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Rainbow Six Lockdown

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Tom Clancy's best-selling techno thrillers have probably done as much to fuel paranoia about international terrorism as the ranting of bin Laden, Bush and Blair, but they don't half inspire decent videogames.

Clancy's original Rainbow Six novel, a chunky doorstop of a book, has spawned around ten squad-based shooters over the years (we lost count trying to add up all the PC expansion packs) and the latest, Rainbow Six 4, looks set to continue the series' strong pedigree.

Developed once again by North Carolina-based Red Storm Entertainment, the big change for this encounter is that you'll get the chance to play as two different characters. As ever, squad leader Ding Chavez is the main man but Dieter Weber, the team's crack sniper, will be also be playable.

There will also be ten different troopers of various nationalities to choose from for each mission, each having their own specialist skill set. Of course you'll only be able to take three of them on each mission, so you'll need to choose wisely.

The solo-player campaign mode is billed as having a darker, edgier storyline and from what little Ubisoft are giving away at the moment, it appears that Team Rainbow are themselves being targeted by - get this - an evil bioterrorist organisation! Genius.

One of the team, Weber, gets himself lost in a mission and you'll have to get him back. How that fits with Weber being the second playable character remains to be seen. A short trailer, which you'll find on next month's disc, has the tagline "This time it's personal". With not a whiff of irony, apparently.

Naturally for one of the most popular series on Live, there'll be a raft of online multiplayer modes, both cooperative and adversarial.

Also new for this instalment will be an online 'Career mode', which allows you to create your own trooper and improve his skills and equipment in 'all new objective-based missions'. For those without Live, expect a similar number of split-screen games.

The game will be set in 2009, so expect state-of-the-art weaponry, including the fancy MTAR-21 micro assault rifle. And, so the press release says, battering rams. Huh?

Add in a brand new graphics engine, improved enemy AI and audio advances such as creaky floorboards, whispering terrorists and hostages begging for their lives (tasteful) and you've more likely than not got another top quality shooter on your hands.

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Lockdown will be out for Xbox, PS2, Gamecube and PC in March

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