longtime PC players know the original Rainbow Six games as ultra-hardcore
tactical shooters, the series' transition to consoles has eased
the formula, making it more accessible. For the most part, the
changes have left the franchise no worse for the wear, growing
the popularity of the games while still maintaining some hardcore
tactical roots. With the newest iteration, Tom Clancy's Rainbow
Six: Lockdown, the series lurches deeper into the arcade realm.
Though Lockdown is still a worthwhile shooter, its overall feel
may leave longtime fans wondering if the developers have finally
strayed too far from the game's roots.
In Lockdown, you're once again put in the shoes
of Domingo "Ding" Chavez as you lead small fireteams
of highly trained commandoes on dangerous black-ops missions.
Backing you up are familiar faces like Eddie Price, sniper Dieter
Weber, and the lecherous Louis Loiselle. The game begins with
the theft of an illegally produced, deadly artificial virus that
can wipe out large civilian populations in mere minutes. Lockdown's
campaign will take you through 14 missions (16 on the PS2) spread
out all over the world. You'll engage in typical Special Forces
operations like terrorist hunts and hostage rescues, but in the
end, this all just means you'll wander your way through various
buildings, exterminating dozens upon dozens of bad guys.
As in previous Rainbow Six games, room clearing
is one of the core aspects of gameplay in Lockdown. You'll approach
many locked doors in the game, at which points you can order your
three squadmates to stack up by the door, open it, and clear it.
If you have the requisite equipment, you can breach locked doors
with explosives and/or toss in grenades to make the clearing process
safer and easier. For the most part, your AI teammates are proficient
at doing this and protecting themselves in more-open areas. But
every now and then they can display a frustrating lack of skill
in marksmanship, taking forever to shoot exposed enemies standing
mere feet away. Enemy AI in Lockdown is similarly inconsistent.
Once in a while you'll see enemies responding intelligently to
nearby noise, leaving their rooms to come after you or changing
positions to take better cover. But much of the time you can be
making a complete ruckus in the next room, and all you'll experience
is the doofus in the next room saying "I heard something!"
and doing nothing about it. You can sometimes even pick off single
enemies in a room by leaning around the wall, and other enemies
in the same room will have no visible reaction.
The Xbox version of Lockdown includes a heartbeat
sensor gadget (the PS2 version has a similar motion sensor device)
that lets you see the position of live enemies (or hostages) behind
walls. This vision mode is limited by a battery that drains quite
quickly but recharges very quickly as well. In practical terms,
you can take advantage of this heartbeat sensor every time you
come up on a blind corner or locked room. The result is that a
lot of the franchise's signature tension and uncertainty is taken
away since you can rely on your sensor before opening up any door.
This also contributes to a more arcadelike feeling in the single-player
campaign--you'll find yourself able, for the most part, to run
and gun your way through many of the levels. This still ends up
being pretty fun, but the overall feel of the game seems different
from past iterations.
One major addition to the single-player campaign
is that several of the missions start you off in control of Dieter
Weber, the sniper. You'll participate in shooting-gallery-style
sections where you'll cover the insertion of the strike team into
the mission area, picking off terrorists who are attacking your
teammates. Your effectiveness in this portion will affect the
rest of the mission, as the healthier you keep the strike team
members, the easier it will be to complete the mission. These
sniper missions provide a fun change of pace from the usual action,
but can also induce some frustrating mission restarts when you
take too long to find the RPG guy who just blew up Ding and friends
to kingdom come. This isn't too big a deal though, as you can
save in-mission at any time on normal difficulty, and the sniper
sections come at the start of the missions.