The grizzled, realistic military shooter Rainbow Six first dropped into counter-terrorist action in 1998 against a backdrop of arcadey, sci-fi shooters like Unreal Tournament and Quake. Rainbow and its two sequels were swiftly dubbed "thinking man's shooters" due to mature presentation and hyper-tactical gameplay. Rainbow Six: Lockdown's previous installment, Rainbow Six: 3, wasn't just hard; at some points it was simply an exercise in masochism. But, finally threading the needle and beating treacherous odds with your team intact was an adrenaline sandwich. And if you failed, you could literally go back to the drawing board using the tactical planning tool that highlighted R6:3's open, multiple-route maps.
Looking at the new Rainbow Six: Lockdown on the PC without remembering those roots is virtually impossible. Playing the demo, it is difficult not to entertain visions of board room meetings about focus-group results and mass-market impact. That tactical planning mode that few used? Gone. Three fire-teams and multiple routes have been pared down to one. The brutal-but-realistic one-hit-kill damage system has been replaced by a more forgiving three-bar health meter. Also, the dramatic, classical score has been yanked, swapped for metal 'gods' Fear Factory.
What's left at the core of Lockdown? A streamlined, accessible shooter that still looks and feels much like the original but offers (dare we suggest) more fun. You'll get a story-driven, single-player game focused around Tom Clancy's fictional wunderkind, Ding Chavez. As the impressively named Ding, you'll command the elite Rainbow team of counter-terrorist operatives who have a huge arsenal of equipment and eat bad guys for breakfast. You can lose team members, but if Ding is killed, it's game over. Lockdown will take you from Europe to South Africa in 16 missions that let you rip the scab off a terrorist plot to unleash a virus on the world, preventing havoc and mass destruction in the process. Thanks, in advance.