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Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Ubisoft Shanghai
Publisher:  Ubisoft
# of Players:  1-2
Genre:  Squad-based FPS
ESRB:  Mature
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card, Progressive Scan, Dolby Pro Logic II
Date Posted:  7-8-04

Much like the Nintendo 64, the GameCube hasn’t seen quite the “mature” support that the PS2 and Xbox have received.  Ubisoft has been one of the rare developers to support this segment regularly, bringing several older-skewing titles to the system including Splinter Cell, Prince of Persia, XIII, The Sum of All Fears, and now Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3.   Like most of those this is another decent port, although it’s still easily the worst version of Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3.

In case you aren’t familiar with the franchise, Rainbow Six 3 places the gamer in the role of Ding Chavez.  Ding is, of course, one of the major players in a number of Tom Clancy novels including…you guessed it…Rainbow Six.  As field leader of Team Rainbow, Ding traverses through a variety of locations eliminating terrorists, rescuing hostages, defusing bombs, and completing other objectives as warranted.  This is done with the help of up to three teammates, which follow Ding’s orders without question.  The console versions actually streamline the original PC concept quite a bit, removing most of the pre-stage planning (like setting up waypoints) while leaving the action wholly intact.  I won’t bore you with the details, but the result is a game much more suited to a controller and TV/couch setup than prior console conversions.

Ding issues orders to his teammates via a command menu.  Once the menu is brought up by holding down the A button, it’s a simple activity of pressing in the direction of the action the team should carry out.  This is context sensitive, so a different set of actions will appear depending on what Ding is currently looking at.  If he’s looking at a door, actions such as “open and clear” and “breach and clear” will be available.  If he’s looking at a bomb, “demo up” will be the action to choose.  Ding can also issue orders with Zulu codes, which basically means “when I say go” and is useful in storming into a room from two sides.  The PS2 and Xbox versions also supported issuing commands via voice recognition, while the GameCube version does not.

The single player game is all about coordinating the team and issuing orders, and it’s here where the PS2’s limitations really hurt the experience.  I said PS2 intentionally, because the GameCube version is based on the PS2 build and held back as a result.  Due to the weaker hardware, Ubisoft had to chop up the original Xbox levels for the PS2 by removing alternate routes, enemies, and some of the details (boxes, office supplies, etc.) that littered the world before.  With a little more effort, Ubisoft could’ve tweaked the GameCube build to include some of that missing Xbox content but sadly did not.  It’s obvious that this was a quick and dirty port of the PS2 build, and if that isn’t evidence enough the message mentioning a PS2 memory card that appears for about half a second when loading from a checkpoint is.  While the barren levels weren’t a huge deal in Splinter Cell, they are here because gameplay is centered on a team instead of merely one man.  These chopped up levels offer fewer locations to utilize teamwork, removing many of the areas where tactics using Zulu codes or flanking enemies were used before.  Take that away and you take away most of what the franchise is about.  The result is a game that feels more like a straight-up FPS than a squad-based tactical game.

There are other minor quibbles, such as the lack of an onscreen map (replaced by a radar) that hurt as well.  Surprisingly though, the stripped-down port actually makes the stealth level I complained about in my Xbox review more enjoyable.  Basically I complained that the game engine isn’t suited to that style of play, and that complaint still holds true here.  However, since there are fewer paths and enemies to deal with in the level it’s a lot easier to navigate (and get out of the way) in the GameCube version.

Rainbow Six 3 is still my favorite Xbox Live game, and to this day remains one of the most popular on the service.  The PS2 version supported a scaled-down online mode, but of course Nintendo fans get shafted once again with no online support.  You can’t really blame Ubisoft due to the lack of an online strategy/infrastructure/clue on Nintendo’s part and the anticipated lower sales compared to the other platforms, but feasibly they could’ve done it.  Sega’s shown that online play can work on the system, and Ubisoft already has a service setup for their online PS2 titles that could’ve been used.

To their credit Ubisoft didn’t just cut stuff out, as the GCN version features an additional single-player level called Trieste and a co-op mode (both featured in the PS2 version as well).  The co-op mode features the single-player levels that were converted into online levels on Xbox, and does provide some form of multiplayer mode to enjoy.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3 looks like you’d expect a port of a PS2 port of an Xbox game to look.  The levels are structurally the same as the PS2 version, but everything looks sharper and a bit more detailed.  The night vision and thermal vision modes are also much better than the PS2 version.  Sadly most of the Xbox’s pretty lighting effects are still missing, and character models look somewhat awkward.  Oddly, the framerate is a little unsteady at times, even though this game doesn’t come close to matching GameCube exclusives graphically.

Just about the only area that didn’t see a downgrade is in the sound.  Everything sounds good, with various footstep noises on different surfaces and realistic weapon sounds.  Enemies yell out in mostly Spanish, and the player’s teammates have a lot of well-acted dialogue to add to the atmosphere.  The music is the standard military stuff found in every Clancy game, and won’t disappoint existing fans.  The support for Pro Logic II is also a plus.

Highs:

  • Although the levels have been chopped up, Ubisoft managed to save some of the very best parts of the Xbox version.
  • The core gameplay arrives intact, and that’s fun under any circumstances.
  • An additional single-player level and a co-op mode not found in the Xbox version.
  • The graphics are better than the PS2 version.

Lows:

  • The map has been replaced by weak radar.  Were they simply too lazy to re-draw the map for the redesigned levels?

  • The chopped up levels cut out of most of the unique fun the franchise provides.

  • No online play and no voice recognition support.

  • Obviously a low priority at Ubisoft – I encountered a bug in Trieste that left me stuck in a ramp, there’s a leftover PS2 memory card message that pops up briefly when loading a checkpoint, and there are no GCN-exclusive extras to be found.  At least they gave us GBA support with Splinter Cell.

Final Verdict:

It’s obvious that Ubisoft didn’t put a lot of time into the GCN port of Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3, and who can really blame them?  Nintendo has no online plan to speak of and it’s already guaranteed to sell far fewer copies than on PS2 or Xbox.  I didn’t expect an online mode since online play on GameCube is a niche market at best, but the fact remains that it’s missing and it hurts this game’s replay value quite a bit.  What are left are a stripped-down single player mode that doesn’t really encourage teamwork like it does on Xbox, and a co-op mode that’s a poor substitute for online play.  It’s still fun to be Ding Chavez, but this game’s recommended only if you don’t own a PS2 or Xbox and really want some squad-based FPS action.

Overall Score: 7.0

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