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Updated March 10, 2005

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear
Everyone's favorite team of counter-terrorist ass-kickers returns to active duty in the awesome sequel to 1998's Action Game of the Year.

When Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six arrived in the PC Gamer offices last year, we expected a good game; what we got was a revolution. In one fell swoop, Rainbow Six annihilated the conventions of the first-person action genre by proving you could create an incredible action game that didn't rely on minions from beyond, railguns, or respawn points. By introducing a never-before-seen level of realism in the form of "one shot, one kill", accurately depicted military weapons, and counter-terrorist strategies, Rainbow Six's gameplay was intense beyond belief. Suddenly every shot mattered, one misstep meant death, and each member of the squad had to pull his or her weight.

When Rogue Spear was announced late last year, I was understandably skeptical; with a lightning-fast development time of around a year, there was a worry Red Storm was banging out a quickie follow-up to capitalize on the success of the original. Would Rogue Spear be a true sequel, or just a prettified expansion pack? After hours of intense gameplay, I'm happy to report that Rogue Spear, despite a couple of annoying bugs, provides - and expands upon - all the incredible gameplay fans of the original enjoyed. Featuring enhanced graphics, better AI, cool new weapons, and awesome level design, Rogue Spear will keep armchair counter-terrorists happy for a long time to come.

Picking up where the first game left off, Rogue Spear begins with the elite Rainbow team "resolving" a hostage situation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and freeing the passengers of a hijacked 747 that has been stranded at the Brussels Airport. At first these situations seem unrelated, but soon Rainbow discovers these events are actually part of a master plan hatched by two devious terrorists.

The story behind Rogue Spear unfolds in a tense and deliberate manner. A Russian mobster by the name of Maxim Kutkin, no longer content with running mafia affairs, has teamed with the Middle Eastern terrorist Samed Vezirzade in an effort to inflict serious damage upon the West. Their plot involves the use of a weapon code-named "rogue spear" - a stolen nuclear bomb. What follows is a thrilling game of cat and mouse as Rainbow fights to defuse the situation and, once again of course, save the world.

As in Rainbow Six, a sizeable portion of single-player gameplay occurs before each mission even begins. The extensive intelligence stage introduces you to the members of your team, offers intel reports regarding specific terrorists and other mission-critical dramatis personae, and provides details regarding the upcoming mission. From the intel phase, you move on to planning, where you select your team, outfit them, and devise a plan of attack.

As complex as the planning stage of the game is, Red Storm nailed the interface the first time out by making it intuitive and easy to use; as hard as is to believe, they've improved upon their original model. Outfitting your team has become much easier, requiring nothing more than a few key strokes.

The mission blueprint area, where you assign your team's waypoints and scope out the last known locations of the terrorists, has been improved with the addition of a full 3D viewing mode, and you can now assign Rules of Engagement to each section of your team. Rules of Engagement allow you to instruct your commandos on how to act during the course of the mission; these rules range from Assault, where your team kills every "Tango" encountered, to Recon, where your team will use silenced weapons and only fire if fired upon. You can also assign the speed of advance - blitz, normal, or cautious - allowing you to fully customize the way in which your team moves.

In a move that adds yet another layer of strategy to Rogue Spear, Red Storm has also given players the ability to assign orders to specific waypoints. Once your team reaches a specific location, for example, you can order them to snipe at an assigned target (they won't fire until you give the order), defend themselves, or cover an assigned area. And while all this planning may seem like an unnecessary hurdle before the real action starts, working out various strategies and plans of attack is lots of fun.

Once inside the game's action phase, you'll quickly discover that the terrorists in Rogue Spear are an improvement over the dastardly baddies of Rainbow Six. No longer content to merely stand around, they now assume longer patrol paths, run from grenades, yell out warnings when a member of your team is spotted, and rush toward the sound of conflict. Unfortunately for Rainbow, their aim has also improved - make one mistake and you'll be going home inside a flag-draped box. The only AI snafu that's held over from the original is the ability to snipe a terrorist without the guy standing next to him seeming to notice. It dings the realism a little, but it's not overly distracting.

Sadly, the many AI improvements have not been applied to the members of your own team. With a good plan of attack, you can still go into map mode, issue go-codes, and watch your team take care of business. That said, your boys will occasionally bunch up on stairs and in doorways (making it extremely hard to get past them), or stand and watch as the folks around them are cut to ribbons, and in certain situations their reaction time is way too slow. Part of the problem may be that the orders given to specific waypoints are too strict, which prevents your team from performing non-sanctioned actions. After all, a real counter-terrorist team isn't going to stand around as theyre fired upon; they're going to react to the situation, find cover, and return fire.

The missions all borrow in theme from the first game, and consist of hostage rescues, infiltrations (where you must sneak undetected into an enemy stronghold and plant a camera or bug a phone), and simple extermination missions, where you're tasked with "neutralizing" all hostiles. The level design is exquisite and the real-world locations run the gambit from an oil tanker to a museum to the much-anticipated Boeing 747 (see sidebar).

Just as in the original, the real genius behind Rogue Spear lies in its action gameplay - it's still quite unlike anything else weve ever played. Even with copious amounts of planning, a mission can (and often will) go horribly awry. And this is when the real fun begins, after half your team has been butchered and you've still got a mission to complete. Stealth and caution play major roles; this game punishes mistakes like no other.

Adding to the intrigue is a wide variety new weapons, including the Enfield L85A1, HK MP-10, M-4 carbine, M-14, and several new sniper rifles. You can now even select the type of ammo you wish to employ, based on the body armor you expect to encounter. The wider weapon variety allows for some truly diverse teams.

Rainbow Six's multiplayer mode provided us with some of the most fun we've ever had in an action game (and opportunity after opportunity to humiliate the gung-ho poltroons over at PC Accelerator), and Rogue Spear doesn't disappoint in this regard. This time out, Red Storm has put a little more thought into the multiplayer side of things, introducing cool new gadgets like the heartbeat sensor jammer and the false heartbeat puck, which comes in handy when you want to lead your enemy into an ambush.

And the fun doesn't stop there. For extra spice, you can now play team or individual deathmatch with terrorists sprinkled around the map, and there's a new cooperative mode called Terrorist Hunt, in which your only objective is to kill all the bad guys. Terrorist Hunt is an absolute blast, especially on the Elite difficulty setting; if you're looking for an out-and out-bloodbath, this is the mode for you.

The joy of multiplayer is tempered a bit by a few annoying bugs. The pre-game set-up screen sometimes fails to display the same information (such as the difficulty settings) to all the players, and the settings dont always work. (You set the game for Elite and it sometimes loads Rookie, for example.) Occasionally there will be a terrorist whom bullets seem to pass through, taking round after round through the head before he shoots you. That one's been a real pain on more than one occasion.

Rainbow Six lacked many of the graphical bells and whistles one would expect from an action game; Rogue Spear represents a concerted effort to right that wrong. While it still lags behind the big brand-name 3D engines, the new graphics are very impressive, particularly the weather effects. The winter missions are simply amazing - your characters leave footprints in the snow, you can see their breath in the cold air, and the falling snowflakes look remarkable. The amount of detail that's been put into some of the levels is incredible; when you first step onto the stage of the opera house or enter the ruined church in Kosovo, it takes your breath away.

Other graphical improvements include the grenade explosions, which have better lighting effects and now include smoke that lingers over the blast area for a few moments, obscuring your view. The character models are more detailed and have a wider range of animations, particularly death animations, which are more varied and add a greater sense of realism to the game. Occasionally the death animations go a bit overboard - you'll shoot someone, they'll moan, spin around, drop their arms, spin around again, and then crumble to the ground. Just die already, fool!

All Gaming Goodness aside, Rogue Spear does have some problems. First off, the system requirements are extremely steep; you're going to need at least 128MB of RAM in order to play the game properly; anything less and the action will occasionally turn into a slideshow. (As an aside, the RAM requirement is not dependent upon your processor. Even folks with a Pentium II 450 will need to have 128MB of RAM.) The same clipping problems that plagued Rainbow Six remain, as character limbs will intermittently come through walls and doors, and there's also a weird bug where people will suddenly rise a few inches off the ground while walking. I know Rainbow consists of the best of the best, but I doubt even they can walk on air.

Despite these niggles, Rogue Spear once again positions Red Storm as the king of the tactical action sim. Rogue Spear is an intense ride, and for our money, no other first-person action game delivers the same level of immersion. Regardless of whether you're an established Rainbow Six veteran or new to the series, you'll want to place Rogue Spear high on your list of must-haves.

-William Harms

HIGHS: Amazing tactical combat gameplay; improved graphics; new weapons.

LOWS: Annoying bugs; enormous system requirements.

BOTTOM LINE: Proving that Rainbow Six was no fluke, Red Storm delivers the best tactial action game yet seen.
PC Gamer 90%


100% - 90%
EDITORS' CHOICE - We're battening down the hatches and limiting our coveted Editors' Choice award to games that score a 90% or higher. It's not easy to get here, and darn near impossible to get near 100%. Games in this range come with our unqualified recommendation, an unreserved must-buy score.

89% - 80%
EXCELLENT - These are excellent games. Anything that scores in this range is well worth your purchase, and is likely a great example of its genre. This is also a scoring range where we might reward specialist/niche games that are a real breakthrough in their own way.

79% - 70%
GOOD - These are pretty good games that we recommend to fans of the particular genre, though it's a safe bet you can probably find better options.

69% - 60%
ABOVE AVERAGE - Reasonable, above-average games. They might be worth buying, but they probably have a few significant flaws that limit their appeal.

59% - 50%
MERELY OKAY - Very ordinary games. They're not completely worthless, but there are likely numerous better places to spend your gaming dollar.

49% - 40%
TOLERABLE - Poor quality. Only a few slightly redeeming features keep these games from falling into the abyss of the next category.

39% - 0%
DON'T BOTHER - Just terrible. And the lower you go, the more worthless you get. Avoid these titles like the plague, and don't say we didn't warn you!

Drakan: Order of the Flame  69%
Driver  78%
Drome Racers  59%
Ducati World Racing  28%
Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project  75%
Dune  25%
Dungeon Keeper 2  89%
Dungeon Siege  91%
Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna  80%
Earth & Beyond  80%
Earth 2150: Lost Souls  80%
Echelon: Wind Warriors  79%
Elder Scrolls III: Bloodmoon  84%
Emergency Fire Response  70%
Emergency Rescue  24%
Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom  72%
Empire Earth  85%
Empire of Magic  68%
Empire of the Ants  56%
Empires: Dawn of the Modern World  80%