Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My Obsession With Rainbows

Admittedly it's an obsession with the violent, terrorist killing kind, and not the colouredy, "light-spectrum-through-liquid-suspended-in-the-air" kind. Yes, I've started playing Rainbow Six: Vegas. And now it's in my every waking thought, and haunts me in my dreams.

I've never been much of a fan of the first-person-shooter, of FPS genre. In fact, the only time I've really enjoyed myself while playing an FPS was GoldenEye on the N64. Perfect Dark was ok, but just hadn't got the same level of sheer fun I felt playing as Bond. Battlefield I guess is another exception. The ability to drive vehicles, fly planes and crush the opposition beneath the threads of your tank kinda clinches it for me as a fun game. 2142 only goes further with hover tanks and mechs, and that had me sold from the first trailers. But for Battlefield it was always just the multiplayer. I tried the single-player stuff a few times, but I just never got into it. I enjoyed the interaction of player-on-player strategy and the thrill of killing, or being killed by an opponent you know is operating on the same level as you, give or take a bit of skill. We all know the computer cheats. No fog of war, it always knows where you are, precision shooting, perfect tactics. Yawn.

A few weeks back I watched Bob complete a Terrorist Hunt mission on R6: Vegas on the X-Box 360 and I loved it. I watched him die time and time again. From waves of terrorists head on, to sneaky bastards from behind. It was all so cool. My heart was racing just watching him, and if that was the case as a passive observer, I wanted to know what it was like to actually be there, within the playground of destruction, knowing two bullets in quick succession were all that stood between you... well, standing and not!

Last weekend I was over at Bob's place again, and we tried out the split screen multiplayer co-op mode on Terrorist Hunt. The map was Calypso Casino to begin with, the one I had seen Bob playing, giving me a chance to get used to the controls in an environment I (kind of) knew.

First off: Controls. Perfect. A great use of the controller, with the buttons just being where they should be. I grasped everything really quickly, and was nailing terrorist scum in no time. Simple, yet never lacking, the control method makes this game almost a "pick-up-and-play" concept, despite the stealth and infiltration style of gameplay.

Graphics are crisp and clean, even when played on a non-HD TV. Despite some minor graphical glitches that don't hinder gameplay at all, the models and environments are beautiful. Just watching this game is a joy, particularly in the Calypso Casino level, because everything is so bright. You rarely if ever see a gun poking through a door, or get shot from a bullet moving through the corner of a wall. Collision detection is spot-on, and bullets leave marks on everything, blood spatters across surfaces and explosions throw people like rag-dolls.

Enemy AI is fantastic. They circle around once they know where you are. They call for back-up. They try to ambush you at every given opportunity. There are a few exploits available based on the AI. You can step near a door to trigger a zone of influence, then back away and hide to shoot the terrorist that reacts. But when it works, it's such a rush! You shoot at a terrorist behind a corner, but fail to land the fatal wound. He rushes back down the corridor away from you and you suddenly realise in horror that he's trying to circle around through some other rooms! What do you do?!? You only have a few seconds to react. Race in after him, leaving yourself open to assault, or turn and face the other entrance, again leaving yourself open to assault? Usually a hail of bullets from one side or the other will help focus your thoughts, but by then it's often too late. There are a few problems, but they might just be a "handicap" based on the difficulty level we're playing it at. An enemy will race through a door littered with five of his mates without caution. Instead of just leaning over the balcony, an enemy will join you on a nearby rappel line to shoot you. Just little things. It is possible that the enemies are far smarter on "Realistic" mode. Right now, normal is fine for me, thanks.

As I said, I'm not a fan of FPS in general. But I think that I'm just not a fan of the Doom/Quake style of FPS. I thrive on the stealth and strategy of Rainbow Six. I enjoy the slow pace the game takes, the emphasis placed on team-work and co-operation. I love covering a teammate, or knowing that as I advance, there is someone covering me. I enjoy closing doors, considering alternative routes to the target, doubling back to green-light an area or drawing enemies out. I thrill at using "Enemy on your six", "Sniper on the roof", "Cover me", "Reloading", "Go, go, go" and "Whoa, whoa, whoa" and having them mean something. I excite at pressing against a wall, counting down from three and then tapping "A" to open a door, never sure if there is an enemy on the other side. I quicken at seeing the enemy counter reach 8, knowing that this is where we died last time. And I delight in victory, punching the air and relishing the euphoria.

And I love doing nothing. I love feeling my heart pound in my chest as I keep my gun trained on a door to a room that may very well be empty, all because my teammate is blasting terrorist scum at the other door, and might have triggered an ambush. I love the feeling of my finger going numb, poised over the "R-Trigger", ready to flex at less than a seconds notice and unleash 50 rounds from the clip of my P90 in three round bursts into the chests of oncoming opponents.

I never really considered getting an X-Box during it's life. I didn't think about the 360 as a console I might like to own either. I have always been a Nintendo fan. Not necessarily a fanatic. I own a PS2 and love it very much. But Nintendo is my console of choice. It still is. The Wii is an incredible machine. But sometimes I want something different to play. Not "more", or "better", just different. There are games that make you sit up and think "Hey, I want this". Rainbow Six: Vegas is one of those times. I won't be getting it any time soon, I admit, but I will get an X-Box 360 some time this summer, once my exams are done and I have a job again. And I'll get Rainbow Six straight away. Nothing else. I don't particularly like Halo. I have no interest in Oblivion. Assassins Creed looks nice, but not something I'd get on release. That's not to say I won't get other games eventually, just nothing grabs me like this one.

Rainbow Six: Vegas has single-handedly sold me an X-Box 360. Only a few brief outings to Bob's place and I've already unlocked the achievement for killing 500 terrorists. Oh yes! I'm addicted!

EDIT: Just after posting this Noel and I were rappelling down the side of Calypso Casino and some guards came at us from above. They leaned over the railing and expertly placed a not insignificant amount of buck-shot from a Spaz-12 into each of our craniums. I love good enemy AI.

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