Future Publishing


Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow

Author: Andy Irving
Publisher: Ubisoft
Machine: Xbox (EU Version)

 
Published in Official Xbox Magazine #33

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow (Ubisoft)

Quite possibly the best £20 you will ever spend

Unless you've been living in a fallout shelter for the last year, you couldn't have escaped the phenomenal success of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 when it flashed and cleared its way onto Xbox last November. Even if you didn't get to sample the devilish delights of controlling the world's premier counter-terrorist squad, chances are the TV/Tube/billboard campaign percolated into your subconscious. But Ding and co didn't cruise to notoriety on the crest of a marketing rainbow, because their first Xbox outing was a storming squad-based FPS. Aside from looking the bomb, it incorporated an involving single-player campaign and a fantastic multiplayer that remains one of the most popular Xbox Live games to date.

If you're a Rainbow virgin (shame on you!), a comprehensive tutorial will quickly bring raw recruits up to speed on movement and weapon techniques. For the veterans out there, a more accessible front-end menu makes jumping into the game a cinch and, once you do, it's all comfortingly familiar.

The single-player campaign takes the pleasingly simple route of the first title, with players reprising the role of hard-as-nails Rainbow commander Ding Chavez. A loose plot involving shady terrorists, nuclear plutonium and a kidnapped scientist (can't these guys ever look after themselves?) ties together ten varied maps and objectives (mostly involving eliminating terrorists, defusing bombs, eliminating more terrorists, rescuing hostages and shooting some more terrorists). But although these missions sound a bit similar, intelligent level design always keeps the action fun and fresh. Making much more use of the vertical plane, players need to be constantly on the lookout for rooftop snipers and Molotovs raining down from mezzanines above. You're given much more freedom to explore levels as well, with the addition of lots more ladders and stairways to gain the upper hand.

To complement this, the enemy Al has been significantly upped, eliminating any trial and error gameplay complaints of the original. Repeatedly try to work through a particular area and, far from remaining rooted to the same spot time after time, foes will move from cover to cover, take hostages and set up ambushes, all in the name of countering the Rainbow boys' efforts and keeping gamers on their toes. Try playing on Veteran or Elite difficulty settings and assaults must be planned even more carefully. Utilising the rest of your team is just as crucial, and the slicker, intuitive method of issuing a host of varied orders (along with the returning, fantastic voice-activated commands) means you'll be Opening, Flashing and Clearing before you can say, well, Zulu. That said, certain missions require Ding to make the final objective alone, inciting some exciting, solo Rambo-esque running and gunning.

But enough of the single-player mode; there's no I in team so hook up with a bunch of mates and settle into the true essence of Black Arrow - the absolutely fantastic multiplayer options. For counter-terrorist twosomes, a split-screen co-op mode makes its debut and offers a surprisingly tactical experience. Choosing between Practice Missions (complete with different objectives) and Terrorist Hunt (eliminate all enemies throughout the single-player maps), each player lacks the option to control the rest of the team, but must still put valuable covering and sniping techniques to use in order to achieve success.

It's the new System Link and Xbox Live options that have made us really see the light however, because everything lacking from the original has been redressed. Co-op missions and Terrorist Hunt are still present, as is the frantic 16-way Sharpshooter much loved by the online fraternity.

However, the inclusion of a couple of additional game modes means this Arrow really hits the spot. We're sure everyone knows the ins and outs of Capture the Flag, but the intensified strategic element of Black Arrow elevates this beyond the norm of a mad dash. The great level design means each potential push for the flag must be a carefully voice co-ordinated operation and, believe us, this is as tense as shooters go. Capture the Point is basically King of the Hill, but yet again careful planning is the only way to ensure your team is the only one left standing on the hallowed ground. And so, the burning question. What else does Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow bring to the table over the original? Well, to be perfectly honest, not a great deal more. The graphics have been given a slight graphical polish, though don't look radically different. Gameplay is pretty much exactly the same, but then if the formula of mixing top-notch strategy and frantic FPS ain't broke, why try and fix it? As a standalone mission disc (meaning you don't require the original game to play it) at £20 this is superb value for money. And because it features such a wealth of multiplayer options and Live playability, you would need to have been shell-shocked by several Flashbangs to not want this in your life. Open wallet, Move to shop and Buy on Zulu. Outstanding, Ding.

Good Points

  1. Very atmospheric
  2. Visually stunning AI and level design are challenging
  3. Massive multiplayer potential

Bad Points

  1. A bit too similar to the original

Verdict

Power
The gorgeous real-time lighting and frantically fast multiplayer means your Xbox works hard.

Style
Looks stunning, sounds ace and it's amazingly atmospheric. Voice commands are still excellent.

Immersion
An accessible tutorial and intuitive controls: you'll be commanding your crack team in no time at all.

Lifespan
Ten single-player maps won't keep vets challenged for long, but the additional modes increase this.

Summary
Ding and co force their way to the top of the Live tree. In terms of value for money, you won't find more bang for your buck.

Andy Irving

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