I recently enjoyed some hands-off time with Rainbow 6: Patriots over at Ubisoft. It looks as good as the trailer we saw earlier this month (see below), with a few changes. It’s Christmas time, and our ill-fated birthday boy is again the victim of a skewed justice. The leader among his tormentors is a different villain, sporting a brown leather jacket, devilish good looks, and the same sordid plans.
As alpha dog as he appears, he answers to a higher order – to an individual by the name of Jonah Tredway. His strength as the backbone of a homegrown terror lies in his unflinching willingness to die for the furthering of the True Patriots’ cause.
Creative director David Sears explained some of the pillars behind development of the single-player campaign: “The New Terror” and “Threat Comes From Within,” whereby a simple text message from Tredway can tip off an act of terror (or distraction), effected by none other than the citizen body. Scary.
Tredway has done just that, hence your being in the shoes of the guy with 30 lbs of C4 strapped to his chest. The demonstrated gameplay has you playing as him for some time longer than in the target footage, nervously tackling positions of cover. You can feel your own role as a victim, certainly lacking in a baptism of fire.
Around 20% of the game will put you in similar situations – civilian, terrorist, police officer, paramedic… In the first instance, the developers promise some weighty decisions. Seeing as terrorist and innocent look the same, it might not be wise to pick up that gun lying there, especially if Team Rainbow is in the vicinity, doing what they do best.
The remaining 80% of the time, that’s you: Echo squad leader and a new band of color on the counter-terrorist spectrum. A further 80% of the game will take place in New York and Pebble Beach, California, but locales across the oceans will unwittingly receive your visit as well: the Bering Strait, London, northern India, southern Greece…
But back to the Brooklyn Bridge. What we were treated to was a much longer sniping session, during which your teammates communicated essential tips on enemy locations. In the original target footage, this was courtesy of Zulu squad. Now they come from a member of your own, a woman – Team Rainbow has often included both sexes.
The descent onto tarmac through Rappel 2.5 seemed much as it was in the target footage – swift and polished. Once there, the lucky developer behind the controller showed off the new “One Button Tactics”… button. Nothing revolutionary here: basically, your teammates will know what to do when you send them one way or the other. They’ll also vocalize their taken action in case you need to make rectifications (for when you clearly asked that the peanut-butter be chunky).
The fetch-quest that got Ding Chavez promoted, way back
Into the Breach
Other than the Brooklyn Bridge mission, the developers also showed off a textbook breaching exercise: one garage, six gunmen, three doors, one hostage. Options are legion. Tacticians will set their squadmates (who can’t be split up, sadly) at one of any doors, and have them sneak in quietly to line up guaranteed head shots for you to green light. But of course you can go lone wolf, resorting to just your own FPS skills. You might feel like a thug when the smoke has cleared, but you’ll probably have a dead hostage to bury.
Squadmates can also be ordered to throw a variety of grenades into a room (or at the feet of an individual), or to kick doors down on unsuspecting terrorists.
Which leads us to another novelty in Rainbow 6: Patriots. Enemies don’t just stand around waiting to be engaged. They have agendas, whether that’s smoking a cigarette and talking over their doubts about the True Patriots movement – which of course has you thinking twice as to who and why you kill – or loading up a van with explosives.
The story of what pushed developers to make enemy agendas a priority is pretty fascinating. As a counter-terrorist operative, you’re equipped with a contact lens that offers Augmented Reality, and thus tabs on the terrorists within the next room. When the crew at Ubisoft endowed players with this red-palette technology, the result was boring NPCs standing around short of ideas, more akin to gun-toting mannequins than to conflicted souls pushed to violence.
Humanizing the Enemy
That inner conflict is of course something that Patriots strives to present to the player. That 20% gameplay I mentioned earlier also includes a walk or two in the shoes of a terrorist. Surely Ubisoft Montreal will know how to tug at our heart strings, showing the domestic life of an outlaw from seeming commonality to terrorist action.
Setting is critical too. The developers dodged my question of what year the game would be set in (they dodged a lot of questions), but as is the case with every Tom Clancy game, surely Patriots takes place a few years into the future. Who knows what kind of extreme events will have been thrust upon the American nation and the globe in those intervening years – each of which, in an outstanding storyline, would serve to make the threat of homegrown terror more believable.
But enough of all that, I hear you say. What about multiplayer? The online crown is more lucrative than it’s ever been: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3shattered the five-day grossing record for any entertainment launch ever with a cool $775 million. And this despite a driven marketing push from DICE’s Battlefield 3, a decidedly better game (definitely just said that, don’t egg my house).
Rainbow 6: Patriots has a few tricks up its sleeve. Games are entered via an ostensibly in-game lobby, a van in which rivals seat themselves across from one another (further humanizing the enemy, one could say).
Waterwork, Mansion, and Chalet were all available from the multiplayer menu, but it’s the first on that list – a hydraulic system below the city of New York, marked by romanesque arches and red walls – that we got a glimpse of. Squads are pitted against one another, utilizing the same aggressive and feasible rappeling system as the single player experience; you won’t be a sitting duck, the demonstrators promise. And indeed, you can easily turn 180 degrees or sprint down to the ground below.
You’ll also be in tune with Augmented Reality, but the devs were coy on details. Once locked onto an opponent (which takes a second), his/her location is disclosed even through solid matter (for a further three seconds). There is to be a limiting factor on its usage, but how that meter replenishes – whether through elapsed time or merit – is still up in the air.
Cooperation will be rewarded. In what way? You guessed it, the developers kept mum. It should involve added reward when an enemy is tagged (by a nominated team leader) before being killed (by a squadmate).
Then there’s the sandtable, “an in-game holographic environment in the multiplayer HQ,” in the words of December’s issue of Game Informer. The sandtable invites the wise to a safe tour of the areas they’ll be battling in. Beyond gaining familiarity, players can drop various markers that stick around even after the simulation is over – things like run routes, good sniping perches, or particularly hazardous blind spots.
Rainbow 6: Patriots is a long way off, and its competitors for the shooter crown – of on or offline vintage – are still under the wraps that Ubisoft Montreal was unfortunate enough to lose. Still, fans of the franchise have sound reason to hope that the storyline and realism will stand in leagues of their own. Checking the momentum of the online Call of Duty warmachine – which broke the aforementioned sales record for what was the third time in a row this year – is quite another story. Team Rainbow will need the element of surprise. Yes, they’re good at that.