Developer: Ubi Montreal
Estimated Release: November 2002
A true successor
The tactical shooter games based on Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six have been wildly successful, representing the cream of the crop when it comes to ultra realistic, close combat simulations. Every game in the series from the original Rainbow Six to the latest, Ghost Recon and The Sum of All Fears, has been well received, with many of the titles getting translated over to console format and even Gameboy platforms. Art is just a reflection of life; the Rainbow Six games' counter-terrorist theme is even more pertinent in today's world, leading to increased interest in the titles. Raven Shield represents what Ubi considers to be the third installment to the Rainbow Six series. A new terrorist threat has emerged, and the Rainbow team will be traveling to England, Norway, the Caribbean, and Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval to thwart the doomsday plot.
Is it real? Or is it Memorex?
The most significant change to the series is that Raven Shield is using the Unreal engine. If it's the same one as UT 2003 or Unreal 2, no one could say - Epic is not in the business of numbering their builds as they license out their technology. The important thing here is that this is the first Rainbow title using a licensed engine. Along with it come all the benefits of recent Unreal Engine technology, including better lighting effects, soft dynamic shadows that bend and stretch in relation to the position of light sources, and exquisitely detailed character models.
Too many windows to cover
The game animates smoothly than ever before, both watching your teammates from a third person perspective, and the feel of the game itself from the first person. In previous Rainbow titles, you dealt with a somewhat clunky feel from the engine; the Unreal engine gives Raven Shield a better game feel. Death animations from characters have been enhanced greatly as well. Bodies use real physics as they fall, so there's no more clipping through a table if a character falls on it. His body will hit and slide off of any geometry it falls on. Shooting someone on the stairs will result in him crumpling and rolling down to the bottom. Seemingly no two bodies crumple to the ground in quite the same way. The demonstration of this type of physics calculation on bodies is an indication that the engine is based on rather new Unreal technology - Epic was giving similar demonstrations of this at the most recent GDC this past February.
Not just a show-off
The extra geometry checks are more than cosmetic - they affect the gameplay in a very real manner. If you and your team are advancing through a narrow hallway, and someone is too close behind you, you will not be able to lie prone with a teammate's body blocking you. The same thing applies if you're standing next to a wall and try to lie prone perpendicular to the wall. Your legs will not be allowed to clip back through the wall.
Another thing that's new about Raven Shield is for the first time in a Rainbow Six game, players are given a first person view of their weapon. That is, you can now see the gun model in front of you and see yourself reloading the weapon. This seems like such a trivial thing these days, but the reason you never saw the gun model before is because having that gun up there eats a non-trivial amount of CPU cycles. Rainbow Six's developers have prided themselves on using any extra CPU time to put into the AI of the enemies, which they brag is "always on," unlike other games where enemies are run by scripts that activate when players cross a certain threshold or area.
The first person weapon view also affords players a look at the ultra realistic reload animations for each of the game's 57 weapons. For example, there are two different reload animations for an MP-5 submachine gun. If the player empties out his entire clip, then the bolt of the weapon locks forward, just as in real life. This means that when a new clip is loaded into the weapon, the character will pull back on the bolt to load a round into the chamber and ready the weapon for firing. If the player reloads before the weapon is fully empty, then that final locking and loading animation is skipped b/c there's still a round in the chamber. So what? The practical upshot of all of this is that leaving one bullet in the chamber saves you a small amount of time on the reload.