I feel like introducing a bit of context before launching into my review of the actual game. I arrived home from an extended vacation in Seattle, flying into Denver on September 11th the three year anniversary of one of our countries greatest tragedies in recent memory. I walked into my home, greeted my roommates whom I had not seen in some time and embarked on the great American tradition of drinking copious amounts of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Once I was feeling very happy I opened my mail to find Rainbow Six: Black Arrow waiting for me, and what an appropriate plotline this game contained for the day: the trite and played story of terrorists attempting to assemble a weapon of mass destruction. Tossing the game into my Xbox and parking myself in front of the television with one of my roommates we began to fumble our way through the two player version of the game, which basically allows you to play through all of the missions in the game in a simplified manner. You also have the option to team up with a friend and go on an enjoyable terrorist hunt through each of the levels in the game removing any need to rescue some namby pamby hostages that shouldn’t have gotten themselves captured in the first place. The addition of cooperative mission modes in a first person shooter is always an enjoyable addition to a game as far as I’m concerned. The only thing I would have added, and really, you could say this for any FPS console game would be the ability to have all four characters manned by a human and playing on one Xbox.
The graphics, though nothing spectacular, are more then adequate. Several instances come up where their clever use of shadows helps you to slowly realize that you are about to be shot in the back of the head. Effects are light and not overdone, the fire left behind by an exploding grenade for example doesn’t dazzle, but definitely gets the point across. The levels are fairly static and the ability to interact with objects in the environment is minimal, but also not really needed.
The hype for the game on the packaging touts an advanced AI system, which I failed to take notice of. The AI in the game did not offer anything impressive and new as far as I could see, there was the usual complete obliviousness to the person standing ten feet away from you having his brains sprayed against the wall behind him. Definitely good enough to put up a fight, but nothing that deserved the title of “advanced AI”.
During my initial gaming session with Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow there were times I thought the control setup felt messy and not at all intuitive. Later after spending a bit of time with the game the controls became more fluid and easy to use.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the single player campaign was the use of the headset to communicate commands, receive orders and listen to chatter from your other teammates. Though a great addition to the game, and something I hope to see more in future games this sometimes led to uncomfortable and humorous moments sitting in a roomful of people yelling, “Secure, damn it, I said secure. You need to secure that hostage right freaking now.” Somehow, after slinging a diatribe of epithets interlaced with the word secure eventually your teammates would pick up on the idea you were attempting to communicate and proceed to secure your hostage. Really though, for the most part they got it on the first try. Also, you might be happy to know that they will respond to a thick southern drawl, impressive.
But of course, really, the most important part of the game is the multiplayer online play via xbox live. The only conceivable downside to the online play is the fact that there are other people that you have to play with. And, as you might be aware, the online gaming community doesn’t always represent the cream of the crop in our society.
With a fairly complex clan system, team and individual rankings, the ability to take part in competitions and a good selection of game types and maps you should be able to find something to satiate your need to take pride in the virtual killing of your fellow man for some time.
All and all, as with a great deal of first person shooters, the single player experience is enjoyable, but not mind blowing. The real gem here is the online play which seems to offer something more complex then most console FPS’s and definitely something I would recommend if you are looking for something to give you above average online play on a console.