Often, there are great games which fall victim to a whirlwind of bad press. And while this may not always be unjustified, many great ideas which were hidden by overwhelming flaws seep through the cracks of the gaming industry. It’s this kind of innovation that, when unnoticed, is sadly mistaken for a failure. So I’m here to pull some of those ideas out, and the first game that we’re going to look at is Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas.
Vegas was ahead of its time when it first came out, but there were numerous problems with the game that sometimes made it virtually unplayable. Just to avoid confusion, I’m going to be talking about both games here, so when I say Vegas I’m talking about both the first and the sequel. I think the first thing to mention about its mediocrity is the fact that it was overrun by glitches and bugs. That being said, I’ve been saying for quite some time that Ubisoft needs better bug testing. And for obvious reasons. Glitches and bugs can sometimes be funny, but if they deal enough damage to immersion or the gameplay itself, the game can suffer horrible consequences. And this was one of the biggest problems for Vegas. Watching enemies fall through the floor is only funny the first couple times, after that it becomes a nuisance. Another big issue was the AI. As many of you know, bad AI in a game that requires you to have teammates can be an absolute disaster. Without a co-op partner, some of the sections in both of these games became mundane and after replaying them tons of times, I often had no better idea than to shut the game off. This potential revolution in the FPS genre went unnoticed by a huge number of people who probably would have loved to play it, day in and day out.
So many of you are probably thinking “What was so good about this game?” Lucky for you, I’ve outlined a number of things that will hopefully cause you to run out and maybe give it a shot for yourself. Some of these gameplay mechanics could really do a lot of things for the stagnant industry as that we all suffer through in modern times.
- 1. First to third person cover system
Vegas sported one of the most interesting innovations I have seen in my time in the industry. Basically, the cover system was developed so that the main game was played in first-person, and there was a snap to cover button which would zoom the camera out and turn it into a third-person view. A lot of FPS games struggle with defining a cover system which works both in single and multiplayer. And because of the nature of the beast, many end up excluding it from one of the two modes (A la Killzone 2/3). This is where Vegas succeeded. The dynamic cover system led to incredible moments in both single and multiplayer for me and in my opinion was flawlessly executed as a gameplay mechanic. Being able to survey the battlefield from behind cover was incredibly satisfying and straightforward.
The only other games I have seen with this sort of system are other Tom Clancy titles, and the upcoming Deus Ex: Human Revolution. To me, that is nothing short of a shame. I feel that anyone who has played either of the Vegas titles can explain just what made them so great. That cover system can lead to incredible firefights, well-executed planning, and a whole slew of other great game content. Imagine being able to use cover in multiplayer for some of the most popular FPS games on the market. It would create tension, build suspense, and ultimately lead to a better experience with the game. It is the simple things that make or break replay value.
- 2. Tactics
Now I know what you’re thinking. Many games have modes and visors which allow for tactical on the fly planning in the field. Crysis 2 comes to mind, but Vegas had tactics of an entirely different sort. As I mentioned previously when discussing the AI, during the course of the single-player campaign, you were accompanied by a few teammates who would help in the course of your mission. This is where the tactics really shined through the foggy core package. The options you had in general made for incredible immersion. First off, you could stack your team on a nearby door, and evaluate your options through a snake-cam. Hostages in the room? Flash and clear. Enemies near the door? Breach charge. Each situation was crafted so that your mind was the driving force behind your success. The difficulty was spot-on so that if your tactics failed, so did you. In such a linear world, you had so many options.
Single-player experiences in today’s FPS world are dull to say the least. Often they feel tacked on, just to differ a small bit of attention from the multiplayer. I believe in the power of storylines. With a $60 price tag, no game should be a strictly multiplayer endeavor. Even linearity within these games is dull if not approached the right way. That is what can be learned from the Vegas series. In a seemingly straight-forward campaign mode, every attack and every tactic was represented by how you saw the situation playing out. That is why the tactics in Vegas were so important. They brought life into the solo experience. Life that is so desperately needed when the storyline is flawed, and voice acting is lacking. With the option to create your own path around the given one, Vegas gained new life.
- 3. Character transfer and leveling
I’ll be the first to admit the title for this one is pretty vague. Allow me to explain. In Vegas 2, it was developed so that the character you used and created in the single-player portion, carried on into the other modes as well, including multiplayer. The character customization, while lacking in some parts, was for your alias, and allowed you to place yourself into the experience. And while this may not seem like much, your ACES levels carried over as well. ACES was Vegas 2’s way of awarding your character progression for the way that you played the game. There were three categories, Marksman, CQC, and Assault, all of which allowed for different unlocks. These unlocks were a direct reflection of the category you used to unlock them. For instance, the accurate guns were a part of the marksman leveling, riot shields were a member of assault, and so on. You would gain points in each of the different sections as per what you did in-game. Headshots would earn you marksman points, and how many depended on whether you were playing single, or multi-player. And that’s why it’s so important that your character carried over. All those headshots and grenade kills racked up in the campaign mode, went into the same pool for unlocking those highly sought after guns you needed in the multiplayer mode. The duality of your character truly proved to be a strong force in pushing you to play more. The addiction came from direct satisfaction.
I’m going to reference Crysis 2 again. As a big fan of the original, I had noticed that it took the wonderful elements of other FPS games and meshed them together seamlessly. And the second was no exception. The ACES mode of Vegas 2 is similar to the way Crysis 2 awards players for using certain nanosuit abilities. The more you use something specific to your playing style, the more you are rewarded for those actions. Development like this leads players to feel rewarded for playing how they like to play, and that’s very important to keeping a player base. Without that payoff, many are quick to cast a game off to the side. And while CoD may boast a huge number of unlocks, they are the same for everyone as they rise through the ranks. There is no incentive to play the way you want to.
So this is where we stand. While Vegas failed in many areas, the great ideas it brought to the surface should in no way go unnoticed. With wonderful gameplay elements that lead me to still pick up my copy to this day, developers should take a note out of Ubisoft’s book. I think that if more studios looked to the successful parts of mediocre games, they could truly create something astounding. That’s it for now, I’m off to stop a terrorist attack </lameending>
Writer’s note: I’m planning on making this series reoccurring, so if anyone has ideas for other games that were placed in a similar situation, I’m all ears. I have a couple in mind, but community feedback is always appreciated.