My dad was more of a checkers man, but he taught me how to play chess after I bugged him long enough. He suffered through game after game until I could wrap my young brain around the particulars. But driving me forward was the joy of plotting out the movements of those funny-looking little horses and castles. And as I grew up and honed my mental strategies, I happily realized that I could apply those same skills to my other favorite pursuits, from tennis to video games to girls. (Although I soon learned that women are well beyond the game plans of mere mortals.)
Tense Present Tense
The creators of Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas are obviously people who share my strategic bent. Their latest in the Rainbow Six series is a tactical shooter set in today’s Las Vegas that’s thick with tension, realism and close-quarter battle. It’s a game that demands thought and planning at every turn.
You play as Logan Keller, the leader of an elite, three-man counterterrorism team. Things start out somewhere in Mexico where the team is supposed to flush out a terrorist group. But because of some bad intel your comrades are captured and you’re left for dead. Just about the time that you fight your way out of the city—alone—you find out that the terrorists have made their way to Nevada. You and a new team go on the offensive in the streets and casinos to save hostages, ascertain the terrorists’ plans and, eventually, save millions from a weapon of mass destruction. (Where’s Jack Bauer when you really need him?)
To help heighten game interaction, the Ubisoft team has devised great one-click control mechanics that make commanding your team, choosing weapons and taking cover as easy as, well, clicking one button. They’ve also layered their game with well-defined level design and excellent graphics. Each new chapter feels more like the unique location it’s supposed to be than an average game level. The streets of the Mexican border town are dust-blown and gritty and feel completely different from the sparkling casinos of Las Vegas.
Shooting Off His Mouth
Game play is a little different from the ordinary shooter, too. Vegas isn’t just about kicking over a slot machine and blowing everything else away. Try that and you won’t make it through the first mission. Play is totally focused around a task force called an OPA, which is an acronym for Observe, Plan and Assault. And that’s exactly what you have to do. Your team must move in with equal amounts of agility and stealth—roping out of a helicopter, sliding a snake-cam under a door to scope out the bad guys, rappelling down from rooftops (sometimes upside-down so you can peek in a window) and finding the best bits of cover. Then you must decide which of multiple entry points (doors, windows, skylights, etc.) is best, order your team into place and execute your plan with no civilian casualties.
Of course, you can’t have a shooter without scads of casualties somewhere. Light machine guns, assault and sniper rifles, shotguns, grenades and plastic explosives are a few of the weapons used to eliminate the hundreds of terrorists filling the city. (How they got this well-armed terror force into Vegas unnoticed is anybody’s guess.) All of which results in blood flow and bullet impacts (including sniper rifle headshots and one short scene that showcases an execution-style bullet to the brain) that are pretty realistically ugly thanks to those great graphics.
And while we’re on the subject of ugly realism, Vegas sports another carbuncle in the form of totally unnecessary foul language. The f- and s-word raise their heads on a number of occasions (on the lips of good and bad guys) along with a handful of milder profanities.
Practice Makes Perfect
In the final assessment, it’s easy to tally up the strengths of Rainbow Six: Vegas. It’s a very-well-put-together tactical shooter with a fluid story and colorful graphics. You think your way around every corner and find the best way to save frightened hostages and kill as many of those awful, gun-toting terrorists as possible. But oops, there it is. That one bleeding detail that all these types of games have in common—it’s all about the kill.
Vegas doesn’t glory over gore-splattering chain saws or entrail-spilling lasers, but dealing out death certainly rules the day. For all its smooth mechanics and thought provoking challenges, it’s an M-rated game that will find its way into the hands of way too many teens (and adults). And whether you’re a member of the violent-games-beget-violence camp, the it’s-just-entertainment crew or somewhere in between, it’s hard to deny something my dad always used to say after my chess losses: “Practice makes perfect.” The more you work at something, the more proficient you become—whether that something is chess, your backhand return or a sniper shot to someone’s forehead.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.