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Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal | Publisher: Ubisoft
Players: 1 to 8 Player Game | Release Date: 03/19/03 | Genre: Shooter

The pioneers of "one shot kills" tactical team shooters are back for another round of terrorist hunting. Though not entirely original, what Ubi Soft does best, it does better in Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield. Plagued since the beginning by unstable graphics and gameplay, Raven Shield has sharpened things up considerably. If you can't get enough strategic man hunts, this latest offering brings new guns and levels, but not much else.

Just like the previous Rainbow Six games, Raven Shield lets you lead a group of elite international counterterrorists known as Rainbow. Equipped with the latest high-tech gear and high-powered arsenal, these soldiers are just waiting to go into combat. An iffy story loosely based around some random bad guy and his search for World War II booty really only gives justification for your rampage on evil in the world. Text and audio prep you before missions, with a few added cutscenes more for enjoyment than anything. Still, let's face it, you want something to shoot and that's about it, so the loss of a deep story isn't a major flaw.

Missions don't branch much further than "eliminate terrorists and rescue hostages," which is disappointing. Raven Shield doesn't even bless you with new characters, but keeps stringently consistent with its predecessors. But, and here's where we'll focus, the levels are outstanding, providing a lot of tactical action and maps packed with great cover and sniping spots, which also allows many an ambush. You'll you're your trained squad into the likes of London, South America, and the Cayman Islands. Since that is the basic wants and desires of any gamer who loves this type of game, Raven Shield delivers well a new pack of shooting goodies. Few maps are reused, but some do change goals or switch from night to day combat.

To conquer each task set before you, you must pick and equip or team(s) and then plan your assault. Similar to classic Rainbow 6, you can take three four member teams with you. Each operative has his/her own strengths and weakness that are improved throughout the game.

"I'm going on a picnic, and I'm going to take" the coolest toys ever seen! Weapons range from assault rifles, to sniper rifles, to machine guns and pistols. Your team can also carry a variety of miscellaneous equipment like tear-gas, flash-bang, smoke, and regular grenades; and other odds and ends for whatever the job requires.

The heartbeat sensor has been modified and map feature. No longer is there a small map portrayed in the bottom corner of your screen, and the heartbeat sensor isn't a little handheld device that you carry. Instead when you view a map, it appears in full screen mode. Beware: you can still be shot in this mode. It is not a "pause the game 'til I find you" feature. The heartbeat sensor now looks like binoculars, which ping a white circle where people are- not all may be bad. But it doesn't seem to work as well as desire, sometimes missing people right in front of you.

Now it's onto the complex, and often confusing planning room. This is the trademark feature that set the Rainbow Six series apart from other shooters; unfortunately it is also where much bewilderment set in with schematics and a 3D map view. Since you can only control one operative at a time, it is important that if you use this feature to plot specific waypoints for each of the other teams. You can also choose insertion points, rules of engagements, and special tasks at certain points.

Like the other games in the series, Raven Shield does not make it mandatory for you to go through this planning process should you just enjoy running into the fray by yourself or with others in tow. Each method, with or without planning, has its good and bad points. With all that said, take a deep breath, we're going in. Raven Shield's focus on stealth and one-shot-kill realism is incredible. It does not get sidetracked by unnecessary fancy fluffs, dings, and whistles. There is a constant shift between sneaking and full-blown firefights, which keeps any fan right in the excitement. Beginners may find Raven Shield a bit difficult, especially without the ability to save mid-mission, but veterans of the game with wade deep into the challenge.

The amazing disappearing-reappearing terrorist and the ever-impressive floating dead body have been, for the most part, done away with in Raven Shield. In their places is the realistic rag doll effect, which gives the dying bodies a believable randomness to their falls. Powered by the Unreal engine, Raven Shield features a lot of artistic details, which breaths majestic life into the Rainbow Six world. Now showing is a view of your current weapon and the great effects that come with it such as bullet-effects on environments.

But one absolute evil, which has contended every Rainbow Six game, is its undependable AI, running the scale from having God-like abilities to being mind-numbingly stupid. This problem exists in teammates as well as terrorists. While sometimes, your team is an invaluable element to winning the day, but other times they'll leave you high and dry, not able to hit the broad side of a barn.

Should the campaign route get tiresome, you can run lone wolf or terrorist hunt, and a shooter is little without a multiplayer function. None of these are incredibly innovative, but they do add much to the game's replayability.

Raven Shield has its flaws (AI continuing to be a bother), but in view of the big picture, it is definitely worthy of the Rainbow Six name and a good addition to any fan's library.

By Peter Humpton - 04/02/03
ESRB Details: Blood, Violence
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Screenshots for Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield

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