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Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Ubisoft / Red Storm
Publisher:  Ubisoft
# of Players:  1-4 co-op (16 online)
Genre:  Team-based FPS
ESRB:  Mature
Online Play:  Yes
Accessories:  Memory Unit, Dolby Digital 5.1, System Link, HDTV 480p, Communicator (voice commands), Xbox Live (Content DL, Scoreboards, Friends, Squads)
Date Posted: 

9-16-04

Dear Mom and Dad,

Hey guys, this is Ding.  I hope this letter finds you in good spirits and good health.  Iíve just arrived at HQ after another grueling campaign against the bad guys, and I thought Iíd write you to let you know how Iím doing.  I know you enjoy hearing what your little Dingyís up to these days.  As always I canít give you many details of what happened (pesky security concerns and all), but I can describe for you my thoughts during the mission.  Also, I did manage to sneak out a few pictures which I've attached to this letter.  Suffice it to say that some terrorists were attempting to assemble WMDs, and as usual Team Rainbow was sent in to do the dirty work.

Believe it or not, this latest campaign actually felt very similar to my previous one (the Venezuela/Crespo/oil thing), although it was a bit shorter this time around with 10 different locales to visit.  My team of Dieter, Louis, and Eddie remained intact, and Mr. Clark (AKA ďSixĒ) once again served as our liaison with HQ.  Even the weaponry we were given was virtually identical.  I wish my team would say a few more phrases from time to time; for example, they only warn me when Iím getting shot at and not each other!  Suck ups.

While our enemy did display some advances in intelligence (they still routinely following the same pathways, but show a better sense of self-preservation), their leaders have gotten much smarter.  Enemies were more intelligently placed this time around, providing for a harder go of it (although theyíre still no match for us!).  They also picked better (and prettier!) environments to make a stand in, providing for plenty of cover for their troops and more strategic fighting.  The sadistic side of the soldier in me loved it, as each and every kill was more satisfying and most missions were just plain fun.  Like last time I did unfortunately have to sneak my way solo through a portion of one area, but fortunately it was short and much more forgiving than last time (they still let me kill people, just quietly).  I keep telling them to bring Sam in for things like thisÖI donít have the patience!

I was a little annoyed by a few things though.  For example, the text HQ fed into my HUD sometimes didnít match up with what Six (no, not the girl on Blossom) had to say.  Also the visuals and sound occasionally stuttered after Iíd been in the field a while, although thatís probably due more to my HUDís crappy first generation Thompson drive than an actual bug in the software.  Still, Iím not the only one with one of those and that shouldíve been tested before I went out into the field.  My life is at stake after all!

When weíre out in the field HQ will often pump music into our HUD during critical parts of a mission to keep us motivated, and the new stuff they started playing is definitely a step up.  Itís in the same militaristic style of course, but I wouldnít have it any other way.  Most of the time the musicís not playing (since we need to hear whatís going on around us), and when that was the case everywhere we went sounded nice.  Planes flew overhead, terrorists shouted a greater variety of things in their own native tongues, locals talked over the intercom as if we werenít there, and the sound of our footsteps sounded as satisfying as ever.

While Iím writing, I might as well tell you about some nifty new stuff we have here at HQ.  We now have a new solo mission simulator known as ďLone RushĒ mode, which allows me to replay each of the missions featured in our latest campaign by myself!  Basically the goal is to reach the extraction zone before time runs out, with additional time rewarded for killing terrorists, disarming bombs, and securing hostages.  Itís pretty awesome (and definitely a rush), but of course we had to finish the campaign first so the video of those missions could be used in the mode.  Sometimes in the battlefield I tell my men to hold simply so I can clear the area ahead first (face it, they arenít as good at this as I am), so I definitely enjoyed a mode thatíd allow me to go solo for a change!  I can also play through the regular missions with a friend if I wish, which is a nifty little addition as well.

As you know, weíve always had a sweet online network set up to play on at HQ to keep ourselves sharp when not out in the field.  After returning from this latest campaign, I discovered that we have some new features on it as well!  In addition to all of the stuff we had before, there are now two more modes called Total Conquest and Retrieval.  Total Conquest involves each team trying to maintain control of a set number of satellites for 30 seconds.  Retrieval is basically capture the flag with a canister instead of a flag, and is another cool addition to the experience.  We also have a bunch of new maps to play on, based on my most recent campaign of course.

As great as these are, the biggest addition to online play has to be the new ďXbox Live 3.0Ē stuff.  We can now create our own squads, each with its own motto and logo, and enter tournaments against other squads!  Itís also integrated with MSN Messenger, so itís easier to communicate with our squad mates while playing.  Unfortunately they havenít yet figured out how to stop the spawn campers (unskilled losers that I loathe with a passion), which still makes it important to find buddies you like to play with you.

So all in all, it was another enjoyable campaign.  The good guys won, and my entire team was challenged like never before.  Say hello to the entire Chavez family for me (and Jack Ryan while youíre at it), and Iíll come home for a visit as soon as I get some time off (manage to drag myself away from Xbox Live). 

Love,
Domingo

Highs:

  • Xbox Live 3.0 support has arrived in style.  The squad support is nice, and the game also includes two new online modes and a ton of new (and better than before) maps.

  • The single-player levels are better designed, with more natural layouts and plenty of nasty gunfights.

  • The graphics have been upgraded a bit, with more environmental detail and light sourcing all over the place.

  • The front-end before each mission was given a sweet new makeover.

Lows:

  • The graphic engine is starting to show its age, but just barely. 
  • The single-player campaign is a bit short, and lacks the between mission FMVs to help flesh out the storyline like they did in the original.

Final Verdict: 

Although focused primarily on the online improvements, the new single-player campaign and co-op missions in Tom Clancyís Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow are good enough to justify spending another $40 (or $30 as it can already be found in several stores) even if you donít subscribe to Xbox Live.  While the engine is starting to show its age and the single-player campaign gives a definite feeling of dťjŗ vu, the subtle improvements in each is enough to win me over for one more round of action with Team Rainbow. 

If you do subscribe to Xbox Live and enjoyed the original Rainbow Six 3 then this is simply a must-own, no questions asked.

Overall Score: 9.1

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