6-May-2004 It's 2007. Gareth Gates tops the charts, Jordan's still thrusting her silicon twins at every passing camera lens and the world is once again threatened by a chemical weapon-toting madman and his equally insane minions. Business as usual then.
Athena Sword, like Raven Shield before it, pits you against the last of these three blights, as you attempt to thwart the plans of crazed Argentinean minister and chief bad guy from Rainbow Six 3, Alvaro Gutierrez. Although pitting the Rainbow Six boys against Katie Price's bazookas would have been an interesting confrontation...
The new campaign comprises an eight-mission anti-terror battle that sees you gunning down would-be bombers in a variety of sunny continental locales including Italy and Greece. With the majority of the action again taking place in claustrophobic enclosed areas however, you won't have much of a chance to top up your tan.
D�j� Vu So, what's new? Or should that be, what's not? Because for all its taut excitement, Athena Sword has little to distinguish it from its predecessor. Levels are still slow-paced and tense, enemies are still reasonably intelligent and your team-mates are still occasionally idiotic. British accents are, of course, ropey, and every mission is as hard as a diamond (but luckily just as polished).
There are seven new weapons to try out, including a couple of hugely satisfying machine guns and assault rifles, plus a host of solid new multiplayer/custom mission maps. But ultimately, none of these features add much to the Raven Shield experience beyond cosmetic tweaks.
It's somewhat telling then that Athena Sword's best new single-player feature is a straightforward but incredibly effective new game mode called Countdown. And while this sadly doesn't involve you gunning down Richard Whitely, it does add a ticking clock to each mission, making the already all-consuming tension almost unbearable. And that's a good thing why, you ask?
I'll Tell You Why... Because suddenly, creeping round every corner at crawling speed is no longer an option and you're left to rely far more heavily on a keen eye and accurate shot, as well as being forced to make crucial split-second decisions throughout.
Also featuring are five new multiplayer modes, including a manic multiplayer version of Countdown, but mostly these are mere variations of existing modes. There were next to no servers up for these at time of writing, so we'll have to reserve final judgement, but expect a full online review in the near future. There are also three revamped 'Classic' missions from Rainbow Six games of old, which will raise a nostalgic smile if you're a veteran of the series.
Ultimately, Athena Sword is a great game, although being so similar to Raven Shield, it couldn't really fail to be. The problem is, it doesn't offer enough to warrant anything approaching the same score. It's entertaining in all the right ways, but just like Gates and Price, it's all a bit too predictable.
PC Zone Staff
As solid as ever
Challenging new campaign A couple of great new multiplayer modes As atmospheric and tough as ever
Team-mate AI issues still persist Nothing really new