Rainbow Six: Lockdown Updated Hands-On
We meet with Ubisoft and check out the latest PS2 and Xbox versions of this squad-based shooter.
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During a recent visit with Ubisoft we had the opportunity to get hands-on with the latest PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of Rainbow Six: Lockdown. Currently scheduled for release in September, Rainbow Six: Lockdown is a Tom Clancy-inspired, squad-based shooter in which you'll wage war on terrorists as part of the elite Team Rainbow. It's a very different-looking team from what you'll be used to if you're a fan of the Rainbow Six series, because your colleagues now have distinct appearances and personalities. Whether or not you'll care about your CPU colleagues in the single-player game now that they have some character remains to be seen, however, and we're still finding ourselves giving into the temptation to just employ them as meat shields (sending them into any potentially dangerous situation ahead of us).
We played through three campaign missions on this occasion, including the campaign mode's first mission, which we completed alongside three other players rather than with CPU squadmates. There were several options available to us before we attempted the cooperative mission, including whether or not our performance would contribute to our rankings, whether the players that were killed would have the ability to respawn, which difficulty level we wanted to play on, and whether we'd like to attempt the mission against a time limit. Once we'd settled on all of that stuff, each player was able to pick out primary and secondary weapons, as well as two grenade types or gadgets for themselves. Needless to say, the most successful teams look certain to be those who communicate with each other before even getting into the level, since four players all armed with the same weapons will certainly have a harder time than a team with varied capabilities.
The start of the mission saw our team getting dropped onto the roof of a multistory parking garage by a helicopter, and it didn't take long for a number of enemies to come see what all the noise was about. Our primary objective at this point was simply to exit the parking garage, which meant fighting our way through dimly lit areas and down narrow stairwells all the way to the bottom. There were plenty of parked cars for us to hide behind when we encountered enemies, and we were pleased to see that the opposition was smart enough to try to shoot us through the vehicles' windows when they were able to see us through them. Note to self: hiding behind glass doesn't work.
The upper stories of the garage were quite well lit for the most part, which meant that we had very little use for our night vision or thermal vision until we got farther down. As we neared the bottom of the garage, the whole place became a lot darker, and the night vision goggles definitely came in handy. The parking garage was one of the few areas that we played through on both the PS2 and Xbox, incidentally, and while the Xbox game's lighting was undoubtedly more impressive, the PS2 game didn't look shabby by any means. The main difference on this occasion was that we chose to play one version with the assisted aim feature (which draws glowing boxes around all of the enemies on the screen, often long before you spot them) turned on, and the other with it disabled. We discovered that the assisted aim made the dimly lit parking garage a lot easier to negotiate than we would've liked, in all honesty, although it's likely we were playing on one of the game's less-challenging difficulty settings. Without the assisted aim turned on, locating enemies was every bit as challenging as shooting them at times. Although, on our second play-through the CPU characters we were teamed up with appeared to have no difficulty seeing in the dark whatsoever.
Strangely, enemies will be easier to find in the dark in the Xbox version of Rainbow Six: Lockdown than their PS2 counterparts. This is because, in addition to thermal vision and night vision, Xbox players will have access to a heartbeat monitor gadget. The heartbeat monitor has the appearance of a red line sweeping across your visor, displaying any enemies within range (regardless of whether or not they're behind walls) as red silhouettes and adding red dots to a small radar on your screen. It's essentially a more powerful version of the thermal vision, which is presumably why Ubisoft felt it necessary to give it a very limited (but quickly rechargeable) battery life.
Characters With Character
After exiting the parking garage we found ourselves in a large, open courtyard, which was difficult to cross safely because there were enemy snipers positioned in windows all over the place. There were also plenty of enemies on the ground to deal with, and getting across the courtyard safely meant moving quickly between locations that afforded us at least some cover. The same could be said of the street that we found ourselves having to cross on the other side of the courtyard, which looked like a bona fide war zone, complete with craters in the road, burned-out cars, and enemy snipers taking shots at us from so far away that they were pretty difficult to make out without the assisted aim turned on. After crossing the street, we simply had to enter a bank that was occupied by terrorists, fight our way through to the vault, and rescue the president.
We teamed up with three CPU colleagues, and the next level that we attempted was the campaign mode's fifth, which required us, among other things, to enter a large factory complex, disable its security systems, capture a bad guy, and then escape in a helicopter. The level was preceded by a cutscene in which one of the Rainbow team members was attempting to flirt with another as they crawled through a tunnel. The sequence, and presumably many others like it, is clearly intended to give your colleagues personalities, which will help you to create some kind of rapport with them as you progress through the game. We had no qualms about sending any of them into potentially dangerous situations once our mission got under way, though, which often meant that we didn't have much to do once we decided to follow them in.
The problem with the CPU-controlled squad members right now is that they are sometime so effective at clearing the rooms that you need only worry about keeping out of the way, but they're still stupid enough to wander casually across your firing line in the middle of a gunfight every now and then. Their behavior does appear to have improved since we last saw Rainbow Six: Lockdown in action, but it seems like the best decision you could make before attempting any mission is to ditch your CPU comrades and enlist the help of some friends.
Your friends won't be able to help you with any of the all-new sniper missions, though, since they invariably task you with protecting Rainbow team members from a vantage point high above the location in which their current mission is operating. The sniper level that we got to play through on this occasion, for example, positioned our sniper in a tower high above a courtyard that was being patrolled by numerous enemies. Our first objective was to clear the courtyard so that our colleagues could get dropped into the middle of it by a helicopter, at which point lots more enemies showed up. Most of the enemies that we were picking off with our sniper rifle were too preoccupied with firing on our comrades to worry about us. Occasionally, we did come under fire from enemy snipers and even a couple of guys armed with rocket launchers.
The sniper levels in Rainbow Six: Lockdown are played at a good, brisk pace and are made much more enjoyable by the fact that you have to move between vantage points quite regularly--either to avoid enemy fire, or to get a shot at enemies who can't be seen from your current position. Knowing when to reload your rifle and also when to switch between your regular and zoomed-in views will often be every bit as challenging as shooting the enemies down below. Although, your limited field of vision when using the sniper scope is made less of a problem by a red arrow onscreen that always points to your nearest enemy. We're hoping that the red arrow will be optional rather than mandatory, since it takes away quite a lot of challenge from the sniper levels, especially if you use it in conjunction with the assisted aim feature.
Also making the sniper level less challenging than it might have been were barrels scattered all over the place that, you guessed it, would explode when we shot them and take out nearby enemies. Why the terrorists that we were up against had decided to store explosive barrels out in the open--and even perched on rooftops in some cases--is something of a mystery, and after shooting one of the barrels to check out the explosion, we opted to ignore the rest of them.
After completing the sniper level we had an opportunity to take a quick look at some of the Xbox game's multiplayer features. The multiplayer content was looking a lot more polished than when we last saw the game, with more detailed character models and equipment, nicely lit maps, and less-confusing onscreen icons that showed the locations of objectives and such. Other neat touches included raindrops on our goggles and some convincing smoke grenade effects.
Rainbow Six: Lockdown is currently scheduled for release in September. We look forward to bringing you more information on the game as that date closes in.
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