Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six - Lockdown

Lockdown for the PC is more tactical than the console versions and definitely a lot of fun, but it's still got a noticeable arcade flavor.
Review By Bob Colayco
First of all, what you won't find in this version of the game are elements of a straight console port. The game's environments are as large and detailed as you'd expect from a PC shooter, while extraneous elements from the console versions, like the hokey cutscenes and hidden briefcases scattered around the levels, have been toned down or removed entirely. Most importantly, the game feels like a PC shooter, with all the precision in aiming and movement that mouse and keyboard control can afford. While the developers have done a great job in ensuring Lockdown for the PC didn't end up just being a sloppy port, it bears mentioning that the game has definite arcade underpinnings. Lockdown is still a lot of fun, though.

As in all the other Rainbow Six games, you play the squad leader of an elite counter-terrorist force called Rainbow. You'll start each of the game's 16 single-player missions at a nicely presented briefing screen where you get the lowdown on the situation, some maps of your objectives, and an equipment setup screen for your four-man team. Lockdown includes a great variety of assault rifles, submachine guns, combat shotguns, and pistols to choose from, many of which are based on real-life guns such as Kalashnikovs, MP-5s, and Desert Eagles. You'll also be able to outfit each operative with frag or flash grenades and entry tools like hammers and breaching charges. The best part is that each gun can be outfitted with one accessory, ranging from red-dot sights and scopes to silencers and high-capacity magazines. There's a noticeable difference in feel and utility between the various weapons, so choosing the right tools for the job is not just a cosmetic feature in Lockdown. What's missing from the mission-prep screen is the tactical planning portion that used to be such a staple of Rainbow Six games on the PC. However, with the ability to direct your team to do room-entry maneuvers in-game, there's less need for a planning phase.

The missions in Lockdown for PC are based on the same missions in the console versions of the game for the most part, but the mission order has been jumbled around a bit. You'll see a variety of different environments, including desert towns in the Middle East, the Parisian catacombs, the Scottish Parliament building, and a French ferry ship. You'll also ply through lots of underground terrorist bases. (Anarchists hate sunlight, apparently.) All of these areas are similar in layout to the ones on console, but in many cases, the levels are much more expansive and intricately detailed, with sharp-looking environment textures. But you won't participate in any shooting-gallery sniper sequences, which played a big role in the console versions. 

In many of the terrorist base levels you'll find lots of interconnected rooms to clear out and more than one pathway to get from one side to the other. There are also a lot of knickknacks and debris that can get knocked over by gunfire. In one level featuring a shootout in a police station, we were actually able to shoot boxes and other obstacles off a desk in order to get a clearer shot at the terrorist hiding behind it.

Some levels require hostage rescue and escort or bomb defusing, but in every case you're going to be taking out terrorists, and lots of them. Even on the normal difficultly level you'll be taking out upwards of 100 or more terrorists on a single mission. Most weapons you carry come with just under 500 rounds of ammunition. Do the math, and realize that if you're not relying much on your teammates to do the shooting, you better be thrifty with the number of rounds you're expending. You could easily find yourself down to your pistol at the end of a long mission. You and your teammates can survive several glancing shots before dying, but it's very possible in Lockdown to go down in a single hail of gunfire if you get careless.

The threat of immediate death adds to the tactical nature of the game and encourages you to go at a slower, more measured pace. Aside from your quicksave and quickload keys, you'll rely a lot on your motion tracker in Lockdown, which lets you see behind walls. You can also use your tactical commands to have your teammates peek around corners or stack up on doors for dynamic entry. Your teammates can open doors in a variety of ways, ranging from simply opening an unlocked door to placing an explosive and blowing it open, or using a shotgun to blow off the hinges. They will then toss in a frag or flash grenade before going in to clear the room. 

In most cases this works well, but from time to time you'll see your squadmates screw up a dynamic entry. We've seen team members muff a grenade throw and blow up the whole squad. We've also seen teammates take more damage than they should when entering a hostile room. Flashbangs and violent entry don't seem to have the stun duration and stun radius that you'd expect either, so you can't rely on these measures entirely. The enemy artificial intelligence in the game is pretty decent, seeking cover when possible and peeking from around corners. They'll pop smoke grenades to obscure their positions, or even throw frag grenades. They're not always very perceptive at detecting you if you peer around a corner, though, so it's possible to get quite a few cheap headshots on unsuspecting bad guys.

Online multiplayer action in Lockdown is handled over Ubi.com, which keeps track of various stats and rankings. The PC version of the game doesn't include the persistent role-playing PEC mode that was in the Xbox version of the game, but you can still choose from different classes like assault and sniper, which have different bonuses and weapon restrictions. As far as modes go, there's free-for-all, as well as team-based games like adversarial and retrieval, which are basically like deathmatch and capture the flag, or rivalry mode, which has been tweaked a bit in the PC version. In rivalry mode two teams battle over map objectives that spawn and change over the course of a match. The game might start with a hostage walking around the map. 

The teams will then battle it out, trying to grab the hostage and bring him back to a rescue area to score a point. After that's done, another objective will start. The other two objectives are static--one is simply a bomb that needs defusing, while the other involves a satellite uplink station that needs to be hacked in order to gain access to a computer station that spawns elsewhere on the map. The idea of dynamically changing objectives that aren't always in the same spot is interesting, but it can be frustrating sometimes when one team gets lucky with a hostage that spawns close to its rescue point.

The true highlight of Lockdown's multiplayer action, though, is cooperative play. You can play cooperatively with up to four players on LAN or online over Ubi.com. There are two game types: Mission mode lets you play out the 16 single-player missions with friends complete with objectives, while terrorist hunt lets you simply take out a bunch of AI-controlled bad guys on any of the maps. The co-op action is pretty fun, and the ability for players to respawn if they're killed keeps the frustration level down if one of the players just isn't very skilled.

The graphics in Lockdown are excellent all around. We already mentioned the heavy detail put into the levels and environments, but it's clear that great care was put into the character models as well. Each Rainbow operative looks great, with well-defined accessories clipped to their suits like pouches, pistol holsters, tactical glasses, and headsets. You can even see the treading clearly defined on the soles of their boots. Enemies aren't quite as well detailed, and bodies do disappear, but it's still fun to see the rag-doll physics in play as they go down after getting shot. The gun models in the game are also really intricate and nice to look at, and in rainy levels you'll see a cool effect with raindrops sticking to the screen and rolling off. 

Those with beefy computers can probably turn on dynamic lighting and shadows, which adds a lot to the ambience of the game, as you see character shadows stretching and contracting as their position changes relative to a light source. The model even throws off the correct gun shadow depending on what you're carrying. The biggest complaint we have is that the character models jitter when they get stuck colliding on each other or on parts of the environment, which can happen often in crowded levels like the ferry ship mission.

Sound effects in Lockdown are also very good. Each of the different guns has a different sound, and if you play long enough you might even be able to recognize the guns by sound alone. Even silenced weapons are fun to listen to, with the subdued clicking of the firing mechanism as the only noise. Footsteps are a prominent sound in quiet hallways, and these sound different depending on the surface. You'll even hear your own character breathing hard if you've been running around. There's not much music to speak of aside from the menus, which is a good thing, as in-game all you want are the sounds of battle to concentrate on as you hunt down more terrorists.

Lockdown is certainly a well-polished game, and even though it shares a name with games released earlier on console, the developers at Ubi have done a great job at ensuring the game truly looks and feels like a PC shooter. With dozens upon dozens of terrorists inhabiting each level, the game still feels like a departure from older PC games in the series. But if you enjoy the modern counter-terrorist theme, you'll still have a lot of fun playing Lockdown.

NAME: TOM CLANCY'S RAINBOW SIX - LOCKDOWN
SYSTEM: PC, PlayStation2, XBOX, Nintendo Game Cube, Mobile

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