(Start with Yahtzee voice here.)
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so in that spirit I present to you... Ben (Cantrick)'s "Zero Punctuation"-style review of Rainbow Six: Vegas 2.
[Opening music: South Border - Rainbow]
I came to purchase Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 because I was tired of waiting for Gears Of War 2, and the Ghost Recon franchise just isn't as good as tonguing another man's... uh, I mean, it just *isn't as good as it used to be.* What I was looking for was basically more Gears Of War, except hopefully with some new sets and new guns and new challenges. And for some reason I decided I was going to use R6:Vegas 2 instead of COD4 for my shooter fix. (Don't ask me, it seemed logical at the time...) As it turns out, the cover system in Gears of War is similar to the cover system in R6:Vegas 2 but that's pretty much the only similarity between these two games.
On the topic of that similar cover system, a note about it is probably in order. The note is only four words long, and it reads: "USE COVER OR DIE" Although there are several skills that you will need to master in order to successfully play through Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, using cover is probably the single most important one. You see, the enemy AI in R6:V2 only seems to have two modes: Metal Gear Solid mode and Crysis mode. When you're in cover, the enemy AI seems to go into Metal Gear Solid mode, wherein you can be two inches away from an enemy (practically trimming the guy's nose-hair) and somehow he still won't be able to see you. On the other hand when you're NOT in cover, the enemy AI seems to go into in Crysis mode, wherein every soldier on the map will be able to bullseye you with a headshot from 850 yards away no more than fifty milliseconds after catching even a passing glimpse of a postage-stamp sized bit of you. Okay, I admit I'm exaggerating a little bit here, but you get the general idea.
Enemies also use cover, but one interesting thing about this game is that they tweaked the game engine so that some of the more powerful guns can actually shoot right through some of the less sturdily constructed walls. For instance, at one point I was grinding in Terrorist Hunt mode to get better armor, happily mowing down enemies who were running out of a two-car garage. One enemy, much brighter than the others, took cover behind the wall at the left side of the open garage door. The wall appeared to be made of drywall covered with wood paneling. So I said "what the hell?" and hosed down the wall with my machine gun. The bullets went right through the soft material and made hamburger of the enemy behind. This kind of little moment doesn't happen often, but when it does it's one of the neatest things about this game. Also, I have a particular fondness for sniper rifles, and I think this game makes sniping a lot of bloody, visceral fun - complete with big splatters of red when you put a bullet through some unlucky terrorist's cranium. Inflicting extremely painful-looking deaths via frag and incendiary grenade also never seems to get old.
Another difference between Gears Of War and Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 is that in Vegas 2 you have not one but two AI cohorts fighting alongside you. And although their AI also suffers from the same unevenness that effects the enemy AI, at least they're not as useless as Dom generally was. Especially at the harder difficulty levels, I felt like I was having to go back and heal up a fatally wounded Dom approximately every eight seconds. And when Dom actually managed to kill an enemy before I did, it was such a rare event that I felt like throwing him a big party, congratulating him on being such a big boy now.
It's true that R6:V2 also requires you to heal up your fallen squadmates (or at least order the non-fallen one to heal up the one who's down) but unlike Dom in Gears Of War, once your squadmates do spot an enemy, they turn out to be surprisingly good at throwing a lot of hot lead at him, quickly, and with impressive accuracy. I suspect they went to the same marksmanship academy as the game's enemies. The one where everyone is strapped down to an operating table and half of their brain's visual cortex is surgically cut out, then replaced with some kind of cybernetic head-shot module.
But I worry that I'm making the game sound more interesting than it really is. For starters, the levels aren't as much fun as other more sci-fi-y or fantasy-ish shooters. Now, I can't really ding the game too much for this because it's just the nature of the story line. An endless sequence of offices and hallways may indeed be what 90% of the buildings in the real world look like, but it's nowhere near as visually interesting as a bombed-out dystopian future. (Though both of the above do have similar levels of soul-destroying bleak hopelessness...) None of the levels in this game come close to the graphical cool factor of, say, the Steel Foundry level in Splinter Cell.
The story is thinner than Calista Flockheart, and seems to mainly consist of multiple repeats of the same "interactive" cut-scene in which you're trapped in a 20 foot circle with generic bad guy, who's pointing a loaded gun at your head. Ever the hippy pacifist, I shot him in the foot. At which point he promptly fell over stone dead from his grievous foot wound. I've read that the story in R6:V2 has some small nods back to the story in the first Rainbow Six: Vegas, but frankly while this game was diverting enough while I played it, it just wasn't good enough to make me want to go pick up the first one.
As for characterization, you can forget about it. Your squad-mates aren't even as thick as cardboard. And despite all his gruff voice acting, the main character doesn't feel any thicker than 3/4" plywood. Also the game goes out of its way to tutor you on how to save civilians in the first mission, but then there are several places in the game where you can't actually save the civvies and you have to stand there and watch them get killed and/or die.
The equipment you start out with is rather poor, and it takes more grinding than I like in Terrorist Hunt mode to get the better guns and armor. For whatever it's worth, I think the TAR-21 (customized with large magazines) is the only non-sniper gun you'll ever need, and the PSG-1 (customized with a 6/12x scope) is the only sniper rifle you'll need 90% of the time. For the once or twice where you truly need a silenced sniper rifle, the SR-25 is the only one of those in the game. Pity it's bolt action. The best armor in the game is reserved for people who have ground their way to 90,000 experience points, something I'm not nearly patient enough to do. The second best armor is fine though, I played all the way through the single-player campaign with it. But it looks so turtleshell-esque that it makes your character appear a bit like a small riot-police version of Gamera. Which I guess may not be an entirely bad thing... depending on what your feelings are towards Japanese men wearing rubber monster suits. You freak.
[Closing music: The Gamera song from the MST3k "Gamera vs. Guiron" episode]
Later I'll try and record myself reading this aloud and put up an MP3. It reads pretty well, but it's a little lacking in jokes near the middle, and I didn't want to cop Yatzee's "boingo boingo oopsy knickers" joke. I mean, my style is sheep jokes! Also I'm not complaining about the game enough. There must be more flaws I'm not touching on. Bashing on the game is the fun part, it needs more of that.