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Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Lockdown

While 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.

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