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It should have started with a bang. You’re ready for the bright lights and the big city, for slot machines and neon glare, for spinning wheels and high-rolling glamour, and instead you’re dumped in a Mexican border town, playing a game that feels like a lifeless imitation of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter. The graphics are patchy, with blazing sunlight and ragged stucco on the outside, boxy architecture and dull, bump-mapped textures on the inside.
Your squad-mates and the terrorists you’re fighting seem to have come straight from Counter-Strike without much of a graphical polish. Worst of all, it all feels a bit same old, same old: surround the door, clear the room, tango down. If you were hoping for a true next-generation take on Rainbow Six, you’d be excused for feeling disappointed.
Hang with it. It gets better. Much, much better. Use the time to get used to the controls – to a new slightly simplified squad command system that makes elegant use of the whole 360 controller – and to new game mechanics. There’s a Call of Duty 2/Gears of War style health system that sees your vision blur and darken with successive hits, but recharges if you can find a way to safety. In a move reminiscent of Splinter Cell, there are rope and rappelling options to work with, plus a snake-cam that enables you to scope out what’s going on behind closed doors and even allocate primary targets to your men before they make their entrance.
You can flick between assault and infiltration squad behaviours at the touch of a button, and your men seem far better equipped to take your orders, showing initiative, finding cover and selecting – and firing at – targets with quiet efficiency and real precision. Take a trip into the tunnels beneath a disused train yard, then get caught up in a solo battle to make it to extraction, and you’ll notice that Vegas is starting to pick up. Maybe the latest Rainbow Six isn’t so bad after all...
...and suddenly you’re in sin city, and the game has hit high gear.
The first real Vegas level is a stunner; a run-and-gun battle through the legendary strip, with hordes of masked gunmen in your way, and glass shattering all over the shop. Yes, the placement of cars and trucks to funnel you left and right is a bit contrived, but it also gives you plenty of opportunity to get to grips with the new cover system – find a wall or car to hide behind, press and hold the left trigger, and the view switches to a third-person. You can blind-fire, Gears of War-style, or move the camera to get a better view of the proceedings.
You and your guys scamper forward, taking down ‘tangos’ by the dozen, trying to find a way into a casino where they’ve taken hostages. A burst of SMG fire and one of your men is down, but in Vegas, that no longer means they’re useless. Creep towards them, hit A, and a quick jab puts them back on their feet. Before you know it, you’ve blasted a wall down and you’re in the Calypso – the hottest casino on the Vegas strip.
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