Before Call of Duty became a household name with the release of Modern Warfare in 2007, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas used to rule over the contemporary shooter scene, at least on the home consoles. Though the sequel was even more intuitive and engaging than the original, Vegas 2 was considered one of the first to fall in the wake of COD-mania. However, stronger competition in the genre probably isn’t the reason we haven’t seen another Rainbow Six for the past few years; with so many branches of the Tom Clancy hive, including Ghost Recon, Splinter Cell, Endwar, and HAWX, Rainbow Six needed a well-deserved break and now its back, this time gunning for the mobile market.
[boxout] Instead of returning to its tactical top-down roots, many will be glad to hear that Gameloft’s Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard is in fact a first person shooter, the first to feature squad-based mechanics on iOS. With that said, Shadow Vanguard isn’t a completely original game, in fact it’s a re-imaging of the very first Rainbow Six which launched for the PC way back in 1998, stripping away the core plot elements, ditching the birdseye camera, and casting it into a contemporary setting, with a gameplay model so similar to the recent Vegas instalments, that even the main menus are almost identical.
In terms of basics, RS:SV is just like any other FPS you will find kicking around the app store, it uses a virtual, on-screen control scheme. As well as the default thumbstick, camera controls and fire button, weapon, medkit and crouch tabs are also scattered about the screen. Missions are designed with conventional linearity, usually tasking the player to gun down a room of enemies before moving on to complete an objective such as defusing a bomb or confronting a certain NPC. It may sound like your bog standard shooter, but Shadow Vanguard has a number of unique features, makig it the most diverse example of its genre.
First and foremost is the superb cover mechanic, one of the highlights of the Vegas series. When close to a wall (regardless of height) at a touch of a button players can snap into a third person perspective, giving them both the shelter and tactical advantage needed to turn a battle in their favour. The enemy AI is incredibly tough and will put veterans through their paces, even on the easiest difficulty setting, however it doesn’t feel cheap and if anything, it encourages the player to think tactically.
Unlike the first person perspective and cover system, team play has always been at the centre of the Rainbow Six experience. During Vanguard’s single player campaign you will always have two squad members to cover your back, and though you can’t assume direct control of them, there are a number of functions they can perform under the player’s command. Contextual green icons will appear on-screen when a team function can be performed; for instance there is a generous helping of cover icons, prompting your squaddies to move to a pre-set locations. There are also a number of stealthy in-game sections, presenting the opportunity to use silent weaponry and conduct precise assaults on rooms packed with enemies, generating an unbeatable sense of satisfaction. It’s implemented in such an accessible and hinder-free way that it dissolves any preconceptions that micro management is a fiddly, tedious process.
Once beaten, all eleven of the single player missions can be replayed again with the inclusion of up to two human players, either locally or via online, wi-fi enabled lobbies. Setting up a game is convenient and surprisingly quick, allowing the host to apply a number of “rules” including aim assists and health regeneration. Without the ability to command an AI squad, the co-op component moulds you into an even more efficient operative, players cranking chains of headshots whilst sticking together and also making use of the game’s revive function.
Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard will also feature competitive multiplayer in the form of both Deathmatch and its team-based alternative. Details on this mode are sparse, though we do know that there will be five unique maps in which to play, both online and off, with the prospect of more in future updates. Another possibility is the inclusion of Terrorist Hunt, RS: Vegas’ insanely addictive survival mini-game.
Each of the three game modes will have their own rank systems, rewarding players with XP for kills and other objective-based feats. Divided into 18 tiers, each level will unlock new weapons which can then be tweak (silencers, scope, red dot sights etc.) and taken into battle.
Shadow Vanguard is set to launch “at the end of Q1” at bargain price of only £3.99. Gameloft are unsure whether the title will launch with a Lite (free) version, though it’s a definitely possible after release as well as an iPad port. Whether a fan of Rainbow Six or just shooters in general, Vanguard is highly recommended, taking the entire mobile genre to a whole new level.