After much delay, PS3 owners are finally able to taste the dish Ubisoft first baked for Xbox 360 owners back in mid-November. Has the extra six months in the Ubi incubator, provided PS3 gamers with a far superior version? Does the PS3 version blow its Xbox cousin out of the water? Does the PS3 rendition give you superhuman powers?
Rainbow Six: Vegas weaves an interesting-enough plotline, centering around southern boy Logan Keller, a recent rising star amongst the ranks of the Rainbow team and whose face you'll become intimately familiar with as you duck him behind crates or crane his neck around doorways to spot and eliminate bad guys. One of our hero's first missions starts the Rainbow team off in Mexico, where you're being sent to eliminate a terrorist threat led by international terrorist Irena Morales. The game's plot is riddled with conspiracy-a-plenty, taking twists and turns while leading the Rainbow team to locales like Mexico, Vegas (of course) and later, an expansive hydroelectric dam.
This is not for players that favor run-and-gun style of play. It's a tactical shooter, and gives you up to two squadmates to control, direct and ultimately, be responsible for throughout the campaign. These squadmates don't require a degree in babysitting, thankfully. The A.I. works exceptionally well, with your teammates returning fire, utilizing cover and more. During an assault on the Calypso Casino in the game's Vegas campaign mission, we ordered our Bravo team towards the back of a pickup truck, where they discovered "tangos" and immediately focused to eliminate the threat, all the while remaining behind cover in order to minimize injury. In other words, your teammates don't run out in the open to get a better shot. Also, when ordering our team to "clear the room" we were happy to see them do just that, walking around tables and obstacles to effectively make sure all tangos were cleared before making the announcement. No fear that bad guys were going to pop a cap in our backs when we later joined them, they effectively cleared the room completely, not just eliminating bad guys in plain sight.
Controls, thankfully, can be adjusted to better suit your style of play. Right off the bat, players may want to choose something more akin to the default Xbox 360 control scheme, which is easily selected under game options (we would've preferred the Map on L1 instead of Select but we can deal). Learning the controls are crucial, since they will be your "eyes" on the field, controlling your squad placement, reloading your weapons and popping on night vision goggles. It all better be precise and laid out in such a way were you don't have to think about what button to press when the moment comes to pop a cap into a terrorist's head. Thankfully, we can report the controls are top notch and responsive. Sixaxis works perfectly, which is ideal for a precision shooter like the Rainbow series. The tacked-on Sixaxis functionality, however, doesn't fare as well. Using the Sixaxis for the snake cam (a device employed to "look" under doors) is an exercise in frustration, as the Y invert does not carry over to the snake cam and the sensitivity is through the roof. You'll likely want to forego the tilt-function gameplay element altogether in favor of the R thumbstick when it comes to controlling the snake cam.
The graphics are crisp and well detailed and shows Vegas in all its glittering glory. The game does have a rather annoying graphical setback when attempting to play in 1080i resolution. When the game plays in either 1080i or 1080p, the textures appear super "muddy" and the text becomes extremely blurry. Players will probably think they're playing a PS2 game at these resolutions, which is sure to frustrate those looking for the true next-gen Rainbow experience. We'd recommend heading to the XMB before booting the game to disable 1080i (and 1080P) to lock the resolution at 720p, where the game looks its best. Quick comparisons show the PS3 version looking sharper and for the most part, on par with the Xbox version. Textures up close sometimes tend to get a little muddy, even in 720p, but judging from the intense firefights you will be encountering, we'd have to reiterate that even this is not a game-breaking setback. As we started out on the Mexico map, we noticed the rather impressive view distance, which allowed for easier scanning for bad guys. Also, the terrorist animations are exceptional, with lifelike rag-doll physics contorting fallen bodies in unique and often, amusing ways. On a few occasions, corpses would "shake" after we dispatched bad guys atop stairwells. We found it amusing, but hardly game-killing.
Initially, we found the default graphical settings a bit too dark for our tastes. Without an in-game gamma option, we had to brighten things up on our HDTV a good ten notches or so before the shadows began to soften, making bad guys easier to spot in darkened hallways. After we did, the game definitely hit its stride in the graphical department, allowing far greater depth in shadows. Unfortunately, jaggies make their presence known here on the PS3, notably popping up in areas with soft shadows. Again, not game-breaking but with that horsepower under the hood, we still have to wonder why recent offerings on the PS3 are still plagued by these pesky things, especially considering the Xbox version did a better job ironing out these things in their earlier release. Sound is top-notch, with authentic static-induced chatter between your commanding office and teammates. Gunfire is as impressive as we could expect. Though we couldn't compare the rifles to their real-life counterparts, we'd imagine the sounds are pristine ad authentic in their own right.
And that brings us to ... multiplayer: the meat and bones of any true Rainbow Six game. Happily, Vegas delivers in spades. With up to 14-player LAN, split screen, co-op scenarios and of course, PlayStation Network online matches, Vegas has you covered. Eight different match types give PS3 owners a chance to maim and pop adversaries in unique scenarios. The PS3 version includes two new game modes as well as the "Black Edition" and "Red Edition," map packs that are only available for Xbox owners via download off Xbox Live Marketplace. Match play over the PlayStation Network was happily lag-free but distressingly disappointing when it came to voice chat. Some player voices came in choppy and would sometimes, cut out completely for the rest of the match and we couldn't discern whether our Logitech USB headset was working as intended or if all players were experiencing this. Message boards seem to solidify this as a current bug, which hopefully, Ubisoft is working diligently on correcting. The voices we were able to hear came in crystal clear, a notch in clarity above Xbox Live, we dare say. Another strange bug occurred with the sound of gunfire repeating itself throughout the rest of the match. It only happened twice in our many online matches played, but was a touch annoying nontheless. Our online play was limited to a plethora of matches over the weekend and not once did we search for a game and end up not finding any to join (signs the community is already growing exceptionally fast). However, the game is in dire need of a lobby system, so players can select and choose which games to join. As it stands, you'll have to search for a game type and hope that the matchmaking system in place gives you a game you actually want to play. We ended up a few times in "Attack and Defend" with only one other player, or games already in progress with 20 minutes left in the match, leaving us to patiently wait for the round to complete. Having a lobby system (similar to what was implemented in Xbox Live) will allow players to select the match they want to play out of a list of available matches. Being able to select a lag-free, 12-player round of Attack and Defend will be welcome over spending five minutes playing "lobby roulette" and ending up with the short end of the stick in a match with a player attempting to host a match over a dial-up connection. We do expect the community to improve, which will certainly help late-night players with their frag pleasure quests.
Overall, we couldn't get enough of Rainbow Six: Vegas and imagine we'll be playing it online for quite awhile. We feel it offers players a visceral, intense and solid tactical shooter and is certainly a welcome addition to any gamer's PS3 library. Despite its very minor graphical glitches and multiplayer bugs, this next-gen shooter fills a sorely needed hole in the PS3 lineup. Gamers with both systems would do well in picking this title up for the PlayStation 3, considering that despite a few minor graphical setbacks, it offers additional value with two map packs included all on the same Blu-ray game disc. Overall, we heartily recommend Rainbow Six: Vegas to all gamers looking for a true next-gen tactical shooter. PS3 Fanboy Score: 8.5
[Update: Changed the wording slightly to indicate the now-free Rainbow Six: Vegas content for the Xbox 360 version over Xbox Live.]