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Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 (Xbox) artwork

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 (Xbox) review

"In one area, for example, the game warned me as I snuck through an alley that I should be careful not to be caught in a crossfire. Good advice, I figured, so I took things slowly and carefully. I made it through the alley just fine, so I signaled for my men to follow. And so they did, but they apparently galloped through and suddenly I lost one of my team as terrorist guns blazed. I dashed back and took out one of the terrorists myself, or losses may have been even more significant."

You are the hope of free-thinking people everywhere. You lead a squad of deadly men determined to protect our freedoms both home and abroad. In a novel by Tom Clancy, you would feel right at home. You ride cords down from helicopters, toss grenades into rooms and think later, and snipe soldiers from a great distance. But most importantly of all, your name is Ding. Ding Chavez, and you like your martinis shaken, not stirred.

The game, of course, is Rainbow Six 3, the latest in the beloved series inspired by novelist Tom Clancy (the fellow who wrote the books upon which movies such as Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games, The Sum of All Fears and even The Hunt for Red October were based). Which begs the question: why couldnít your name have been Jack Ryan? Why do you have to go through life with a name that sounds like itís short for Ďdingaling?í

But there are other concerns, and there are some who would say they cut deeper than any protagonistís name. Are the graphics of the variety that inspire drool? Is there good audio, a fine online component, and does your squad respond to you well as you move through the most fantastic situations the franchise has ever seen? To be honest, I canít really say.

The reasons for this are simple. The biggest culprit is the fact that Iíve not played the originals. The most I ever did was watch a friend at the dormitory play the original on his PC, die, re-spawn, then die again as terrorists sniped him from a vantage point unseen in the shadows ahead. He seemed to like that well enough, and I found quickly that my experience with the game mirrored his own.

When you first turn on the disc, youíll be treated to a beautiful cinema that tells the story. Apparently, terrorists have invaded a building in Boston. As events heat up, a squad breaks in to put a stop to the terror. They drop down from a helicopter near a street, while avoiding proximity mines. Quickly and efficiently, they break into the building and disable most of the terrorists, but not before the helicopter is blasted with a rocket that sends it careening down the inside of the building, rotors scraping against the building. The whole scene looks very cool and gets you pumped up to play.

Of course, itís followed by the actual game, which immediately feels underwhelming because youíre forced to go through a training mission before you can tackle the Ďrealí game. This was just fine with me, because I know my limitations and I embrace them like I would a favorite aunt. The slow start gave me the chance to learn the control scheme, which is actually quite intuitive. Your characterówho leads the squad and is thus not permitted to dieómoves with the left control stick. From there, he can creep up to a wall and press Ďleftí or Ďrightí on the d-pad to peer around corners and get a good idea of what lies ahead. Often, though, a door lies between him and the next room. Since thereís no way to be sure the path ahead is clear without risk, thatís where your team members come in.

The team is controlled mostly with the white button, and with the ĎAí button. The white button causes them to group behind you (if they feel like it; if they donít, theyíll say something negatory). The ĎAí button is more context-sensitive. Tap it while your cursor hovers over a door and the men will move to that position. Hold it down while facing a door, and youíll find a circular menu with four options for the men. You can then press a direction on the d-pad to choose your command. In this fashion, you can order your men to toss a frag bomb into a room, then clear it (so you can safely proceed), or you can convince them itís good to secure a hostage, or whatever.

As an additional perk, you also can tell the men to position themselves near a door, then run to another door, and give the order to clear and breach as you do the same from your end. This way, itís possible to attack a room from multiple sides simultaneously. By the time the training mode is over, all of this will feel like second nature.

My initial doubts about the game had evaporated by the time I finished training, and I grinned when the between-levels scenes informed me that the enemies I would face ahead would be unorganized and easily subdued. Unfortunately, that turned out to be rubbish. While itís true that they didnít have a network of communication, and attacked only in small groups of three or four, they rather easily picked off most of the members of my team. Soon, as I stormed a room with guns blazing (and almost instantly ran out of ammunition), I found the screen turning red as I collapsed to the ground. Game over.

The main reason I died is that Iím an impatient gamer. I like shooters, but Rainbow Six 3 is whatís called a Ďtactical shooter.í Translation: you have to move at a snailís pace throughout the whole area, or youíll wind up on the wrong side of the grass before you can say ĎDing has a funny first name.í Each alley is an opportunity to die, and you never know when an enemy will bite you on the butt. In one area, for example, the game warned me as I snuck through an alley that I should be careful not to be caught in a crossfire. Good advice, I figured, so I took things slowly and carefully. I made it through the alley just fine, so I signaled for my men to follow. And so they did, but they apparently galloped through and suddenly I lost one of my team as terrorist guns blazed. I dashed back and took out one of the terrorists myself, or losses may have been even more significant.

To put things bluntly, this game is hard. Fiendishly difficult, I would say, even on Ďeasyí mode (which is naturally the one I chose, since I suck at this type of game). Where Ghost Recon felt at least slightly like a standard shooter, this one really does not. The fact that you can fire a gun seems only vaguely relevant. The game is more about giving orders to your team and hoping they execute them well. Even in the first stage, the novelty of clearing rooms with grenades, then dashing inside to secure hostages got old rather quickly.

Thatís not to say there isnít more to the game. As you advance, youíll naturally gain new weapons you can use to give your men more creative commands. But no matter what happened, I could never quite shake the feeling that I was only passively involved. Itís just not my type of game, I guess.

But if itís your type of gameóand it likely is if youíre reading this review with interestóthen the picture becomes quite a bit murkier than the one Iíve painted thus far. This is because, for what it is, Rainbow Six 3 rocks.

I already mentioned the cool introductory video at the gameís opening. Thatís not the only one, either. Between missions, youíll be briefed on the continuance of the story, which involves oil and Venezuela and more terrorists than you can shake a stick at. Your superior will give you boring briefings, too, and in this way youíll feel that you have something invested in the story. Youíll want to see what happens next because, after all, the gameís plot is in the line of those oh-so-fascinating films you saw with Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck.

Visuals extend further than the cinematic interludes, too. Itís fun to look around the highly-detailed environments, where even the small things are tended to. In the first level alone, youíll see a snowplow parked along a fence with a bank of snow sliding down its blade. Youíll see stacks of wood, and crumbling pews in an old church, watch the snowy haze and see light from windows pouring out in the night air. Unfortunately, itís not really possible to shoot out windows, or visibly affect corpses you generate. Itís hard to make any real impact on your surroundings at all. Just the same, the game is quite atmospheric.

Sound also contributes to that effect. There are a lot of spoken lines of dialogue, and there also are the grunts and moans when enemies (or, if you suck like me, your own team members) are shot. It all sounds very much like a Hollywood production, and lends to the feeling that you really are watching men as they take out terrorists. Thereís even a rousing soundtrack to keep things real, though for me it played mostly when I died.

And die I did, as Iíve already mentioned. This game gives you lots of ways to die, in fact. Though I couldnít take advantage of it personally, thereís even the opportunity to play online so other people with funny names can snipe you from the comfort of their own living rooms. If thatís not exciting, well, I donít know what is.

So there you have it, a description of just about everything thatís right with this game, and everything that isnít. For fans of the series, I have every confidence that this latest entry is going to be absolutely thrilling (hence the generous score). It really is a special package. Unfortunately, Iím neither a fan of the series nor the subgenre. Iíll go back to the ones with bushels of body armor, thank you very much.

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Staff review by Jason Venter (April 06, 2004)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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