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Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas (PSP) artwork

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas (PSP) review

"We know that special-ops missions must often be unromantic, behind-the-scenes dirty work, but the developers must have forgotten that Vegas is a game. Because nothing is so disappointing about it as the fact that it never feels like we’re in Vegas."

There is something inherently cool about navigating a hushed corridor, peeking around the corner, and sniping a couple of patrolling terrorists who never see it coming. The thrill that a competent special-ops game elicits is undeniable. Rainbow Six: Vegas provides this rush for the duration of its short five-level life, which is the very best thing which can be said about it; it’s a decent romp, nothing more.

This is extremely regrettable, because Vegas fails to cash in on easy opportunities to really shine and be special. For starters, though the adventure ostensibly takes place in Las Vegas, don’t expect to rush the roulette tables guns blazing. Instead, “TEAM ARMSTRONG” (comprised of Brian Armstrong and Shawn Rivers) faces the far less exciting prospect of freedom fighting at generic and bland locales with names like “Water Filtration Plant’ and “The Dam.” We know that special-ops missions must often be unromantic, behind-the-scenes dirty work, but the developers must have forgotten that Vegas is a game. Because nothing is so disappointing about it as the fact that it never feels like we’re in Vegas.

If we can look past the forgettable locations in which you must do battle, the actual play mechanics are sometimes inspiring. The game’s shining moments occur when you make use of cover. Crouching and creeping towards a cluster of crates, peering out over top of them, pressing your back against them, peeking around them, lining up your crosshairs for the precise moment when you will pop up and fire a single headshot before dropping back down to reclaim invisibility. This is Vegas at its very best, and it’s exciting. It’s the stuff of cowboys and Indians games that boys play and never really seem to want to stop playing.

While all of this is going on, an appropriately The Rock (the movie, not the wrestler) inspired soundtrack weighs in on the importance of your skillful actions. Unfortunately, immediately after you drink in that first kill and its pompous song, several problems emerge. The terrorist who you didn’t just gun down, may freak out and go into “alert mode” – or, disappointingly, he may just walk by his fallen comrade and ignore him completely. This is made easier by the fact that fallen foes vanish into thin air very shortly after buying it.

The AI troubles don’t stop there: if you make noise while entering a room, a nearby terrorist will probably go into alert mode. If you’re unlucky, he’ll catch a glimpse of you and open fire. Following his barrage, he will more than likely ask “Is that you Bob?” And what if it was? What would follow? “Shit, Bob. My bad.”

Murdering Bob and his friends is achieved with the usual guns and grenades. The sniper rifle seems like good fun at first because it allows for long distance headshot kills – with only a single bullet. But the excitement takes a serious hit when you realize that you can one-shot kill enemies with shots to the knee, shoulder, crotch – you name it.

You’ll confirm this by accident and you’ll instantly feel less elite and more “don’t look at me, anything seems to work here…” Anything, that is, except for your grenades, which usually miss their intended target (I’ve had them hit door frames and fall back at my feet) and when they don’t, the damage they inflict is decidedly underwhelming (except when you blow yourself up – then they’re VERY effective).

As it turns out, the best way to play Vegas is actually to run around doling out semi-automatic bursts, using the lock-on function to help ensure success. This is Brian’s world. Sadly, for the sections where the game forces you to take control of Shawn, you’ll have much less fun with the plodding pace that aiming with his sniper rifle demands.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll wonder what the hell Shawn is doing when Brian inevitably gets in a jam (Brian is beset by broken elevators and power outages on the regular) and team leader Joanna yells (and I mean YELLS) at Shawn to lend a hand. We always find Shawn ready and willing to assist, because he’s usually just sitting around doing nothing at all (plus he's a videogame Brit). At least Shawn is voiced well, which is more than can be said for the deadpan Brian and the irritating, shrieky Joanna, who together do much to turn top secret spiel into a thing of kitsch. Ultimately, when the ‘twists’ come (when you lose contact with one group member or the other), you’ll be too busy laughing at them to care.

What’s also funny is how during timed “HELP BRIAN” missions that Shawn must struggle to complete, we can often see Brian succumb to terrorists without even trying to defend himself. Indeed, these sequences are the only real challenge Vegas provides – sometimes it’s hard to see just who is pinning down your useless comrade, and exactly where, until it’s too late. Aside from that, plentiful ammo and closely spaced checkpoints make this experience a short and mostly painless one. Which is perfect, because with all of its flaws, you wouldn’t want Vegas to last any longer.

You’ll also not want to replay Vegas, despite unlocking “Terro Hunt” (essentially the same boring locales with terrorists randomly dropped in), and a stage select mode after beating the game. There are some nice cloak-and-dagger touches like using a ‘snake-cam’ to see through doors and mark enemy positions – but they sound a lot more helpful and cutting edge than they really are. All told, Rainbow Six: Vegas is flawed but sufficiently exciting FPS special-ops action, and it’s a viable option for shoot-em-up carousing on a roadtrip. Disappointingly, you can see where it promised to be more, to be something greater, and failed to deliver.

Rating: 6/10

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (August 26, 2008)

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EmP posted August 27, 2008:

This is a clever review, probably your best in your most recent bash. I like how you made your points, but did so in an amusing way. Particularly good lines where the ones about the dumb things enemies yell out when giving up a gunfight yell out and how the game may as well be set anywhere, making the Vegas moniker obsolete. It's full of funny, but important, lines like this.

I’m glad I went through all the effort of making you a focus window for it.
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Masters posted August 27, 2008:

Haha, that's too much. Clearly, *I* was the one who did the focus window job, even if you had to tech support me through it (alright, fine, so I was hopeless without the handholding...).

Anyway, thanks a bunch for reading and for liking it so much. I was glad to finally type it up and submit it; I had it written for some time.

Sadly, even with this submission, my backlog is only increasing. :(
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honestgamer posted August 27, 2008:

This really was a good review. I think it was longer than most of your recent stuff, but it also was an interesting read throughout.

I thought the observations about how this is supposed to be a game set in Vegas but doesn't really feel like it were really telling. Plus I liked your bits about Brian and Shawn because they made the game seem more personal and also made it easier to laugh at the shortcomings you described.

As a whole, this was a really entertaining review for what sounds like a disappointingly bland FPS for the PSP. I got a real sense for how things worked and by the time I finished reading, I felt almost like I had played the game. This is the sort of review that manages the perfect balance between entertaining and informative, a tough thing to do indeed!
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Suskie posted August 27, 2008:

I’m glad I went through all the effort of making you a focus window for it.

Yeah, you just redeemed whoever put in that god awful, poorly resized image of the wrong Turok game.
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Masters posted August 27, 2008:

Thanks for the positive feedback Venter. I actually wrote the review the old fashioned way right after beating it, on the plane. That's pretty telling, considering I could have replayed it, or delved into the unlockables in greater depth -- I wrote about how disappointed I was instead.
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EmP posted August 27, 2008:

Sorry, Suskie, your shot was in vain; your example was not my doing. Better luck next time around.

Or, instead of taking childish shots at things you don't like, you could actually fix problems such as they. Staff are expected to do such things. I know, it means doing something other then make puzzling topic hijack attempts, but if you try really hard, I'm sure you can pull it off.
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WilltheGreat posted August 27, 2008:

Bitter EmP is bitter.
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EmP posted August 27, 2008:

I'm not bitter. I'm just an arse.
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Suskie posted August 27, 2008:

That wasn't aimed at you at all, EmP. I would never even think about jumping to conclusions about who makes poor decisions with the focus window. Why, that would be silly of me.
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wolfqueen001 posted August 27, 2008:

Edit: Dammit. Ruined my joke.

And yeah; that was a fun review. Haha. Bob? Seriously?
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EmP posted August 27, 2008:

The aim is not a concern; I was befuddled as to the baffling reasons for why the shot was fired at all and the just-as-puzzling choice of location.

I've walked Masters through the finer arts of making a focus window. If you're having trouble being able to edit away ones you find unacceptable, I'll be happy to do the same with you.
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Masters posted August 27, 2008:

Thanks wolfqueen. I'm sifting through the rubble of this battle to find pleasant gems of encouraging feedback. =D
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Suskie posted August 28, 2008:

Hmm... A comment on the focus window in a thread where the subject of the focus window had already come up twice? Oh yeah, good luck getting to the bottom of that one.
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WilltheGreat posted August 28, 2008:

This topic sucks and is now about Masters' review.

Oh wait. That's what it was about in the first place before two staff members derailed it.
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Masters posted August 28, 2008:

Haha, well one of those two staff members made the topic in the first place, so I guess staffers are not all bad! :P
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overdrive posted August 28, 2008:

We aren't?

Oh, anyway, this was a good review. Like said before, the "Bob" part cracked me up. "Shit, Bob, my bad!"

And I agree. When you set a game in a distinct, recognizable area, you HAVE to take advantage of that, as opposed to just using generic level sites that could be put in any similar sort of game. It's like with the first scenario Duke Nukem 3-D, you start out with three cool levels (two city and one prison), but then have a sewer-type place and a outdoors canyon (standard FPS stuff). Then, the second scenario is completely in a moonbase. The third scenario got things back to cool, detailed city/buildings levels, but that extended period of time in which the game was in "generic FPS" mode did nothing but make me realize that I liked Doom II a lot more than this game.
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Suskie posted August 29, 2008:

I'm all bad.
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Genj posted August 29, 2008:

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Masters posted August 29, 2008:

Duke Nukem 3-D, baha I haven't heard the name Duke Nukem for a loooong time. Is that game worth checking out?
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overdrive posted August 29, 2008:

Solid for FPS fans. Personally, I prefer Doom II by a ways, but Duke Nukem has its moments. Especially with some of the third scenario locations. You have a grocery store, sushi bar, bank, hotel, etc. and the boss fight's in a football (American, not EmPican, variety).

If you get Atomic Edition, like I did, the fourth scenario also was pretty cool.

Whatever you do, NEVER get the PS1 version. Ugly and chopped down. Seem to recall a number of secret levels were trimmed.

EDIT: Actually, I think some of the third scenario levels I mentioned might be in the fourth. Been a while since I played it....

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