Rainbow Six: Lockdown Multiplayer Hands-On - Something Old, Something New

We've got the details on the fast-paced and tense multiplayer combat in the latest PC Rainbow Six game.

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As we noted in our recent single-player preview, Rainbow Six: Lockdown for the PC isn't a port of last year's console game. As Red Storm producer Stuart White told us recently, the team wants the PC version of Lockdown to feel like a proper Rainbow Six PC game, and they've spent the last few months bringing it up to PC standards. We had a chance to talk with White and check out the multiplayer component to Lockdown, and we discovered that in addition to feeling like a PC game, Lockdown features some familiar content that Rainbow Six veterans are going to love.

Lockdown will feature traditional Rainbow Six multiplayer modes, such as team adversarial, cooperative mission, free for all, and terrorist hunt. One notable change that White told us is that terrorist hunt can now feature a timer, which changes the dynamics of that mode dramatically. In terrorist hunt, players find themselves pitted against up to 30 randomly placed terrorists on a level. In earlier Rainbow Six games, the lack of a timer meant that the players advanced at the speed of a crawl and slowly cleared each area of hostiles before moving on. But now that there's a timer, the pressure is going to be on and risks will have to be taken if a team wants to win. It's a simple addition, but it adds a lot to the gameplay.

There are also a couple of notable new multiplayer modes. The first is rivalry, which White described as, "the most far-out there from previous versions (of Rainbow Six) that we've had." Rivalry is a team-based mode, with one team playing as Rainbow commandos and the other team playing as mercenaries (traditionally in Rainbow Six, both teams usually play as commandos, though in different-colored uniforms, of course). White says there are three variations of rivalry mode, two of which will seem familiar if you've played any Counter-Strike games. The first is a bomb mode, where the mercenaries have to place a bomb on an objective, while Rainbow has to stop them. Failing that, Rainbow can try to disarm the bomb in time to still win the mission. The second mode is hostage. Rainbow has to get hostages to safety, while the mercenaries want to capture them. White says this mode is very much like capture the flag, except you don't capture the hostages so much as the hostages follow you. The third mode, however, is the most interesting, because it's geared toward getting players to work together. Mercenaries have to hack into a series of computers, while Rainbow is tasked with protecting the computers. The twist is that the computers have to be hacked in order, and once a computer is hacked, the next one has to be hacked just seconds afterward. This makes it impossible for one player to go from computer to computer, because there's not enough time. The mercenaries need to cooperate and work together in order for them to succeed. Meanwhile, the second new mode is retrieval, in which one side battles to retrieve an object, while the other side battles to stop them.

Lockdown for the PC will support up to 16 players, which is about par for previous PC Rainbow Six games. All the single-player missions are playable in multiplayer, but there are some extra multiplayer-only maps as well. Three classic Rainbow Six multiplayer maps chosen by the fans have been refurbished for Lockdown. The popular 747 level from Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear is back, and the interiors of the jumbo jet have never looked better. As Rogue Spear veterans know, this is a great level because it features wide-open kill zones on the airport runway, but then degenerates into close-quarters combat in the tight confines of the 747. Then there's bunkers, which is the popular trenches level, and it looks even better than before, thanks to the new graphics engine. Finally, mint from Rainbow Six: Raven Shield is also back, though we didn't get a chance to see this one in action. In addition to those levels, we can expect that many of the multiplayer-only levels created for the console versions will also be included in the PC version, revamped, of course, for the PC.

We got a chance to play a few rounds in multiplayer. Unfortunately, there weren't too many opponents to shoot. Still, we got yet another chance to check out the game in action. It makes sense that Lockdown looks better than Rainbow Six: Raven Shield (the last major PC release), as there are now graphical features, like high dynamic-range lighting, which really make a dramatic difference when it comes to lighting and shadowing. Apart from all the eye candy, though, there is the fast-paced and intense action that is Rainbow Six multiplayer. As usual, a nice, short burst from an automatic rifle can ruin your day, and, indeed, we died many times at the hands of White (who admitted that his job is to practically play the game nine hours a day, so he had something of an advantage on us). But this just gave us an opportunity to check out one of the nice new features in multiplayer, which is the ability to choose your respawn point. We also like the new grenade system. In most first-person shooters, throwing a grenade is something of a crapshoot because it's hard to gauge the grenade's path. Often, it'll end up hitting something and bouncing back at you. In Lockdown, just hold down the Throw Grenade key and a series of range circles appear, showing you the grenade's arc through the air as well as where it will land. Now you can toss grenades without fear.

In general, we came away with very favorable impressions of Lockdown. Rainbow Six has always been a strong franchise on the PC, and it appears that Lockdown will be a worthy successor. The PC version of Lockdown is currently in the final stages of development, and White says that they expect to complete the game in the next two weeks, which puts it on track to reach store shelves sometime in early February.

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