Summary: Team RAINBOW is back in action again, the sequel to Tom Clancy's Rogue Spear, Raven Shield is shaping up to be a fun title for those who enjoy a little realism in their action shooters. Rory takes a look at the multiplayer test to see how Raven Shield is shaping up. Is it worth the 142MB download? Find out in today's article!
I’ll take “realistic shooters” for 400 please Alex
Before Counter-Strike, before America’s Army, before Flashpoint, Day Of Defeat, SOCOM, Splinter Cell, Urban Terror and a wide variety of realist shooters, there was Rainbow Six. At the time the shooter crowd was still into their rocket launchers and alien weaponry that spewed lightning, Rainbow Six discarded the majority of the twitch paradigm, and forged a new genre inspired by military tactics and protocol. Based on the novel of the same name by Tom Clancy, Rainbow Six came on the shooter scene bearing so many revolutionary ideas that the only game whose ingenuity it could even be compared to was Wolfenstein 3d, which started the whole show.
R6 X 3 = R18?
Though it was by far one of the most revolutionary titles for its time, R6’s multiplayer enjoyed at best a cult following. Though the deliberate gameplay might be cited as why, it also suffered from a number of interface problems, and an engine that was at best described as “peculiar.” However, still to this day folks can be found playing the original R6 and it’s sequel Rogue Spear.
A title later, Red Storm is gearing up to bring us the third official installment in the Rainbow Six series. Rainbow Six: Raven Shield touts a licensed Unreal engine, and a whole slew of new features to the series. Raven Shield is slated to hit stores this February, and already Red Storm and Ubisoft have released the multiplayer test for the players to poke around in and provide feedback. The multiplayer test features two maps, including a remake of the legendary Streets, and two gametypes (deathmatch and team deathmatch essentially.) After a quick download, we took Raven Shield out for a spin.
SIDEBAR: Athlon/Pentium 600 mhz
128MB of RAM
32 Meg video card
DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card
240 meg install
900 mhz processor
256MB of RAM
64 meg video card
Download the R6: Raven Shield demo here.
The Unreal Rainbow
Rainbow Six is back, and Red Storm has given up on prior engines, in favor of the more tried and true Unreal engine. The Unreal engine serves the R6 series well, none of Redstorm’s realist games have looked as good as Raven Shield is shaping up to be. Most importantly, the game just doesn’t look good, but the graphics are being used on a level that effect the gameplay heavily. Light plays a huge role in the game, light illuminates or silhouettes models perfectly, and hiding in the shadows actually obscures the player into near invisibility.
The attention to graphical representation shows in a number of gadgets and gameplay mechanisms. Get shot and you won’t need a flashing red screen to let you know you’re taking lead, your whole view will stretch and pan expressing the pain you’re in. Turn on night vision and look directly into a streetlight like a goober and be blinded. What if you’re real close to a grenade when it goes off but you’re in cover and manage to survive? Not only will your vision be mildly blurred from the concussion you’ve sustained, but you’ll also hear a perpetual ringing in your ears from your eardrums bursting.
This attention to effects detail really separates Raven Shield from the competition in going the extra stride in attempting to represent what it is a real combatant would be going through, and on top of that, a number of the effects are just downright brilliant on a graphical level.
Pop, pfft, bang?
The sound in Raven Shield just doesn’t play as large a role on the gameplay as compared to the graphics. Footsteps aren’t loud enough, gunfire is incredibly muffled unless it is going off in your hands or your ear, the attention to detail in sound isn’t present like it is in the eye candy department. The realist shooter has long been defined by its player’s attention to sound as a tool against their enemy, and as it stands the RvS multiplayer test just lacks that feature. In Counter-Strike or any number of the flagship realist shooters a player can know where a grenade is without ever seeing it and many a player has been accused of wall hacking by simply listening to where their enemy is. Presently in the Raven Shield multiplayer test we’re given a broad thud when a frag grenade finds ground and footsteps can briefly be heard when within a stone’s throw of an enemy. We’re hoping the final version will touch sound up, as well as add some decent ambient effects, such as the bullets whizzing past your head we saw in America’s Army, but we’re still a few months off, so no worries as of yet.
Don’t let the bed bugs bite
Yes, it’s a multiplayer test, so we don’t intend to write essays on the issue of bugs, but for a licensed engine (One of the most licensed engines in the gaming industry no less) Raven Shield has a palpable number of bugs. When panning around we have experienced a number of inexplicable FPS hits, as well as some just downright odd bugs, like a whole team losing mouse control for a round, or swapping to a grenade and being stuck weaponless. The Raven Shield hungry player base has done a good job of chronicling the bugs experienced in the multiplayer test over on the Ubi boards, so we’re hoping to see them stamped out by the time to the game ships. Regardless of what may come in February when Raven Shield is released, the bugs will definitely effect your demo experience, so you may wish to wait until the snow starts to thaw to try the game out.
Rainbow Six brought us our first taste of deliberate realist gameplay, and Red Storm is attempting to take that gameplay to new heights with Raven Shield. Just as in the first game, moving will effect your crosshairs, and thus your weapon spread, but the crosshair movement is effected by even more details in Raven Shield. Move your point of view 90 degrees quickly and you’ll lose accuracy, go into a run, get hit, and all of these details will effect your accuracy. What if you are shot in the leg? Your movement is slowed for the remainder of the round.
One major detail to the R6 franchise, and counter-terrorist teams in general, is how to handle opening doors, or breaching. You can shoot a handle off of a door, throw a frag to blow it to pieces, or when the shotguns are released you’ll be able to blow it clean off it’s hinges. New to Raven Shield for the more subtle player: doors can be partially opened with a mouse wheel, so you can open a door a crack, and lean in, taking a couple of pot shots before closing it. Perhaps you prefer to open the door just a hair while a teammate lobs in a flashbang, close it, then blow it off it’s hinges and charge in with your enemies blinded.
Realism, realism, realism
Thoughts on thoughtfulness
It is this very thoughtfulness that makes the game so appealing. The skillset in Raven Shield isn’t just about how good of a shot or dancer you are, it’s also about the moments leading up to those shots and those dances. A player who knows where his opponent is, can descend on that opponent slowly with his crosshairs leveled at him, thus his shots will be crystal clear. The player caught off guard, however, will be at a significant disadvantage as he whirls to face his attacker and sends his crosshairs flying across the screen in panic.
Lock and load
After our Hitman 2 review, we were sincerely lamenting a lack of “stuff.” That lamentation has been silenced by the cornucopia of random gadgetry that the Raven Shield multiplayer test has offered us. Players are given your typical run of counter-terrorist weaponry, several SMGs and assault rifles, including two MP5 models and an M14, two sniper rifles, a wide variety of pistols including the USP and desert eagle: your standard issue terrorist killing fare. Players in Raven Shield are also given two “kit” slots however. These kit slots can be spent on a wide variety of different options, you can pick up one of six grenades, flashbang, smoke, teargas and frag, as well as a remote charge and claymore mine. You can also pick up additional primary and secondary magazines. Where things get interesting is you can also decide to run with a heartbeat sensor, which at limited range (50 feet or so) acts as a wall hack of sorts, giving a pulse through walls. You can also pick up anti heartbeat gadgetry in the heartbeat puck, which gives off a false heartbeat at a location where you drop it, or a heartbeat sensor jammer, which cloaks your heartbeat entirely. Players are also given other gadgets, such as the gas mask, to run through smoke gas without coughing, or tear gas without getting vomit all over themselves.
Some of the weaponry needs a bit of tweaking, frag grenades and claymores for example have a very minimal detonation radius. Some of the rifles in Raven Shield also need a bit of touch up, but even without these tweaks which will inevitably be balanced up in the final version, the weaponry in Rainbow Six is incredible, and every player can choose his outfit to his needs and the level he’s fighting on. Moreover almost all of the gadgetry seems to actually be useful, which is something very rare in shooters that every detail offered is viable.
Another nice detail with all this random gadgetry is a graphical representation of almost all of it. If you carry two grenades, you have two grenades hanging from your belt. If you have a gas mask, you’re running around with a gas mask on. Shoulder your assault rifle and not only does it hang on your back, but when you reach down for the pistol in your holster it is the actual pistol model the character is using. This not only separates the characters on a team on a graphical level, but also at a glance you can tell what an opponent is carrying, and whether your tear gas will effect him, or if he’s carrying a fistful of grenades he’s gonna lob at you.
Should I or shouldn’t I?
Raven Shield is a heavy weight standing in at a hefty 142 megs, with a 240 meg install, but if you’re on broadband there’s no excuse to not download this multiplayer test. Dial up players may wish to wait until a retail version, as the number of bugs they encounter might leave a bad taste in their mouth. Raven Shield is offering us an updated perspective on the franchise that started one of the largest sub genres in gaming, and they’re doing a very fine job of it. With two maps and a wide variety of gadgets to play with, it’ll be quite awhile before you set the Raven shield test down if you’re a fan of the realist shooter.
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