Rainbow Six: Lockdown is the sequel to last year's excellent Rainbow Six 3, which won our 2004 Mobie award for best strategy game. Lockdown reprises its predecessor's basic gameplay, adding larger maps, different types of strategic encounters, and one broken helicopter level. Despite some general slowdown issues, and some enemy encounters that are uncharacteristically poorly designed, Lockdown is a good update to an excellent game.
In Lockdown, you face the notorious GLF, a nasty terrorist organization. These guys are not to be taken lightly, as they've managed to secure dozens and dozens of hostages. The GLF seems incredibly indecisive as to what to do with these hostages, however, and generally just lets them sit around in odd corners of offices and warehouses.
You'll command a force of up to four elite operatives of various nationalities, although they generally act as one unit. Aside from potentially enabling you to form the world's deadliest barbershop quartet, having more than one agent at your disposal simply provides you with more firepower, and gives you a fallback should one of your gun-toting loafers succumb to the torrents of bullets piercing his flesh. You can also now command your troops to hold their ground, so that they form a circle and fire at whatever approaches. There are points in the game when you face waves of enemies, and this becomes strategically necessary.
You'll spend most of your time, however, sneaking up behind dudes and slitting their throats. All enemies--apart from the ones peeking out of windows or running directly at you--have defined patrol paths. You'll have to be sure to kill each enemy out of sight of his comrades, or any nearby hostages will immediately be executed and you'll lose the level. Fortunately, save points are frequent, so it's not too difficult to retry a sequence dozens of times. At its best, Lockdown feels more like a puzzle game than a strategy game.
At its worst, Lockdown attempts to impose real-time, button-mashing combat on you. In these instances, the game's control is simply inadequate. In one memorable instance, you must knife a line of five guards in rapid succession, without alerting anyone in the formation. Unfortunately, you have to press the zero key each time you need to draw the knife for use, then another key to slash throats. There's a bit of a cooldown period after each kill, as well, making this sequence an exercise in frustration. The helicopter level is even worse, as it's crippled by slowdown and simply feels broken. The game will hang for seconds at a time, and your controls will lock up. During these periods, you'll still take damage, but your fire will be ineluctably focused on the point at which you last fired. Fortunately, you'll only have to endure this once, and then it's back to slicing and shooting.
Lockdown's levels are invariably large and lushly detailed, with numerous alcoves in which to conceal the glittering surface of your assault rifle's handle. There are about five different types of enemies. The more dangerous ones are made conspicuous by the giant skulls, floating several inches above their heads. In general, Lockdown looks good on the Sony Ericsson S710. The frame rates are fairly consistent, except during the helicopter sequence.
The game's music is pretty good as well. A rousing score, reminiscent of the 8-bit Metal Gears, plays over the game's splash screen. In the game, you'll mostly hear sound effects associated with achieving small goals, like reuniting with a team member or killing an enemy. It's strange that gunfire sounds are absent, though.
Rainbow Six: Lockdown doesn't depart greatly from its antecessor, which is just fine. The environments in which you engage terrorists have been significantly expanded and, the problems enumerated above notwithstanding, are fun and challenging. Strategy fans are not sufficiently catered to on mobile, and Lockdown is therefore a welcome addition to Cingular's lineup.