Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC.
Like most sensible people, I liked Rainbow Six: Vegas a lot. It took a slightly tired tactical shooter series and gave it a fresh, more casual gamer friendly spin. You still had to balance the demands of squad command and shooting, but the slick, streamlined controls made this a pleasure, while the fast, intuitive cover system and smart AI pushed the gunplay up to a whole new level. Best of all, the Sin City setting gave the game a sense of glamour that it hadn't had before, taking you through recognisable locations and filling the screen with a brash neon cool. I remember saying at the time that this was the game where the Rainbow Six series turned a corner, breaking out of its hardcore following and embracing a wider audience. A few die-hards lamented this change of focus, but most of us were pleased that the series was finally having fun.
The sequel feels like an exercise in consolidation. "Did you like Vegas?" it seems to be saying, "well, here's a bit more of the same." As with last year's sequel to GRAW, it can be a challenge to tell Vegas 2 apart from its forebear. I think the character models may be a little more detailed, there seems to be a fair bit more destructible scenery - good for fans of breaking glass - and the particle smoke and explosion effects may have been turned up a notch, but there's not a lot of technical advance here.
Of course, there doesn't have to be providing the gameplay takes us somewhere new. This time - after the traditional tutorial come prologue - the deal is preventing more dubious South American terrorists from setting off a series of chemical weapons in the city. In practice, this means following the same basic routine as last time. You proceed from room to room or area to area, clearing each of nasty terrorists in the most effective way possible, and preferably without getting you or one of your two men killed. Your basic tactical options are also broadly similar. You can make an entrance through a door, using your handy snake-cam to preview the area and designate key targets before asking the boys to bang and clear, or you may be able to fast-rope or rappel in or split your forces so that you attack from one entrance while the chaps attack from another. Once in position, you can keep your team moving through cover and taking out the 'tangos' while dishing out plenty of hot lead yourself. As with Vegas 1, the emphasis isn't so much on pre-planning as on making rapid tactical decisions and adjusting to new enemy threats.