Ubisoft Montreal / Red Storm
# of Players:
Memory Unit, In-game Dolby
Digital, System Link, HDTV 480p, Communicator (voice
commands), Xbox Live (content, multiplayer, scoreboards)
Previous attempts at bringing the world of
Rainbow Six to console-land have met with mixed results.
Although generally decent conversions, ports to the PSX, N64, and
Dreamcast have suffered primarily from a lack of online support and
control schemes with deep PC roots and too complicated for a
When Ubisoft announced that Rainbow Six 3 would be
customized for Xbox, I figured it would be the same kind of graphic
and interface changes that have produced those mixed results in the
past. I never expected this. Rather than try to shoehorn the
Rainbow Six experience onto a console, Ubisoft has almost
completely reinvented the franchise. The result is the best console
Rainbow Six yet, and arguably the best Xbox Live game yet.
The primary way in which the game has been streamlined is in the
game play. Now there’s only one team to control, as the player
takes control of team leader Domingo “Ding” Chavez (a name any
Clancy fan should recognize). The front-end planning has been
minimized, most notably in the absence of the entire planning room
(including waypoint assignment). There’s also no need to pick
specialized team members (such as demolitions experts), as the same
four members are used throughout the game and each is capable of
performing any task needed.
The player guides the team through 14 different missions, and to be
honest these missions are one of the few weak areas in the game.
While not terrible, most boil down to the same few basic objectives:
rescuing hostages, defusing bombs, and killing terrorists.
Unfortunately attempts at variety resulted in an out of place
Splinter Cell-esque sneaking level, as well as a sneaking
segment in another mission. Quite frankly, the Rainbow Six
franchise wasn’t designed with this kind of mission in mind and it
sticks out like a sore thumb. When you want to kill tangos, you’re
instead forced to skulk in the shadows. The game engine doesn’t
handle skulking very well, as the shadows provide virtually no
cover, Ding makes sound at even the slowest of walking speeds, and
it’s difficult to tell where an enemy is in the level in relation to
the player (even with limited radar assistance). Thus this 1+ level
is basically a frustrating trial-and-error affair. Other than that
the missions are acceptable, despite the lack of objective variety.
The controls have also been streamlined, and this time around the
team got it right. The A button handles all main “actions”, which
are different depending on the situation. For example, when
preparing to enter a room pressing "A" while pointing at a door will
bring up the door action menu. Then a simple press of the D-pad in
one of four directions will tell the team to perform the action
selected. It’s a quick and intuitive process. The X button handles
weapons functions; when held it brings up the weapons menu for easy
swapping of weapons. The L button will automatically swap between
the player’s two “main” weapons, while the R button fires. The Y
button activates night vision, while the B button activates thermal
vision. The black button is used for the team hold, the white
button is used for Zulu commands, and the select button handles the
map. The analog sticks, with the standard FPS setup of the left
stick controlling movement and the right stick looking, handle all
My only real complaint with the controls is the somewhat stiff
aiming sensitivity, which can make it difficult to target enemies
effectively without ducking behind cover and re-positioning. Clancy
fans should be used to this from Ghost Recon & Island
Thunder, but it’s a little more troublesome in a faster paced
game like this. You’ll adjust to it, but it’ll probably take a
couple missions to do so. This is offset somewhat by other control
enhancements, most notably the ability to fluidly open doors (a
little bit at a time) to use them as cover while systematically
clearing a room before entering.
Perhaps the greatest control improvement lies not on the controller,
but rather in the included voice command support. Utilizing the
Communicator, the player can issue “over 89” voice commands to his
or her teammates. Rather than choosing “Open, Flash, & Clear” from
the on-screen menu, the player can instead merely point towards the
door and speak the words. In most instances the teammates will
recognize the words (and repeat them to confirm that they heard
properly), although for me personally it didn’t work quite as often
as I’d like it to. In particular, my team had a lot of trouble
understanding me when I spoke the word “Zulu”. Teammates also speak
back to the player directly using only the Communicator (when it’s
attached), adding to the feeling of actually being part of the team.
Just like Ghost Recon before it, Rainbow Six 3 may
just be at its best on Xbox Live. Co-op modes include Mission (play
single-player missions with friends) and Terrorist Hunt (no pesky
hostages getting in the way, just terrorists), while Adversarial
modes include Survival (last standing wins), Team Survival, and
Sharpshooter (most kills wins). Most importantly, this is the type
of game that just lends itself to online play perfectly. The game
also supports downloadable content, and is Live aware so players can
easily issue invites and track friends online.
While the sneaking missions were a touch of Splinter Cell
that didn’t work out, the graphical boost using a number of tricks
from that game most definitely did. The game now sports most of the
nifty lighting effects found in Splinter Cell, including soft
shadows and true light sourcing. The thermal & night vision has
also been improved, and curtains, blinds, etc. now sway and morph
realistically to player movements. Environments are littered with
objects in realistic fashion, and the range of architecture from
mission to mission makes each feel unique. Killed enemies fall on
top of desks, slump to the ground after dropping their weapon, and
get blown backwards from a crouched position. On the downside, some
texture work isn’t up to current Xbox standards and most levels are
really linear in nature. On the whole though, Rainbow Six 3
is one of the best-looking Xbox games yet.
Sound is used just like in previous Clancy games, which means a lot
of realistic sound effects and sparse orchestrated music used to add
tension at critical moments. Music is also used to ambient effect
in particular areas, whether it be the distant din of a parade or
light classical music in a mansion. Teammate chatter is useful; as
it’ll provide clues as to the whereabouts of an enemy and confirm
that the team is performing the action the player wants them to
(which is almost always the proper one). Surround sound is used
well, whether it’s tracking the footsteps of an enemy or determining
which direction gunfire is coming from. This is another Clancy game
where sound is integral to the gameplay experience, thus making
gameplay while using the mute button not an option.
The graphics have been given that Splinter Cell gloss, making
the Xbox version look better than previous PC Rainbow Six
games. This includes excellent thermal vision, night vision,
shadows, “ragdoll physics”, and much more.
Sound is integral to the gameplay experience, including excellent
use of positional audio and team chatter (through the Communicator
no less!) that actually matters.
The control scheme has been simplified without being dumbed down.
The cumbersome planning of the PC version is gone, which will be a
welcome change for most people.
The storyline is actually pretty good.
The ability to speak commands to your teammates via the Communicator
adds considerably to the experience, after you get past the initial
awkwardness (and puzzled looks from loved ones) of it.
Xbox Live support is fantastic, including plenty of co-op missions,
head-to-head modes, and downloadable content.
The sneaking mission is out of place and frustrating, and mission
variety in general is limited.
Aiming isn’t as fluid as it should be.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3
continues the excellent string of Clancy games on Xbox, and this is
arguably the best one yet. As I mentioned before, the two primary
problems with previous console versions in the series are the
control scheme and lack of online play. This game takes care of
both of those problems, and does so without compromising what
Rainbow Six is really all about. Excellent job.