A highly realistic, deadly shooter that may not be for every deathmatch player.
It usually doesn't take long for me to get weary of the standard deathmatch games. Power-ups, god-like endurance, and ridiculous architecture just don't suit me after a few rounds. That's the main reason I loved Rainbow Six.
Even in full armor your men can rarely take more than two or three shots with the average weapon before going down. Weapons are very deadly and accurate at the ranges they should be. Sneaking around is the key and one cares about one's life. As an old fan of paintball, this was one of the first games to 'feel right' in my mindset. There's just a much better thrill knowing that at any point you can be taken down with one lucky hit. Games usually amount to teams creeping about, then in a few short moments of shooting, it's all over. To me that's more exciting than running about gunning down the same people in the same corridor over and over.
While I'm not a big gun fanatic, I can appreciate the use of realistic weapons and relatively realistic results from them. Even a non-enthusiast will learn the decisive advantages of the various caliber weapons and will more than once be glad they chose a silenced weapon.
The levels are well designed and all feel like they could be real structures. Everything you come across makes sense. The embassy looks like one would imagine, as does the amusement park. You won't find any odd jumping tests here.
The graphics more than serve their purpose. The game graphics are crisp and clean and while sometimes appear to have a lower than preferable polygon count, never really take away from the enjoyment of the game. The rest of the interface shows just about all you need and no more. From that panel, you can usually get a good idea of what your section and the other sections of the team are up to.
This is a minor item, but I liked the fact that the members of Rainbow could very well be real military specialists. You have a few members from the book, such as John Clark and Ding Chavez (more were added in the sequels), but there's also a number of realistic new squadmates. You won't find the young computer hacker, the nubile young girl or any of the other cliched team members found in most games. Although one female is perhaps a little young, most of the members of Rainbow are veterans, with varied backgrounds and history.
The planning stage makes or breaks most missions. This can get frustrating for those who don't like this portion of the game. The first time I played through, I played with a friend that loved the planning stage, so he did that and I played through the missions. It was the perfect combination with his well-crafted plans and my getting to play 'Ding Chavez, man of action'. Playing again a year later, I found myself enjoying the action more than the planning, despite the importance of the latter (especially considering the AI as you will see). The planning stage isn't bad, but it just isn't everyone's cup of tea.
And you will need your planning, as that's the only way your teammates will function. While you can win most missions by just doing all the work yourself, there are some situations (as when terrorists are holding two separate groups of hostages at gunpoint) where you'll need to coordinate your efforts. It doesn't help that you sometimes find your way blocked by teammates and have to bump them around to move ahead...sometimes bumping them into the enemy's line of sight.
The enemy is not much smarter. You can sometimes tap a tango's friend who was standing three feet away from him and he'll completely ignore it. Even when they do notice, they often run right into your sights. When the AI works nicely and the terrorists behave in a logical manner, it can be fun. When they don't, it's almost as if your high trained military squad is going up against the local teenage paintball team.
The lack of snipers (remedied in the sequels) can be felt, if for no other reason than having someone who can monitor the big picture.
The Bottom Line
Based on the Tom Clancy novel, Rainbow Six is a tactical counter-terrorist simulator that is quite an enjoyable first person shooter for those who prefer the deadliness of reality. Those who think they may enjoy this type of game should probably check out Rogue Spear and its add-on, as many of the issues I have with the original were corrected in the later additions.