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Rainbow Six Lockdown

  • As much as people air concern over whether EA will one day acquire - and maybe assimilate - Ubisoft, another pressing question is whether anyone would notice.

    Together with the upcoming Prince of Persia 3, the Rainbow Six series is at the heart of claims that the publisher is slipping into a familiar business model that champions regular updates to a cluster of bankable franchises.

    The heavy delays experienced by Lockdown, the series' fourth instalment, make this a difficult accusation to prove outright.

    Red Storm's insistence on resolving bug issues and fleshing out its experience pushing the title's release closer to the advent of Xbox 360, and closer to a situation where consumers' minds (and wallets) become distracted by the allure of the developer's more promising Clancy operation, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter.

    Considering its new engine and new HUD (a visor that provides visual feedback such as cracks and bulletholes), Lockdown doesn't immediately instil confidence.

    Its honed and intuitive squad-command interface still fails to give adequate control over precisely how your team will position themselves once assigned a destination, the overall flow of missions feels more arcadey than before, and not to the game's benefit.

    Sniper missions, where you're charged with the long-range defence of your advancing squad, are decent slices of entertainment, but the feeling of inappropriateness is tangible.

    There's good news in the improvement of team AI, but the erratic behaviour of enemy units still suggests a job far from finished.

    However, from the perspective that the Rainbow Six series (for Xbox, at least) has set itself up as more of a multiplayer exercise than a solo campaign - something suggested by the last game's Black Arrow expansion - then the outlook seems more optimistic.

    The Persistent Elite Creation mode - an online career with equipment and appearance changes - stands to be greeted by rapturous applause so long as the game's matching systems can ensure that play remains balanced.

    If Rainbow Six Lockdown must prove itself a game built on a desire for evolution rather than an excuse for exploitation, then here it at least offers supporting, if not conclusive, evidence.

    Rainbow Six Lockdown will be available for PS2, Xbox and Gamecube in September and for PC in January 2006

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