If you're keeping score, Rainbow Six 3 for the GameCube is a port of the PlayStation 2 version of the game released earlier this year, which itself is a stripped-down version of last year's Xbox game, which happened to be a translation of the PC shooter Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield. That's quite a journey, during the course of which Rainbow Six 3 lost its most significant feature: an online multiplayer mode. What's left, though, is still a perfectly decent military-themed first-person shooter. This latest version still offers a considerable variety of challenging enemy-infested missions and a great selection of carefully modeled real-world weapons, and it also features a pretty good split-screen mode. But it's marred by substandard graphical performance, long loading times, and artificial intelligence issues, and it simply isn't as impressive as its counterparts on other platforms. On its own merits, though, it can still be a tense and exciting first-person shooting experience.
Rainbow is the name of author Tom Clancy's fictional counterterrorist unit, composed of the world's strongest, fastest, most highly trained sharpshooters and commandos. Basically, Rainbow is deployed to clean up big messes when there's no other recourse. Like other Rainbow Six titles, Rainbow Six 3 is a fairly realistic shooter set in the real world. Death comes swiftly, as just one or two bullets will be enough to take out most targets, and you yourself can't sustain much damage either. Tactics, initiative, and the element of surprise are your greatest weapons, though the submachine guns and assault rifles are pretty handy too. You cannot jump, and you cannot sprint. Unfortunately, you cannot lie prone, but you may crouch and move while crouched, which is often the best course of action. Your "special powers" are limited to an onscreen map of your surroundings, which also reveals the direction from which you're taking fire. You get night vision and thermal vision too. Your means of attack are limited to the primary and secondary weapons and grenades that you choose to bring with you into a mission, and, for reasons that aren't terribly clear, you cannot pick up and use any weapons dropped by those who've been shot. So, in essence, Rainbow Six 3 is a simple game of kill-or-be-killed. You'd better learn to aim faster and truer than your enemies.
The game has a decent variety of modes for play, even though the online options are notably absent. There's a linear, single-player campaign, featuring more than a dozen missions and three levels of difficulty (all of which, in fact, are challenging). In the campaign, you play as Domingo "Ding" Chavez, Rainbow's best. At your side will be up to three other Rainbow operatives per mission. The campaign features an overarching storyline, involving South American terrorists, and other political intrigue that you'd expect from Tom Clancy. The missions themselves take place all over the world, in the sorts of mundane yet tactically intriguing settings you'd expect, from airports to chateaus. They tend to be packed with tangos, as well as a few hostages and maybe a few bombs, which you'll need to take care of or else the mission fails.
The missions aren't lengthy, per se, but since they're difficult, they can take a while. You and your team can't survive more than a few hits. Team members who are "incapacitated" by gunfire will be out for the remainder of that mission, though they'll magically return in subsequent missions. And if Ding dies--game over. Unlike in the Xbox version of the game, you cannot manually save your progress during the missions, though your progress will automatically be saved at various checkpoints. These can feel as though they're few and far between, however. The missions themselves are quite heavily scripted, so a trial-and-error process can eventually see you through if you aren't quick enough to react to the surprises around every corner.
Some of the enemies are crack shots, and some will use grenades, but their artificial intelligence can be pretty spotty. They'll run headlong into certain death sometimes, though on other occasions, you'll see them spraying bullets blindly from behind cover. They'll also exhibit other actions more along the lines of what you'd expect from a bunch of armed thugs. Likewise, your own teammates are prone to impressive feats of tactical expertise, as well as incredible stupidity. When ordered to hold position, they'll logically cover the area from every angle. They'll enter rooms while watching one another's back, and, in many cases, they'll save your hide. However, sometimes they'll throw grenades down at their feet, and sometimes they'll get stuck trying to get past one another. They'll also shout things to you long after the fact. Rainbow Six 3 is a realistic game, in general, so these occasional AI flukes tend to really stick out.
In addition to the campaign, there's also a cool "custom mission" option, which lets you delve into any of the levels you've seen in the campaign to take on enemies who will appear in different places each time. This adds some pretty good single-player replay value, since the core action of the game is pretty good. Unlike its Xbox counterpart, Rainbow Six 3 for the GameCube also features a two-player split-screen mode, allowing you and a friend to attempt any of the missions you've beaten in the campaign. The split-screen mode works well; it strips away the weapon models in a successful attempt to remove clutter from the screen and keep the frame rate up. For what it's worth, if one player is killed, he or she is out of the fight until the other player dies, completes the mission, or restarts the mission, so in this mode, it especially pays to stick together and keep your head down.
In the campaign missions, Rainbow Six 3 features a surprisingly intuitive, context-sensitive squad command system, which lets you issue orders to up to three other computer-controlled teammates. You just look at something and press the A button. Then your team will do what's natural, like advance to a new position, open a door and clear the next room, defuse a bomb, and so on. Sometimes there are more options available. For instance, pressing and holding A on a door allows you to order your team to toss a flashbang or frag grenade into the room before advancing. Or, if you'd prefer, you can order them to use a breaching charge to blow the door right open. You may also use what's called the "zulu go-code" to queue up an order for a specified time. The order is executed when you press the Z button, allowing you to coordinate simultaneous entry into a heavily fortified area. Additionally, the B button conveniently works as a toggle between ordering your team to form up behind you and ordering them to hold their positions.
Gun fanatics will love Rainbow Six 3's substantial variety of weapons. Various real-life pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, and light machine guns are each rated for accuracy, range, and power. You may fire any of these weapons from the hip, or you may use the scope if the weapon has one. You'll probably find that certain scoped submachine guns and assault rifles are far more effective than most of the other guns in the context of most of the game's scenarios, but, for the same reasons, such weapons are commonly used by real-life counterterrorist forces. The game features an interesting aiming system that, in a way, works opposite to what you'll find in games like Counter-Strike where your aiming reticle gets narrower when you're standing still to indicate that you'll be able to shoot within a more-precise area than if you were running around. In Rainbow Six 3, the aiming reticle is wider if you're standing still, and any enemy within this area will be auto-targeted. The reticle shrinks to a pinpoint when you're moving, forcing you to aim more precisely. This system works well with Rainbow Six 3, a console shooter that you can't play with the split-second pinpoint accuracy afforded by the mouse-and-keyboard controls used for PC shooters. For what it's worth, the game controls just fine on the GameCube's first-party gamepads. Rainbow Six 3 for the GameCube unfortunately looks closer in quality to its lackluster PlayStation 2 counterpart than to the great-looking Xbox version. Character animations are all right, in general, and the way tangos slump to the floor, lifeless, when struck by your fire is quite convincing. On the Xbox, you'd see blood splattered on the walls after a firefight or on the uniforms of injured team members, but such details are nowhere to be found here. Lighting and shadowing effects aren't so impressive, either, though at least the weapons look authentic. Character models both for friends and foes are also rather simple yet can be hard to see from afar due to the game's relatively low resolution. At least the frame rate is OK; it's not terribly smooth, but even in the split-screen mode, it tends to be good enough for comfort. While we're talking technical issues, it's worth reiterating that the game is plagued with lengthy loading times, which happen in between and during missions. These detract from the overall experience as long loading times always do.
As far as the audio is concerned, the weapon effects are certainly the highlight. These are some realistic-sounding guns, so you'd better keep the volume down or else a real-life counterterrorist unit might break into your home. The voice acting in the game is also well done. There's not much music in the game, save for a very nice opening theme and some slightly corny, sad-sounding acoustic guitar plucking that occurs when one of your team members is taken out. Unfortunately, there are a couple of really annoying sound effects for when you're injured; when you're low on health, you'll hear your character panting heavily as you run around, but it's just one sample looping repeatedly, and it's way too loud. When you're really low on health, you'll hear an obnoxiously loud heartbeat. It's enough to make you wish you could put a virtual bullet in your head. Or maybe that's just us.
Partly due to its lack of online play features and partly because it was released so much later than its counterparts, this particular version of Rainbow Six 3 is really only suitable for those who only have access to a GameCube and want a military-themed shooter. On its own merits, though, the GameCube version of Rainbow Six 3 certainly isn't bad, and it occasionally delivers some exciting and visceral shooting action.