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On the plus side, things improve once you take the game online. Some fans of Vegas 1 are bound to be disappointed that the co-operative version of the single-player campaign is now restricted to two players, not four, and that the second player is basically relegated to the role of an additional, non-commanding squaddie. All the same, playing through the story with a friend or stranger is a livelier, less predictable experience, and with all the cut-scenes and links in place this time it feels more like the game was designed with co-op in mind. Otherwise, online terrorist hunts and versus matches are as good as ever, with a fine selection of maps and game types - though it appears that online games are suffering from a few teething troubles at the moment.
And it's here that the game plays its trump card. Vegas introduced the idea of a persistent experience system, but Vegas 2 puts it right at the heart of the game. Every minor triumph - every headshot, every kill through scenery, every terrorist shot by your men - whether in single-player, co-op or online versus match, results in more experience points for your profile and eventually a higher level in the game's Marksmanship, Assault and Close-Quarters disciplines. This in turn gives you access to new weapons, armour and items of apparel; not only giving you a slight edge in combat, but also showing those in the know that you are an armchair warrior to be reckoned with. Throw in one of the deepest character customisation options I've seen in an FPS and you have a game that feels a little like an MMO at times. It's Vegas 2's way of rewarding its most faithful fans.
And in the end I suspect that's what Vegas 2 is really all about. It's not an essential game for casual shooter fans; rival FPS games offer a better single-player experience, and without practice you won't last long enough in the online games to make playing them worthwhile. By anyone's standards that's a mild disappointment. However, if you really got into Vegas and played it long after the main campaign was over then the new instalment is definitely worth your while. Despite the loss of four-player co-op it's on balance the better multi-player game, and I suspect the experience system will help the game build its own hardcore following. Not the darkest of days for Rainbow Six, then, but it would still be nice to see something as new and exciting as the first Vegas was next time around.
The single-player campaign doesn't have the glamour or the thrills of the first Rainbow Six, but it still plays a solid tactical game. Luckily, the deep character customisation and levelling features make the online game a must for Vegas veterans.
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