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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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Ups:Great new multiplayer modes, 5 big, beautiful new levels.
Downs: Single-player game is short and lacks story; some problems from first game not addressed.
System Reqs:
Pentium-166, 32 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM, 3D card.
ew1.jpg (6717 bytes)As we all know, PC games have a very short shelf life; if a game isn’t a big hit within the first couple of weeks, it’s probably never gonna be one. But Rainbow Six was one of those rare games that bucked the odds. Released without much fanfare and to often tepid reviews, it became a cult hit, then a word-of-mouth popular hit, and has now become a multi-player standard on the Zone and a serious candidate for game of the year.

ew2.jpg (6555 bytes)Rainbow Six was the first of the recent spate of FPS games, like Thief and in some ways Half-Life, that emphasized stealth and problem-solving over a quick trigger finger. You took the role of the leader of Rainbow Six, an elite international group of anti-terrorist commandos. Much of your success in the game depended upon forming a well-timed plan before jumping into the 3D shooter part of the game, and most of the 3D shooting bore little resemblance to your typical Quake frag fest. One false step, one careless move, and you were the recipient of a terrorist bullet in the gut. And in Rainbow Six even those puny pistols killed you dead pronto, just like real life.

ew5.jpg (6624 bytes)So we were all looking forward to Rainbow Six: Eagle Watch, the new mission pack. Eagle Watch adds four new operatives to your team, a choice of three more weapons—the Desert Eagle .50 pistol and a couple of Heckler and Koch assault rifles. It also adds five (that’s right, only five) new single player missions. Perhaps most significantly for online players, it does add a good number of new multiplayer features, including six new multiplayer modes—Scatter, Assassin, Scatter Assassin, Terrorist Hunt, Scatter Team Terrorist Hunt, and Save the Base—and they are all way cool. If you buy this game to play multiplayer, it’s definitely worth the twenty dollar dip.

ew6.jpg (5962 bytes)The single player game, on the other hand, is a less unequivocal matter. First of all, only five missions? It is true that each of these missions takes place in a large and fabulous real-world location—a Russian shuttle launching platform, the Taj Mahal, Big Ben, The Forbidden City (just like in Mulan!), and finally in the U.S. Senate Building—which might be a dangerous choice, given the times. It’s also true that all of these locations look great, and it’s true as well that the missions are darned difficult—particularly the Big Ben one, which I really, really, hated, even while playing it over and over.

But it’s still only five missions; I was expecting more, frankly. The game also lacks the strong narrative of the original; each of the missions is self-contained. It’s just one damn thing after the other in the tango-hunting world. If I ran the world (and yes, I know I don’t) each of these grand locations would have been the capstone of a "mini-campaign" of four or so missions, all of them connected by some cool overarching narrative.

ew3.jpg (7067 bytes)Even more problematic is the fact that the mission pack doesn’t address some of the quibbles players had with the original. You can still only control the leader of your team in 3D view; this means that the other members of your team follow you around like chicks trailing a hen in the barnyard. This was the least appealing aspect of Rainbow Six, and one would think it to be fairly easily fixed, but no such luck. And the enemy AI is still pretty clueless. They’ll watch comrades get shot without reacting, and while they are still dead shots and pop up in the most unlikely places, they aren’t very good at reacting to changing situations. Again, if you play multiplayer, you don’t have to worry about this, unless you’re playing with really stupid guys. And the documentation still bites; a full seven pages of the 20-page manual are taken up with credits and acknowledgements. Please. It takes much longer to figure out this essentially elegant and simple game than it should, and that’s inexcusable.

So here’s the bottom line on Rainbow Six: Eagle Watch. If you’re in it for the multiplayer, the five new maps and six new modes make it well worth your while; go for it. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a single-player experience, the game’s brevity and lack of improvements might not justify your twenty bucks.

cheat.gif (1707 bytes)--Rick Fehrenbacher