Rainbow Six Vegas 2
It's more of the same in Ubisoft's delicious sequel.
Xbox 360, PS3, PC
The worst thing that can be said about Rainbow Six Vegas 2 is that it offers more of the same, but when the game is the sequel to one of the best-received shooters of the current generation, that's hardly a bad thing.
Most of what made Rainbow Six Vegas so popular is back in this year's sequel. The story mode is just as tense (and the story itself is just as throwaway) as in the first game and the multiplayer is still what's going to keep most people playing months from now. But while the game generally feels the same as the previous one, Vegas 2 does have a few aces up its sleeve.
First is the character customisation, which is now persistent between the story and versus modes. Your character in Vegas 2 is like an animated G.I. Joe (or Jane) doll. The game lets you choose a male or female operative and add all the spoils of war you unlock as you progress through the game. Character stats are tracked continuously as well, allowing you to ascend the military ladder by earning experience points in three different categories, which are reflective of long-, medium- and short-range combat.
This latter system, the so-called Advanced Combat Enhancement and Specialization system, is essentially a playing guide, designed to coax players into playing the game in the deliberate manner it was meant to be played and not like your average run-and-gun shooter. Earning experience points in the Marksmanship, Assault, and Close-Quarter Battle categories unlocks appropriate weapons and gear that you can then add to your character.
The ACES and Persistent Elite Creation systems sound good on paper, but do they actually add anything to the experience? Not really. While unlocking new weapons and gear is nice, and there's something to be said for the motivation provided by the ranking system and having the same character throughout, ultimately I played the game as I always play it. Possibly the only real benefit that regular players will draw from ACES and PEC are that their military ranks go up that much faster.
Rank is important because it's one of the factors that's included in the multiplayer matchmaking system for the competitive multiplayer modes. Versus online play is essentially identical to the first game, meaning it's varied and vicious. Already the public servers are swelling with veterans who have spent every second of the Easter break during which the game was released to hone their skills on the 10-or-so new maps. This can make the experience frustrating for those of us not blessed with the same skills or time allowances, especially since the matchmaking system does tend to throw you into the deep end.
Should you tire of competitive online play, there's also a wealth of co-operative options on hand. The main story provides full drop-in co-op play, which is just as well, since the AI of your Rainbow partners isn't as smart as in some recent buddy-play games. (They still won't come to heal you if you get shot.) Then there are the challenging Terrorist Hunt missions, which ask you to take down dozens of terrorists on the multiplayer maps. A helping hand is very useful here.
But no matter which mode you're playing or whether or not you have friends along for the ride, Vegas 2 is a worthy sequel to Ubisoft's 2007 hit. It's gorgeous and challenging and has enough here to keep shooter fans going for a while - at least until the next game in the series arrives.