Rainbow Six Vegas 2 PC Review
Core 2 Duo 1.66GHz CPU
3GB DDR2 RAM
GeForce M 8800GTS
1GB RAM (2GB for Vista)
128MB SM3.0 Video
256MB SM3.0 Video
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2 is already out on the Xbox 360 and PS3, and just a couple of short weeks later, Ubisoft is now shipping the PC version. Running on Unreal Engine 3, this is yet another installment in the long-running tactical shooter genre - which is pretty much dominated by Ubisoft's Tom Clancy games. While the plot in the first game wasn't much to speak of, gamers who went through the single player campaign were probably still pretty miffed at the awkward cliffhanger ending; this one moves the plot right along nicely, and I think you'll find that overall Vegas 2 is an admirable sequel whose only issue is that it seems just a little too close to being a mere expansion pack.
It's pretty standard for a Rainbow Six game to have a higher level of realism than your average shooter. And over the years, we've seen the slow shift of the series from spending more time during the planning phase of a mission, to using more first-person shooter skills in firefights. Essentially, they've moved from simulation towards arcade - something that many genres and game series have done in the last decade. So now, you'll find that while bullet damage is still fairly realistic, your enemies' aim, response time, and tactics have been dumbed down to the point where you can do just a little Rambo now and then and as long as you still follow the game's "take the enemy by surprise" style of moving through rooms and clearing them one at a time.
You'll have a team of two people with you, too, and you'll need them if you want to move along without a lot of trial-and-error deaths. You can order them to follow you, hold position, move to a specific spot, and by hitting your "use" key, issue them a context-sensitive order to use certain objects you point at (prepare to breach a door, move to start rappelling, and more). Most of the time you'll have your team on follow, place them on either side of a door, and send them in, possibly with a flashbang preceding them, while you stand in the back and cover a specific angle into the room you're hitting. Or, you might go around the other side and plug your enemies through a window or another door.
The environments and levels in R6V2 aren't the most incredibly detailed you'll see on the PC, or even on the Unreal Engine, but they do their job well enough. Characters look good and move well, and I found that the shift to the third person perspective when taking cover actually seems to work better on the PC than it does on the 360 version of the game - it just seems to be a bit snappier and it disoriented me less when the enemies started creeping around to flank me. Vegas itself is pretty good to look at, but much like with the first game, it's still not as impressive as I had hoped for. Ubisoft's stated system requirements are particularly vague in the video card department, but anything decent in the nVidia 7000-series or better (or ATI x1800 or so) should do fine.
The rules for hiding and shooting from behind cover are the same here in Vegas 2. You hold a key to hide behind something, then hit a movement key to pop out from behind to take your shot. Use the zoom key to bust out the scope or use your iron sights, although you'll find that you don't need them much in the PC version since the weapons are pretty accurate and unless you're hip-firing a sniper rifle, you've always got a crosshair in the middle of your screen. You can also blind-fire your weapon from behind cover, a tactic that I'm not sure is actually used in real life that much. Not that it should matter here, as while this is certainly more sim-like than, say, Gears of War, we're not quite getting to Armed Assault levels of realism here. But hey, at least we can sprint now, which is something I never understood wasn't in more shooters. The ability to simply run when being shot at seems like such an integral part of a firefight; to me, omitting it in a modern shooter would be like giving the player guns that can't actually be reloaded.
The campaign takes about as long to complete as you'd expect an expansion pack to last, and then there's the Terrorist Hunt mode where you can set up a map with customized numbers of enemies to take out. This mode can be played alone or online with others, or you can always get together and do the versus modes as well. If you played the hell out of the first Vegas, by this point you will realize that this is pretty much just a stand-alone expansion pack. With very little in the way of new features and just a short continuation of the story on (what is an admittedly large number of) new maps, you might be wondering why Vegas 2 has a $50 price tag. Well, folks, that's pretty much what it's come to; at least when Ubisoft was making yearly installments in the Prince of Persia and Splinter Cell games they at least felt like entirely new entries. This one, unfortunately, does not. It's no different on consoles, except over there they pay an extra ten bucks for their expansion packs.
Still, Vegas 2 offers a few small additions that don't add much in the big picture, but they're nice to have. One of these is the ability to level up your character by killing enemies, both in single player and multiplayer modes, and you'll gain points for killing them in pretty much any way other than shooting them at medium range, center-of-mass, out in the open. Headshots, from behind, long range, through cover, with explosives, and more will help you level up faster, all of which goes towards unlocking new guns as well as gear that let you improve your ability to take hits (though, a full burst at close range is still gonna finish you off almost regardless of armor) and move quickly. You'll also get to make the trade-off of armor versus mobility with quite a few gear choices. You choose the gender or your character Bishop, too, and can configure the face and even use a webcam to upload your own mug for pasting onto the shot. Let's just say that that feature is great for listing on the back of the box but horrible in practice; most webcams won't get a clear enough picture to look even half-usable in the game.
The online modes are where people will likely spend at least half their time with this game, and some will be spending much more than that. For the most part, these work fine and the game comes with a nice selection of perks that online PC games need for longevity: dedicated servers, voice chat (although what's the lack of push-to-talk?), a decent in-game browser, a first patch out already with a set of fairly small fixes, and the ability to fiddle with game rules to match your liking.
Rainbow Six Vegas 2 isn't terribly exciting when played alone, but it is solid when you go online. Teamwork is rewarded much more than in many games, and while this game won't ever match the popularity of some of the best online PC shooters in history, it will carve its own niche pretty well: it's for people who think Call of Duty is too twitchy and unrealistic but also dislike Armed Assault for its staunch, soul-crushing realism. It's a good place to be for Ubisoft, but let's just hope that with the next round we get more than what amounts to a pretty good expansion pack for our fifty bucks.