" ...Listless, uninspired, half-assed, and generic, it's absolutely inexcusable. "
Title: Rainbow Six: Lockdown by Ubisoft
Format: Xbox Shooter
Reviewing Monkey: Mojo Jojo
The Hype: Coming from a long and illustrious line of titles, Lockdown is the latest in Ubisoft's (formerly Redstorm) series of hard-core tactical shooters. Literally genre defining, the Rainbow franchise was revered by gamers who looked for something a little more subtle and intricate than the typical run-n'-gun shooter. Sadly, those days are done and those fans have been crapped on. But I'm getting ahead of myself…
What This Monkey Thought...
Graphics: Technically the third title on the current generation of consoles, Lockdown parted from its siblings and went with a whole new engine and interface. Some of this is cool; the game has gone to the increasingly popular iron sighted weapons, which does look good, and has added a visor that serves, in part, as a sort of dramatic indicator of damage-featuring blood splatters and cracked bullet holes as your character gets gunned down. Unfortunately, this is also the first sign of bad things to come as the bullet holes are totally nondynamic (appearing in the same spot each time and when you reach a certain level of damage, regardless of where you got hit) and the blood is, in a word, unimpressive.
But that's just the tip of the dung-heap and the least of your concerns once you get into playing this game for real. The graphics are unquestionably a step down from not only other games in the genre but even earlier games in this series. The models are overly simplistic and poorly animated, with the nice touches that make these games so exciting being completely absent. There is not, for example, dynamic modeling of things like firing stances or damage, which add volumes to the realism fans of the genre expect.
Then come the environments, which are also quite a letdown. Grainy and sloppy, they go for realistic but strike somewhere in between antiquated and half-assed. Incredibly restrictive and often ridiculous, they mostly operate as a back-assed series of tunnels that excessively limit the routes you can take and force you into repetitious confrontations and strategyless assaults. 3 out of 5
Playability: The games that actually created the tactical shooter genre, Rainbow Six has always been about a combination planning and strategic execution. Gritty and intense, they gave players dozens options in terms of the tactics they would employ to assault buildings, take down terrorists, and rescue hostages. Fans of the franchise have been known to recount stories like ex-Special Forces operatives talking about how they snuck up on a group of Tangos, stunned them with a flashbang, and then executed each one in incredible precision with double-taps from their rifles.
But, evidently, Ubisoft felt that dramatic style of play had grown stale and unprofitable and so went the total opposite with Lockdown. Most comparable to Halo 2 or Counterstrike, Lockdown is really just another run-and-gun shooter in a modern combat setting. Requiring headshots or absolutely ludicrous amounts of hits for kills, and handicapping players who take any but the most elite gun (and no, that's not a typo, I said "gun" not "guns"), the game actually punishes players who attempt to play it like it's anything realistic. As an example, in one of the LAN games we played gearing up for this review, I managed to get the drop behind a two-man team trying to breach a door. I walked up behind them, squatted and took aim (which should have maximized my potential for a kill), and then unloaded more than forty rounds into them in short, controlled bursts. One guy did die, which I suppose is something, but the other turned around, while I was drilling him, ran straight towards me, and sprayed the door I was standing in (with said perfect weapon) and killed me first. And this wasn't a unique experience by any stretch of the imagination…it is this game. High caliber sniper rifles ALWAYS take two shots to kill (unless they're head shots), shotguns are useless unless you're at point blank range, and grenades are more about damaging than killing, even in close quarters. It's asinine, and it's just like every other generic first person shooter you've ever played. It's Battlefield without the vehicles, it's Soldier of Fortune without the pretty kills, and it's Counterstrike without the cool mercenary feel. In other words, it's ass.
But just in case you're hoping that the single player is any better, let me crush your dreams right now. Though, in spirit, it is classic Rainbow faire, the game is hamstrung by shoddy AI and the afore mentioned damage issues. Though you may be tempted to try and sneak and peak your way through the missions, you will quickly discover how totally unnecessary it is. With an extended damage meter you are allowed to take dozens upon dozens of rounds. With totally uninspired weapon choices you'll immediately discover that variations in tactics or weapons are pointless. With teammates only slightly smarter than lead slugs you'll end up having to do everything yourself anyways. And, most amusingly, with enemy this dumb you can pretty much play it with your eyes closed and still win. On that last point, the enemies are so idiotic that at one point I actually walked straight up to a Tango and pushed his model across the room with mine before he finally came out of his idle animation, let him shoot me a few times (because, heck, I could take the damage), drilled him with a whole clip of ammo, then turned to find another bad guy in the same room standing there like a light-post looking away from me.
So, aside from the cool new sighting system, the gameplay ends up being a total wash. Listless, uninspired, half-assed, and generic, it's absolutely inexcusable. 1.5 out of 5
Story and Drama: While kudos go to some enhanced cinematics and some character driven missions, this franchise continues to put story a distant second. Of course, in the previous games that's been a second to gameplay…I won't say what it takes second to here. 3 out of 5
Multiplayer and Replayability: Unquestionably the developer's focus in Lockdown, the game's on-line component was supposed to be the title's saving grace. The big advancement is that it features a Team Fortress-esque role-based team game that incorporates a Special Ops infiltration guy, a medic, an engineer, and a strong-armed tank. The good news is that it is more fun than anything else the game offers. The bad news is that the roles are almost exclusively defined by their special abilities, most of which isn't terribly interesting. And though some of the maps force people to play certain roles, it really becomes more about need than entertainment. Otherwise, the multiplayer is totally unimpressive, filled with frustratingly mindless run around and shoot play and teeth gnashing screw jobs where you'll think about throwing not only the game, but your controller, Xbox, and TV out the window (as in my example above).
Unquestionably the worst aspect, though, is the absolutely horrendous and inexplicable lag and packet loss issues it suffers in any type of multiplayer game. Whether on a LAN or Xbox Live, you can expect frequent stuttering, frame rate drops, and even lock ups...and not just during firefights when lots of action is happening (although that is certainly when it's at its worst), but even during normal movement on small maps populated by as few as two players. It is inarguably some of the worst I have ever seen on a console. 2.5 out of 5
While I'm sure the hardcore twitch shooter fanatics will be thrilled to have yet another clone with a new gametype on the market, there is little here of value to the rest of the gaming community. And if you are a lover of the franchise I can't caution you enough about being suckered in by this rip-off. It may say Rainbow Six, but in practice it's the videogaming equivalent of a Ewe Boll produced franchise movie: it includes the names of your favorite characters, and it sports the logo, but it ends up being a crime against humanity on the screen.
The Good: Some cool HUD innovations over past titles.
The Bad: Literally everything else.
The Overall Ugly: After several hours of play, all of which felt like someone was continuously swabbing out our eyes with peroxide, we swapped out Lockdown for the original Rainbow Six: 3 and Ghost Recon 2 in hopes of not ending the night in a huge murder/suicide pact.
What it's Worth: You'll probably end up renting it because you won't believe it's as bad as I say…then you'll be furious you didn't just take my word for it.