Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2
Early in 2007, when our own Duncan Lawson reviewed the original Rainbow Six Vegas, he greeted the arrival of Ubisoft's action title with the word 'viva', and stated that players will get out of the game exactly what they are prepared to invest. Over 15 months later, and all of 2007's wealth of console shooter games, and it is surprising how very little has changed.
The cynical amongst you might suggest that a continuation of this ilk might be best delivered as a cut-price add-on pack, but with the 'next-generation' (why do people insist on calling it that?) now well and truly with us, a plot continuation with a few gameplay improvements and expansions now qualifies as a full-priced sequel.
To a certain extent then, those of you that enjoyed the first Vegas will no doubt find plenty more pleasure to be had in this sequel - and if you didn't appreciate Ubi's last romp through the city of sin then you're unlikely to be enamoured with this fresh adventure, either.
Still, with column inches to fill and several hours before the pub opens, it seems as if I should qualify my thoughts on Vegas 2 with a little more actual writing. Boo, and indeed, hiss.
First things first the singleplayer sees us once again following Bishop and his team into all manner of dangerous situations. Seven story-progressing 'acts' cover 25 scenes - each of which take a few minutes to complete. The plot is more intimate and plausible than last time around, although the telling of it hasn't really improved - text-book dialogue coupled with de facto characterisation means that Vegas 2 won't be worrying BioShock on the immersive script front anytime soon.
That said, what we are offered is enough to hold the first-person shooter action together in solid faction, and this will probably be enough for fans of the tactical squad-action shooter genre. What is less pleasing to see, however, is that the game can be wrapped-up in less than eight hours, probably nearer six, depending on the difficulty setting you opt for. Disappointing, given the lack of all-out overhaul elsewhere in the game.
Luckily, Ubisoft's attention to polish once again aids immersion beyond the plot, mission-briefings take place in the helicopter traveling between tasks, the player kept in the thick of things thanks to the pleasing absence of text and pauses from these important segments. Rather, players learn about what awaits them via chatter between co-combatants, with Vegas swimming alluringly below the chopper as you swing towards battle.
A word on the visuals, then, which are more than up to the task still - despite being largely unchanged from the first Vegas game. Once again, the Unreal Engine 3 is employed and does its job admirably, although there is absolutely no chance of Vegas 2 impressing in any way compared to the last year's raft of top-notch action games.
The game kicks-off in the French Alps, and the opening vistas count among the some of the best environments in the game, even if the casinos, hotels, car parks and roof-tops of Las Vegas itself are probably a little more detailed at least some of the time. There's just enough variety, during the short singleplayer campaign, to stop things getting stagnant too, although it won't be a surprise if Ubisoft don't offer us a Vegas 3 in the same locale.
Gameplay-wise, there have been a few modifications from Vegas 1. For starters, the recharging health-bar means that proceedings are little easier, and re-loading is less frequent as you can duck and wait for your health to improve, rather than having to desperately seek out immersion-breaking health packs, fruit or, errm, vending machines. This mechanic worked well in Call of Duty 4, and it does the job here. You can also instruct your AI squad mates to do much of your initial bidding, clearing rooms with flash-bangs and spearheading assaults with easy-to-use waymark-pointing.
Indeed, if you want, you'll be able to follow in your comrades wake much of the time - mopping up only the most persistent of foes. Alternatively, the heroes among you can lead from the front, having your team-mates back you up in flanking maneuvers and the like. The choice is yours, and there is a certain amount of freedom over how 'scenes' are tackled as you progress. Naturally, the squad controls are as intuitive as last time around.
Your team-mate AI is, crucially, very solid much of the time, and they won't get themselves killed too frequently, seemingly being rather tougher than yourself, and also occasionally averse to all-out suicide (despite the machinations of your directions). Frequent save-points also ensure the game doesn't get too repetitive, although some of the scenes are very tricky indeed, depending on your difficulty choice.
A new XP system (which gives you points for having completed the first Vegas, helpfully) has also been implemented, and this clever system helps keep the game compelling - rewarding you for standard and specialised kills (sniping, close-quarters, etc). As you progress towards Elite status, you'll be given new guns and other useful tools which, crucially, you can then take with you into online play using the heavily customised character you created at the game's outset.
Multiplayer is where the game will finally begin to pay back the investment for some players, and the two-player singleplayer co-op action is well-implimented, as are all the online modes - which see you battling up to 15 other combatants. There are certainly enough modes and maps to keep even the most hardened Vegas clan happy, and there are a myriad of settings to play with too.
Given the useful implementation of the XP system, we're inclined to be rather impressed with the multiplayer side of Vegas 2, specifically the manner in which it makes the singleplayer action more compelling. What we have here is a very solid FPS entry, then, albeit one that hasn't moved on much in the last year or so. This is the benchmark by which Vegas 2 should perhaps ultimately be judged, because while our stay in the city of sin has been an enjoyable and occasionally engrossing one, we won't be needing to revisit anytime soon.