After almost a decade on the PC and consoles, the Rainbow Six franchise has finally arrived on the PlayStation Portable with Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas. When the Xbox 360 version of Vegas arrived last year, it reinvigorated the franchise with thrilling gameplay and cutting-edge graphics. However, Ubisoft wisely realized it would be impossible to port that experience to the PSP. Instead, Ubisoft Quebec crafted an entirely new Rainbow Six Vegas custom-made for the platform. The result is an interesting, though short, tactical action game.
Cover is your best friend in Rainbow Six Vegas.
In Rainbow Six Vegas, terrorists have kidnapped a couple of Rainbow operatives and launched an assault on the city of Las Vegas itself. The kidnapping plot actually ties into the story of the Xbox 360 and upcoming PlayStation 3 game, but you'll play as a backup, two-man Rainbow team assisting the main team featured in those versions. As a two-man team, you'll alternate between controlling Brian Armstrong, the assault expert, and Shawn Rivers, the sniper. For instance, you might begin a mission as Brian and come under heavy fire or find a security gate that you can't open, at which point, the game will automatically switch you to Shawn, so you can help Brian.
Like the Xbox 360 game, Vegas on the PSP uses the same blend of first-person action with third-person cover mechanics. If you walk up to a wall or a crate, your character will automatically "hug" it for cover. You can then peek around or over the cover to target and shoot at enemies. The cover mechanic is a bit too sensitive at times because it's far too easy to get into cover mode when you don't want to, but it does add a good sense of being and acting like an elite commando. Another cool thing that you can do includes walking up to a door and snaking a flexible camera under the sill to use it to spy in the adjacent room, allowing you to detect enemies before you storm into it. However, that's about it for abilities because the PSP version lacks some of the cool rappelling maneuvers seen in the other versions of the game. The controls are a bit clumsy because the game relies on a lot of context-sensitive controls. For instance, if you try to open a door and misjudge the distance, you'll switch to your weapon's iron sight or scope instead. Still, after some practice, you'll get used to the control scheme. The analog nub is used for movement while the face buttons actually control aiming; the D pad controls night vision, crouching, camera snaking, and more.
Though the game is set in Las Vegas, you don't really feel like you're in Sin City because you're generally running around in water filtration plants or airports. The visuals are decent though somewhat bland, and the audio is serviceable though there's an annoying pause that occurs quite often when you kill someone because the game has to load the audio from the disc. Speaking of which, load times are reasonable, so you won't spend too much time twiddling your thumbs while waiting.