Let's face it, Tom Clancy novels aren't always the easiest of reads. If you haven't personally killed ten men with your bare hands whilst flying an FA-18 into a tank, you can acquire an inferiority complex long before you turn the final page. So the best part about the video game series is that you get the opportunity to live vicariously through the characters in your team - you no longer have to question the sanity in kicking down a door and shooting six people, you just do it.
Set for release on Thursday 20th March, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 runs parallel to the original Vegas. As the near-final review copy was set up, our demonstrator was keen to point out that this isn't simply a remake of the original, it's not the neon-light extravaganza you may have expected - it's darker, and you'll experience the more seedy side of Las Vegas, with a lot more variety in the locations.
"There's a lot more variety in the locations", Ubisoft's representative Gary reiterates, as he furiously connects various leads from the PlayStation 3 to the large LCD television in the demonstration area at their headquarters. "They haven't just gone back to the casinos, they've tried to give you the same kind of duck-and-cover, poke-your-head-out-and-shoot style of gameplay in a lot more locations."
After the main menu appears, Gary selects the "My Character" option, and we proceed to the customisation screen. You can play as male or female, and there seems to be at least eight different faces and twelve different facial features to choose from, all of which are perfectly applied to your avatar. You can even use your Xbox Live camera to apply a unique image if you want. Gary informs us that as you go through the game, you earn various different types of tactical clothing as well, such as face masks and balaclavas, and this works across all game styles, from single player, to co-op and online multiplayer.
As we check through the main menu, we take a look at the various game options. There's a "terrorist hunt" style game, which can be played split screen, the objective of which is to kill as many terrorists on a particular map as possible. This can be played with up to four players in co-op mode online. Of course, it wouldn't be a Rainbow Six game without a stack of other themes, such as rescuing hostages, taking out particular targets, disable/plant the bomb, deathmatches, team deathmatches, regicide; in short, if it moves and can be shot, chances are it's in this game.
We move on to the "story" mode from the main menu, which can be played either as single player, or two-player co-op (drop-in, drop-out). Gary explains that Vegas 2 takes the story from the original Vegas and weaves it back in on itself. It's really the story of another Rainbow Six team working alongside the original, in another part of town, with everything invariably heading towards a final conclusion.
The first map we take a look at is set in the French Pyrenees, with the opening cut scene showing highly detailed panoramic shots of the mountains. As our group is assembled, Gary points out that Rainbow Six really does differ from the likes of the Ghost Recon series in that it's not so heavily dependent on maintaining perfect teamwork. You can go off and do your own thing, but for the most part you'll find it a lot easier if you bring your team along with you. In this particular map, the objective is to free hostages from within a sealed compound, so it seems we're going to need all the help we can get.
As we move out to the combat area, Gary takes a few moments to explain the controls. You can position your team by using the X button, with the rest of the team movement options controlled via the D-pad, which also has the option to use a thermal scan, and (for example) issue an order to your team to launch a smoke grenade. This gives you a lot more control that you may have had in the past, and coupled with more feedback between your team members, it's clear that Vegas 2 is far more cohesive than its predecessor. Your team mates can even suggest a course of action, but ultimately it's up to you to decide how to play out each scene.