What happened in Vegas...has stayed in Vegas
TomChick - News - 03/18/08 - Link

I'm not digging Rainbow Six: Vegas 2. Is it a case of familiarity breeding contempt? For instance, was the guard banter in the first Vegas this bad? Because I don't recall minding it. But by the time I'm listening to a couple of "terrorists" in Vegas 2 talking about how they'd rather design videogames about diplomats, the jokes have worn out their welcome. By that time, Vegas 2 has just gassed hundreds of people to death and it would have you treat it seriously. But for those wacky loveable guards! I mean, terrorists. Those wacky loveable terrorists! Oh, for fun!

I don't recall minding the weird sound glitches in Vegas so much. It was a new game doing so many things right that I could cut them some slack for muffling gunfire and grenades coming from over a balcony. Their sound engine didnít consistently distinguish between sound through a closed door or an open door. Another room was another room, even if there was a huge sprawling opening between them. But in Vegas 2, why hasn't this been fixed?

Because the developers sure as heck weren't busy making cool new locations. The locations in Vegas 2 are really bottom-of-the-barrel stuff. In the first Vegas, the worst levels were first. You start off in Mexico, fighting your way through brown levels that felt like B-side material left over from GRAW. But it was only an overture, or a prelude, or a prologue! Because then you got to Vegas, dropped onto a crowded street in the aftermath of what must have been one hell of a battle. From there, the first Vegas took off like a rocket, working its way through elaborate casinos and hotels, and ending up on a famous landmark. That's how you do level progression! Bravo, Ubisoft!

But in Vegas 2, the highlight of the game is actually the opening in France, which is no great shakes (it's more of a "midlight"), but it's much better than what you'll get when you go to Vegas: Back alleys, warehouses, another casino, and an interminable convention center. "Take that, E3!" Ubisoft seems to be saying, over and over and over, through exhibition hall after exhibition hall, culminating in an absolutely ludicrous bomb drama. Vegas 2 finally works its way out into the desert. An oil refinery? Really? That's what you want to do? It then goes to a villa. Wake me when it's over. Oh, wait, it is over?

Vegas 2 doesn't even know how to tell its own story, which relates poorly to the first game. Not that I could tell you much about the story in the first game aside from the fact that terrorists were messing around with Las Vegas. That's all you needed to know after the obligatory "she killed my partner" opening. You could see all the Vegas havoc from the perspective of helicopter rides, balconies, rappelling points, and the occasional newscast. Vegas 2 does a lousy job following up on this. You get the occasional pair of panicked civilians running away, a few helicopter rides that aren't even trying, and a bunch of sound bite briefings. At one point, Vegas 2 doesn't even bother to put cars on the city streets, as if the developers couldn't be bothered to get around to it. The dramatic atrocity takes place on the other side of a magically locked door that you know you'll never be able to open, simply because the engine can't render the number of people you hear screaming in there. Let me tell you something, Vegas 2. We've all played Dead Rising. Don't pretend to those sorts of crowds until you're ready to pony up.

The RPG system looks cool at first blush, and it's a welcome relief that you're earning experience as you play, even when you get killed and reset to a checkpoint. This will happen a lot, because Vegas 2 starts in with the dirty 'gotcha!' tricks at about the half way point (Vegas 1 waited until the last few levels before throwing these at you). If there's one thing worse than taking away your weapons, it's taking away the AI teammates you've been relying on. That'll force a few reloads!

You get experience towards your rank, as well as in three different skill areas, each with its own weapon unlocks. But in the course of normally playing, you're going to advance all three areas at a pretty uniform rate: first your Marksman ability, then your CQB following close behind, and finally your assault lagging by a few levels. Unless you do things like try to clear a level with only grenades or rushing bad guys for close range kills, the RPG progression will be more of a formality rather than a system to encourage choice.

Still, it's a reason to keep playing. There's nothing quite so gratifying as leveling up. And there's plenty of that here. The new terrorist hunts are great not just because you can bring along AI teammates and earn xp, but because the terrorist AI does a great job of playing logically. Once the shooting starts, it's entirely possible that all the terrorists on the level will work their way towards you. Who needs to hunt terrorists when they're perfectly happy to hunt you? This continues to make Vegas one of the best co-op shooters you can play.

I haven't tried multiplayer yet, since the game won't be out until tomorrow. But I expect this is where folks will really dig Vegas 2. I am disappointed with the choice of levels, which include a mix of levels from the new [sic] content and old standbys like Villa, Presidio, and Kill House. Maybe Ubisoft is sitting on better levels as downloadable content. But for now, it looks like the single player is a quick-and-dirty expansion pack job, and the heavy lifting for the $60 price tag is going to get done in multiplayer.

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