"...Rainbow Six Vegas has the moves and looks of a great game, but it unfortunately lacks the heart or identity of one."
If you're a fan of shooters, the formula found in Rainbow Six Vegas won't be a new one to you; if you're considering this game - either as a buy or a rental - you've probably played similar games before. Rainbow Six Vegas relies on cover based combat, in the same vein as Gears of War; instead of being a space marine fighting off alien forces, you're now a member of Rainbow Six, fighting off terrorists who have taken over Las Vegas. That, however, is about where the differences end; the cover mechanics, controls, and even the mission structures at times have a tendency to feel like so many games you've already played. In short, Rainbow Six Vegas has the moves and looks of a great game, but it unfortunately lacks the heart or identity of one.
Rainbow Six Vegas is powered by the Unreal 3 engine, which means it’s bound to look better than passable on every available platform. The visuals on the PS3 version are serviceable to the hardware, but they don't do much to blow away either. The level design is most critical part of Vegas, and it's unfortunately here that the game is both made and broken. During the bookend parts of the game (that is, the beginning and the end), the levels will feel varied and interesting, but a large chunk of the middle of the game will leave you feeling like you're doing something you just did one mission ago. On at least one occasion in the game, it will shamelessly admit that there's no variety: after fighting your way into a hotel, the game turns you around and asks you to fight your way back out of it; no alternate routes here, no different scenery; just go out the same way you came in, fighting the same fights as you go along. Admittedly the most monotonous sections of the game are brief, but they can be quite annoying nonetheless.
The rest of Vegas’ visuals are a passable. The textures are okay, the models and animation are fluid enough to work, and some of the graphics effects can even be downright awe-inspiring the first few times you see them in action (the way the color drains out of focus as you're taking damage comes to mind, as does the nifty audiovisual effect after a flashbang blows up in your face). Even calling the graphics merely adequate, however, it still wouldn't be by any stretch fair to leave you thinking the game is going to be ugly. Even in those moments when the textures don't pop in evenly - and yes, you will experience more than a few instances of texture pop-in - or a texture just looks a bit too fuzzy, you'll barely feel detracted from the mood of the game.
The gameplay in Rainbow Six Vegas is entertaining, even if you'll constantly feel as though you're experiencing déjà vu. The cover mechanic is reminiscent of Gears of War, except now you don't have the ability to smoothly transition between one surface and another; instead you have to remove yourself from the surface, move over to the next one, and re-cover yourself there. I can't help but feel that the system would have been more smooth and intuitive - and yes, even useful - if I could just hit a direction and a face button to jump to a parallel or perpendicular surface for cover. The game pulls you out for a third-person view when you're behind cover, enabling you to use a target reticule for blind fire. Unfortunately it does little good since you're not very likely to actually be able to hit an enemy using blind fire. Nevertheless, on those extremely rare moments when you can take a few blind shots from behind cover and take out an enemy, you will feel an extreme sense of awesomeness at that, which makes the feature seem worthwhile even if it is mostly wasted potential. As soon as you stick your head out from behind cover, the camera goes back to first-person; this constant shift from first-person to third-person and then back to first-person can become disorienting and even make you nauseous at first, but after a while you'll get used to it, and once you do the system works just fine.
The game also gives you various opportunities to perform other cool moves throughout the game. You can quick line down through a skylight into a room filled with terrorists, and the thrill of watching your character drop down into the thick of the action can be quite an exciting spectacle. You can also rappel down the side of a building at times; the rappel mechanics are very cool additions to the core gameplay, but at times it starts to feel like the developers just sort of made it their go-to feature when they were out of other, more creative things to do in a given level. During a rappel segment, you hang outside of a window and shoot through the window into the room, catching a room full of terrorists off guard and usually taking one or two out before having to climb back up and wait for things to settle down. For better aiming opportunies, you can flip your character upside down, which will provide a better range of aiming options, but also means your movement is slower and it leaves your head more exposed to those troublesome headshots that will take you down in one hit. You can also breach into the room through the window, and which point you will watch your character push himself off of the building and go crashing through the window into the room. All of these moments manage to be rather exciting when you don't feel like it was overused. The only flipside - logical or illogical as it may be - to the rappel sequences is that you can only use your pistol for shooting; I can understand why you couldn't use a submachine gun or shotgun while rappelling off the side of a building, but it was something of a missed opportunity to not be able to shoot out a window and throw a grenade into the room. That would be an awesome addition that would still seem logical and realistic, and it would allow for another tactical way to approach situations.
The game gives you a fairly wide variety of equipment to choose and take with you on your missions. Even though there are different gun types, the different guns within each type feel identical. Once you choose that you want a shotgun, which particular shotgun you take with you into the mission feels very inconsequential. The game gives each weapon stats to make you feel like you have to weigh out your options, but at the end of the day it all becomes pretty much irrelevant. Just choose a gun type and select the specific model at random (or, if you're insistent on making every decision account for something, pick the one with the highest ammo capacity). Even though each gun model feels identical to every other gun model of the same type, each gun type does manage to feel unique and satisfying. The difference between a sniper rifle, a shotgun, and a submachine gun will be immediately obvious, and different scenarios will let you play different gun types to their fullest advantage. For instance, some missions are great for giving you lots of opportunities for you to hide out above and take pot shots at enemies below with a sniper rifle; other missions will throw you in a room full of enemies and let you make excellent use of a machine gun or submachine gun; others might throw you up against well-armored terrorists, allowing you to reap the benefits of bringing along a shotgun. All of these different decisions play well into the overall game, but to make the best decision for each scenario will require a bit of trial and error to know what equipment is best for any given mission.
Rainbow Six Vegas isn't an extremely long or challenging affair. A well-motivated, seasoned player can wipe out this game in a few sittings. You can play through the story coop with a buddy via PSN or split-screen, but the game strangely omits cut scenes in favor of static screens with an objective when you play the game in coop. Otherwise the coop story mode is identical to what you get alone, except with a real human assistant instead of AI helpers. It can be a lot more fun to plan out strategies with a human companion - particularly if they're sitting next to you playing the game split-screen - but that, too, comes with a cost: the game is much easier with two humans. With respawning turned on, the only way to fail a mission is to have one team member die while the other one is still in line to respawn. The unfortunate downside to the coop story mode is that, while the game is considerably easier in coop, some missions can take upwards of thirty minutes to complete, and they don't come with any sort of mid-level checkpoints. If you're twenty-five minutes into a thirty-minute mission and both of you die, you have to start the whole mission over again. This can grind on your nerves are a bit, and it makes you wonder why mid-level checkpoints weren't used.
All things considered Rainbow Six Vegas is a fun game to play through, even if it doesn't feel too original or some of the concepts feel half-baked. It's not going to be mind-blowing, it's not going to be a game you should rush out and make a special effort to get your hands on, but if you pay a reasonable price and don't go out of your way to play Rainbow Six Vegas, you'll have a good time and won't have any real reason to be disappointed about the fact that you did so.