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Rainbow Six 3
Review By: Jared Black
 
Developer:  Ubisoft Shanghai
Publisher:  Ubisoft
# Of Players:  1-2 (6 online)
Genre:  Squad-based FPS
ESRB:  Mature
Online:  Yes
Accessories:  Memory Card, USB Headset, Network Adaptor
Date Posted:  4-27-04

When Ubisoft brought over Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell early last year, they did a good job of matching the experience as close to the Xbox version as possible while working within the limitations of the aging PS2 hardware.  Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3 arrives in similar fashion, although it’s hurt a lot worse by the platform switch. A great Xbox game has become merely a good PS2 one, although it’s still worth a look for Xbox-less (and without a decent gaming PC) fans of the genre.

In case you aren’t familiar with the franchise, Rainbow Six 3 places the gamer in the role of Ding Chavez.  Ding is, of course, one of the major players in a number of Tom Clancy novels including…you guessed it…Rainbow Six.  As field leader of Team Rainbow, Ding traverses through a variety of locations eliminating terrorists, rescuing hostages, defusing bombs, and completing other objectives as warranted.  This is done with the help of up to three teammates, which follow Ding’s orders without question.  The console versions actually streamline the original PC concept quite a bit, removing most of the pre-stage planning (like setting up waypoints) while leaving the action wholly intact.  I won’t bore you with the details, but the result is a game much more suited to a controller and TV/couch setup than prior console conversions.

Ding issues orders to his teammates via a command menu.  Once the menu is brought up, it’s a simple activity of pressing in the direction of the action the team should carry out.  This is context sensitive, so a different set of actions will appear depending on what Ding is currently looking at.  If he’s looking at a door, actions such as “open and clear” and “breach and clear” will be available.  If he’s looking at a bomb, “demo up” will be the action to choose.  Ding can also issue orders with Zulu codes, which basically mean “when I say go” and are useful in storming into a room from two sides.  Thankfully the PS2 version also supports voice recognition to simplify the process (when it works correctly), using the same set of orders available in the Xbox version.

The single player game is all about coordinating the team and issuing orders, and it’s here where the PS2’s limitations really hurt the experience.  Due to the weaker hardware, Ubisoft had to chop up the original Xbox levels by not only removing alternate routes but also many of the details (boxes, office supplies, etc.) that littered the world before.  There are also fewer enemies, which often left me wondering if I simply missed some along the way.  While the barren levels weren’t a huge deal in Splinter Cell, they are here because gameplay involves a team instead of merely one man.  These chopped up levels offer fewer locations to utilize teamwork, removing many of the areas where tactics using Zulu codes or flanking enemies were used before.  You take away that and you take away most of what the franchise is about.  The result is a game that feels more like a straight-up FPS than a squad-based tactical game.  PS2 owners probably won’t know what they’re missing, but they will know that the game doesn’t live up to all the accolades the Xbox version received.

There are other minor quibbles, such as the lack of an onscreen map (replaced by a radar) that hurt the PS2 port as well.  Surprisingly though, the stripped-down port actually makes the stealth level I complained about in my Xbox review more enjoyable.  Basically I complained that the game engine isn’t suited to that style of play, and that complaint still holds true here.  However, since there are fewer paths and enemies to deal with in the level it’s a lot easier to navigate (and get out of the way) in the PS2 version.

Rainbow Six 3 is still my favorite Xbox Live game, and unfortunately the PS2 version suffers online as well.  The most noticeable downgrade is that the game only supports a maximum of six players now, whereas up to 16 could compete on Live.  The result is an empty feeling when playing online (even compared to other online PS2 games), with a lot less action and a lot more searching for someone to shoot.  It’s still fun, just not as fun.

To their credit Ubisoft didn’t just cut stuff out, as the PS2 (and upcoming GCN) version features an additional single-player level (Trieste) and a co-op mode.  The co-op mode features the single-player levels that were converted into online levels on Xbox, and does allow gamers without broadband Internet access some form of multiplayer mode to enjoy.

Graphically, it’s what you’d expect out of a PS2 port.  For a PS2 game it looks OK, but in comparison to the Xbox version it’s vastly inferior.  The jaggies are out in full-force (although not to first-generation levels), and the night vision mode is simply ugly.  Most of the pretty lighting effects are gone, and character models look somewhat awkward.   Textures suffer the most, as most of the new and reused ones (ex: posters on the wall) look blurry from all distances.

Just about the only area that didn’t see a downgrade is in the sound.  Everything still sounds good, with various footstep noises on different surfaces and realistic weapon sounds.  Enemies yell out in mostly Spanish, and the player’s teammates have a lot of well-acted dialogue to add to the atmosphere.  The music is the standard military stuff found in every Clancy game, and won’t disappoint existing fans.

HIGHS:

  • Although the levels have been chopped up, Ubisoft did manage to save some of the very best parts of the Xbox version.
  • The core gameplay arrives intact, and that’s fun under any circumstances.
  • An additional single-player level and a co-op mode not found in the Xbox version.

LOWS:

  • The map has been replaced by radar-only.  Were they simply too lazy to re-draw it for the redesigned levels?
  • The chopped up levels cut out of most of the unique fun the franchise provides.
  • Online play has been reduced to merely good instead of great, although you don’t have to subscribe to a pay service (instead Ubi.com) to use it.

FINAL VERDICT:

The core gameplay is still here, but almost everything else that really made the game truly great is sadly missing.  What are left are a stripped-down single-player mode and a slightly above average multiplayer mode.  Owners of both consoles should definitely pick it up on Xbox (or PC), but if the PS2 is your system of choice it's still a decent squad-based experience.

Overall Score: 7.5

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