After playing through the way too short, but painful hell that was Tomorrow Never Dies, I was really looking forward to the Playstation port of the excellent PC game Rainbow Six, but after spending some quality time with this one, I was left wondering why I keep getting visited by the Good Idea, Poorly Executed Final Product Fairy. This is yet another truly disappointing licensed game, and one that actually does its source material little justice. As much as I disliked the Phantom Menace game, at least that one was true to the movie- Rainbow Six on the PS is so diluted from the original as to seem like a cheap copy, put out by someone to make some quick cash off of unsuspecting gamers. Yes, it has loads of real weapons and tactical gear, and of course, as the manual says- " it's like no other game out there", but crucial things like decent graphics and control are so poorly done, that you wish that the developer would have spent a lot more time, and created a completely NEW gaming experience using more (or all) of the Playstation's capabilities. I usually cut console ports of PC games a whole lot of slack (not everyone owns a PC, and ports of games like Quake II and Command and Conquer give them a chance to see a bit of what they're missing), but in this case, I have to go with the PC version.
The funny thing here is, the developer is Rebellion, who created what was probably the best game for the Atari Jaguar, Alien Vs. Predator (they also did a superior PC update of the game earlier this year). Then again, they also did Checkered Flag, one of the worst Jag carts, so I guess the pendulum swings both ways. In any event, things get off to a nice start, with stirring music, and a nice female voice giving us a little backstory, but the CG movie that acompanies this looks as if they shot it through a dirty window on a foggy day! The motion capture was great, though, even if the frame rate was chuggy. The actual demo footage reminded me of some first generation PS demos- you know, the ones that ran in a low-resolution with a bit of a choppy look to them. Little did I know...
Rainbow is the codename of the elite anti-terrorist squad you're part of, and the first thing you want to do is head for the training level, to get used to thinking, moving and acting like a member of said squad, and not just another hotshot run-and-gunner, as this will get you (and your teammates) killed in no time flat! The Training Course is pretty well laid out, but a bit plain graphically. I didn't mind this too much, as it looked a lot like what I'd imagined it would be. Controls are a bit complex, and RS uses every button on the controller, including combos for things like switching weapons, reloading and sidestepping. If you want to get past the first level, it's a good idea to read the manual, and practice for an hour or so, until the controls are second nature. In fact, as you go through the game, a good idea is to hit the Training Course to hone your skills even more- trust me, you'll need it!
The actual game itself is where things get to be problematic- first of all, the big change from the PC version is that you control each team member individually, rather then having them move on their own, with their own AI! This basically forces you to play the game like the any old first person shooter, but with three lives, instead of one. This gets frustrating fast, since at first, each team member has certain skills that can be utilized, and should be equipped accordingly to their capabilities- you don't want the guy with the lockpicks to be camped out on a fire escape near an open window, or anything like that. As I was coming to grips with this, I kept gettin a feeling in the back of my mind that I'd played a better version of this game, a long time ago, but I couldn't put a finger on it. Anyway, the game looks awful- I know that the PC game was a bit simple-looking compared to games like Half-Life or Quake II, but all the rooms in this port are full of bland colors, matchstick tables and chairs, and badly textured boxes against worse textured walls resembling bookcases, beds, couches, and the like. There are some nice lighting effects, and some of the outdoor areas have a few nice touches, but on the whole, it looks very first-generation! The game moves slowly, and I really don't have a gripe there-stealth is key in most of the missions. But when i got stuck on first a table, and then two door frames, I started to get a bit heated.
Another big problem is the simple act of opening a door or hatchway- it seems as if you have to move away from the door, then open it, before you peek out into a hallway or into a room. This ruins the element of a speedy surprise, if that's your plan, because you'll end up running into the doorframe, and getting stuck, while the hooded terrorists bear down on you, guns blazing... or not! Half the time I was stumbling about, i came across a few of these guys who were standing around like cardboard cutouts (and they really look like that, too!), sitting ducks, if you will- and the other half, i was getting shot down by the same guys, who just happened to be a little more alert! If you lose a life, you end up having to take over one of the remaining commandoes, but any of the goons you've taken out comes back to life! Not only is this unfair, it forces the player to actually waste ammo in some cases, when instead you could jus pick up where the last guy left off! There is no music during missions, which is great- the last thing you need is to be hearing are nice tunes, instead of the breathing of an armed terrorist through a wall- although when a team member buys it, you get a sort of short, heroic "died in the service of his country" theme.
I was halfway through the third mission, when it hit me- the game I was thinking about earlier was Space Hulk on the 3DO, another first person tactical shooter, in which you controlled a group of interstellar armored soldiers on increasingly difficult missions. In that game, you could send out as many guys as you wanted,and toggle between them on the fly. It wasn't the fastest game on the planet, but it was something that should have been studied while this game was being made- I think it would have made a bigger difference in the finished product. As it is, Rainbow Six on the Playstation is a highly flawed strategic action game that could have been a whole lot better, if it had been redone from the ground up. I'm sure it will sell like hotcakes, and a lot of patient folks will spend lots of time learning all the ins and outs of the game. Perhaps the sequel, Rogue Spear, will be much better....on the PS2. If you want a really great mission-based tactical game (with a two-player mode), go with Medal of Honor- you'll feel just as patriotic, and learn a little history too!
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