With heavyweights like Halo 3, Call of Duty 4 and Gears of War owning the first three slots on Xbox Live's "most played" rankings, it's easy to forget about the game that sits at #4. The original Rainbow Six Vegas, however, has been a multiplayer favorite for over a year, and for good reason. More tactical than trigger-happy, the terrorist shooter offers a paced and precise alternative to the all-out arcade feeling of its competitors.
The sequel, arriving March 18, retains the same gameplay and should appeal to the same audience. During our hands-on time, we still spent more time creeping silently through hallways, peeking around corners and pressing ourselves against walls for cover than we did actually shooting anyone. One moment of exposure - and one bullet from a patient enemy - still killed us more often than did open warfare. And endlessly customizing our armor, weaponry and appearance was still almost as addictive as the matches themselves. If you're one of the folks still playing Rainbow Six Vegas' multiplayer, you're still probably gonna love everything in this new package.
We tried out three maps (out of 13 new in total) and three modes. Demolition is a variation on the familiar Attack & Defend mode from the first game, in which one group attempts to sabotage a location while the other group works desperately to protect it. As you can probably guess, Demolition involves either planting or defusing a bomb. What made the match more intense than your average "One Bomb" game in Halo 3 was the limited ability to respawn. After four or five deaths, you were completely finished and relegated to watching your teammates finish the job for you. The training facility map was a bit generic, but the addition of strategically placed target dummies produced a few false alarms and heart-pounding moments. See this match for yourself in the video below.
Next was Team Leader, an interesting take on the familiar VIP mode. Each team has a leader and, as long as that leader is breathing, the team has infinite respawns. Once the team leader is assassinated, his followers become mortal and will die permanently. So why doesn't the leader just find a closet and hide? Because he can kill enemies permanently throughout the match, which can give his team an enormous advantage. And do you risk approaching a leader, knowing that a single shot could effectively win the match... but also knowing that he or she could end your match immediately?
Since the second map was a suburban home, we dealt with many of these dilemmas while crouching under a kitchen counter or reloading behind a potted plant. Surprisingly, the dull realism and non-exoticism of Rainbow Six Vegas 2's maps are what make them so memorable. Alien worlds are fun escapism, but dying somewhere you recognize is scarier. See the second map and match below.