|In 1998, Red Storm came out with a quirky little title
that took the gaming world by surprise. Based upon a Tom Clancy novel, Rainbow Six
featured a storyline that had you leading an elite NATO anti-terrorist squad against
insidious troublemakers from around the globe. The kicker was that the game combined this
realistic strategic setting with a first-person shooter perspective. Up until then,
FPSs had been considered the guilty pleasures of the gaming world. For all the
charms of Doom, Quake II, and Duke Nukem, they didnt overtax anyones brain.
All that changed with Rainbow Six. Suddenly planning became as importanteven more
important--as shooting, and no longer could your character take a clip in the chest and
continue to smash mouth. Nope, in Rainbow Six stealth was all; one false move or one
unconsidered dash through a doorway inevitably lead to one well-placed terrorists
bullet, and that was all it took to turn out your lights. Your arsenal didnt allow
you access to plasma rifles or BFGs; you had to make do with HKs, flashbangs,
breaching charges and smoke grenades. And not only did Rainbow Six have a tense single
player game; it became one of the most popular multiplayer games out there as well. For
example, I just checked on the Microsoft Gaming Zone, and the most- played game
wasthats rightRainbow Six.
Rogue Spear builds on the phenomenal success of Rainbow Six. It offers some nice improvements and some handy features, but dont expect any revolutionary changes. Like the first game, Rogue Spear finds you leading your collection of commandos against various and sundry terrorist groups. The eighteen-mission campaign begins with a series of seemingly unrelated missions spread across the world. Soon enough, however, you begin to realize that theres someone behind all these incidents, and that person is bent uponcue the musicworld domination. Your jobshut em down.
Rogue Spears graphics are a noticeable improvement over Rainbow Sixs. While the graphics engine is still not quite state of the artnobodys going to mistake it for Unreal or Half-Lifeit does an excellent job of rendering very atmospheric environments. For example, early on in the campaign youll play a hellaciously tough mission in Kosovo. The mission weaves you through narrow bombed-out streets during a rainstorm, and its eerily realistic. The same goes for all the other missions, from those conducted on a 747 to those that take place above the Arctic Circle. Characters look a lot nicer, too; Red Storm has included some nice motion-captured character animation, and your teams movements look very realistic; theyll even limp if theyve been clipped in the leg. Speaking of getting clipped, the tangos death throes are terrific. OK, they can be almost comic at times, but they look damn nice.
Gameplay also remains much the same. You still get your assignment, choose your
operatives, arm them with a very extensive collection of very nasty weapons, and then
design a plan. But a few new features make a big difference.
And the enemy artificial intelligence has been buffed way up. In Rainbow Six, most enemy tangos were pitifully dense. You could snipe at a terrorist while his buddies standing next to him did nothing butwell, continue standing next to his now-dead body. Cold-hearted bastards, those terrorists. And suicidal, too. In Rogue Spear, however, terrorists are much, much, brighter. Sure, theyll still make a stupid move or two, but theyre alert little devils. In fact, tangos are terribly quick to respond, and theyre also very quick and deadly shots.
And as before, multiplayer is a kick. Rainbow Sixs multiplayer aspect was cranked way up in the Eagle Watch add-on, and Rogue Spears multiplayer ups the ante. Its chock full of game options, its elegantly implemented, and it rewards smart team play and solid tactics. If youve got the connection for it, this is bar none the most thoughtful and rewarding multiplayer FPS out there.
But the game has its glitches, too. For all the graphic improvement, there are still clipping problems, and you dont need a heartbeat monitor to tell you a tangos in the next room when his weapons sticking through a wall. And for all the improvement of enemy AI, it doesnt seem like much has been done to improve your teams intelligencein fact, one of the most frustrating things about Rogue Spear is the trouble your teams will get into when youre not riding herd on them. Since terrorists are plenty sharper than before, its not unusual for you to be leading Red Team stealthily towards victory, only listen helplessly while Blue Team botches the whole thing. The only option is to switch teams constantly, only leaving teams uncontrolled when theyre safely tucked away from trouble. This surprising incompetence in soldiers who are reputedly "the best of the best" can make missions very difficult.
Which leads me to another quibble with Rogue Spear. As in Rainbow Six, you can only control your teams leader. You cant switch to control team members who might be carrying essential equipmentin order to make them conduct a non-planned action, you have to kick out to orders mode. Its a bit clumsy, and something that I hoped would be addressed in this game. But its not. This is made more problematic by the planning map, which hasnt changed much from Rainbow Six and which is awkwardly implemented during gameplay. For example, if during the heat of the mission you skip one of your planned waypoints or dont call a planned go code, your map will quickly become an entangled mess of lines and points. The only way to undo the maze is to backtrack. Not something, I imagine, that most anti-terrorist teams do with any frequency.
Finally, while multiplayer is great, you better have a blazingly fast internet connection to enjoy it. You can try to play with a 56.6 modem, but youll experience significant lag and get kicked from a lot of games. Like Quake III, Rogue Spear multiplayer is for those with bandwidth to burn.
So whats the final call on Rogue Spear? Well, it improves on Rainbow Six, enough for me to recommend it, but it still has enough annoying little glitches to keep it out of five-star territory. Heres hoping that the next add-on patches Rogue Spear to the next level.