Monday, April 7, 2008

On the recurring issues of clown car terrorists and the effects of teleportation on counter-revolutionary warfare operations.

Given that most of my friends list seems to have been playing it a fair bit I can assume that most people are aware that Rainbow 6: Vegas 2 is out and it is actually quite a lot of fun. But my most closely clutched pet peeve has returnd to inflict untold aggravation upon me. That peeve is spawning enemies, or more correctly: inappropriately spawning enemies.

In my comments on the original R6:V I questioned the ability of literally thousands of mercenaries, terrorists and other no-good-niks to descend on the city while remaining completely off the collective radars of every single intelligence and law enforcement agency in the US. Vegas 2 addresses this somewhat by showing that there was some investigation into the presence of smugglers, but seriously - how the hell did they miss the fact that this "covert warehouse exchange" contained what had to be close to, if not more than one hundred armed goons? We know for a fact that thermal scanning was available. The sheer ridiculousness of the entire premise of the Vegas games was, and remains, atrocious.

But we have been given at least one good reason why the massed hordes of bad guys weren't present to be counted by thermal surveillance. And that is because they could be teleported into an area with precise efficiency and timing. Whether this was through scientific or occult measures is yet to be determined. What is clear though is that Rainbow have absolutely no countermeasures for this kind of technology, meaning that your pathetically undersized team of 3 gets to run into ambushes over and over and over.

I will say something now that should be a mantra for anyone developing any kind of tactical or "realistic" game:

If it has jarring, pointless or otherwise obvious spawning of enemies then you are doing it wrong.

How the hell can I plan a room takedown when the enemies don't spawn until I cross the threshold of the door? At least Vegas has the good graces to occassionally conceal the obviousness of the spawning by having people rappel through skylights and windows.

Sure, sometimes the enemies will be in place and patrolling the room when you peek in via camera, but when you sprint in and they just appear in your field of vision? That's sloppy, sloppy work. True, this occurs in Terrorist Hunt more often than in singleplayer, but the fact it happens at all is a terrible indictment of your game's quality.

I'll try and break it down for those still struggling with the idea.

Blatant spawning appropriate:
Fighting minions of hell or other supernatural entity.
Battling against immensely technologically superior aliens.
Games that don't take themselves seriously and pride themselves on "realism".

Blatant spawning inappropriate:
Any game not featuring supernatural/hell themes or involving aliens set before the year X (where X is the year in which reliable human teleportation becomes possible).

So, besides the crap spawning and enemy spam to artificially inflate the difficulty - oh and the sudden decision in the refinery level to move the distance between the checkpoints and really ramp up the encounter difficulty as well as removing AI companions in what can only be described as a last ditch attempt to make the single-player campaign that little bit longer (I'm still yet to finish, mainly because that refinery is ridiculous) - how does the game hold up?

Fairly well. Playing dress-ups like a 8 year old girl with a gun fetish is as much fun as it should be. And the fact that they've integrated the experience points and levelling system into every facet of the game is the single biggest improvement in my book. Is that enough to redeem the shoddy, cheap gameplay decisions though?

Sure they've added "penetration physics", but I should remind everyone that SWAT 3, back in 2000 had the most detailed penetration model I've ever seen in a game. And it wasn't until Call of Duty 4 last year that anyone really decided to follow up on it. And even then, it's still not as what was available 8 fucking years ago.

The core gameplay is pretty much unchanged. Move forward until enemies spawn, then do the "stop and pop" thing until everyone is dead. Repeat ad infinitum. Though at least they've made your team mates into mere morons rather than terminally retarded apes with a suicide compulsion. The ongoing direction of the gameplay does mean however that the game continues to move further and further from the series original concept. Perhaps they can finally cut the cord and rebrand it "Tom Clancy's: Vegas: X" for future iterations and return to making the pure tactical games that I preferred.

My limited exposure thus far to the adversarial side of it convinces me that it is largely unchanged. If you like hyperactive morons with no concept of teamwork or tactics or keeping their festering gobs SHUT, you'll love it. Otherwise, avoid like the plague and only play with friends.

Overall - given that this is nothing more than a glorified (and full price) patch/expansion pack, I find it hard to be generous with any given facet of the game. The fact that I was actually hoping to get some resolution to the goddamn cliff hanger at the end of R6:V was about the only reason I picked it up. That and my slowly dwindling support for the rapidly eroding "Tom Clancy's" brand name. I won't say it's not a good game, because that's a lie. What I will say is that it's an excellent piece of DLC that's about $80 too expensive.

It's better than:
Rainbow 6: Vegas
It's worse than:
Rainbow 6: Rogue Spear
Try it if you like: Army of Two, Gears of War, SWAT 4
Best played... without thinking about the fact that this totally should have been DLC.

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