Whatever happened to the tactical FPS? As the FPS genre has evolved, it’s become increasingly about loud and constant action (Killzone), and multiplayer kill fests (Call of Duty).
Those few attempts to recreate the creeping, tense, one-bullet-and-you’re-dead style of gameplay (Sniper: Ghost Warrior) have been largely ignored. Which is why rediscovering Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six (available for download as a PSOne Classic) is a nice, if flawed, experience.
|Got to love these old box art|
In Rainbow Six, you’ll lead three separate soldiers across a number of rescue-and-secure missions across the world. Dealing with world terrorism, disarming bombs and rescuing hostages are hallmarks of Tom Clancy’s “all-American military hero” style of novel, and it translates well into game form. Where many modern shooters are linear trips down pretty pathways, Rainbow Six allows you to approach missions you’d like. These ‘open’ settings are very small in scope (a typical mission will last just a few minutes), but they feel varied, and looking for different solutions gives the game an element of replayability.
The heroes are mortal, rather than superhuman, and enemies can floor them with just a few bullets. On the lower levels its comic just how bad the terrorists’ aim is, but on the higher difficulty levels there is a stiff challenge involved in tactically picking battle grounds and making good use of silenced weapons.
Though the AI is primitive, and the visuals are blocky and ugly, the game is still eminently playable. Controls are mapped well to the PS3 or PSP control options (though after so many years of using the shoulder triggers to fire, using a face button to shoot takes a little readjusting), and though aiming isn’t smooth as the game was released before the dual stick innovation really hit on, a generous auto-aim means you’ll generally be able to find your target quickly.
|This game is not pretty. But it works.|
Weapons lack any real impact, but considering this game isn’t an out-and-out shooter, the tinny sound effect and weak recoil isn’t as much of a problem as you’d think.
There are some definite downsides to the game that pull the experience into mediocrity. Although you control three soldiers, it’s easier to complete missions using just one of them. Although those soldiers all apparently have different statistics (as evidenced on their profiles), the in-game impact is minimal – chalk all this up to a nice idea in theory but little practical application. Without making good use of that team mechanic, the experience is a little too generic for our tastes.
There’s also some occasional glitchiness where your characters will get themselves stuck on invisible barriers. Perhaps not too unusual for that era, but it’s downright aggravating now.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six is not a great game, and the years haven’t done much to improve its vintage. But it is an entertaining enough FPS anyway, and coming from a very different FPS design philosophy to the norm now, it might just be worth a look for the especially nostalgic or anyone looking for something a little different.