it was in the original Rainbow Six. The major differences include support for the new action orders (cover, defend, snipe) and an improved 3D view of each mission area. However, even with the 3D view enabled, you seldom get a good feel for the operation area until you actually enter the mission. This causes countless problems while planning missions, because you often can't tell what sort of area you're asking your troops to pass through.
Also, because of its larger and more intricate mission areas, Rogue Spear could have seriously benefited from a much smoother, more intuitive, and less cluttered planning interface. In Rainbow Six, mission planning was one of the highlights of the game. In Rogue Spear, it feels more like a chore. Planning the stealth-only missions in this game, in fact, is almost absurdly difficult given the size of the mission map and the numerous guards scattered around it.
On a more positive note, Rogue Spear's multiplayer options are phenomenal. The game offers several adversarial modes, including assassination, in which you attempt to defend an NPC general, and stronghold, in which one team must defend its base from the other team's attack. The game is playable on both Mplayer and MSN Gaming Zone, though your mileage will most certainly vary on both services. Yet while the game's multiplayer options are impressive, the performance seems to be all over the place. Many users have complained loudly about sudden network drops and crash bugs, while others rave about the game's stability. Passing final judgement on Rogue Spear is difficult. While it has numerous noticeable problems, it retains the original game's charm and unique style. The new features are good, particularly the addition of snipers and crouched movement. Multiplayer support is also excellent, though it does still need tuning. Overall, the game succeeds almost in spite of itself, because Rogue Spear is damn good at its core and more of a good thing for fans of the original Rainbow Six.