Speaking of dying, the game uses a checkpoint save system, so when you do die, you'll get a chance to start back at the latest checkpoint. While you can quickly heal fallen teammates in single-player by injecting them with the magic medical serum if you get to them in time, if you fall your teammates won't be able to save you in the similar manner, so it's back to the checkpoint. At least the checkpoints are reasonably spaced, and there's usually one before ever major set-piece battle, which is helpful. Most of these larger battles are fairly scripted, but they're pretty intense nonetheless. Bad guys come rappelling down from above, and the AI in general is good about using cover and grenades as effectively as you do. There's nothing quite as eye-opening as seeing a frag grenade land right next to your character, or as frantic as trying to get away and behind cover before it explodes.
Your AI teammates are smart and capable of storming and clearing a room without you.
The single-player campaign in Rainbow Six Vegas isn't quite as lengthy as in many other realistic shooters, but the game compensates for this by having such interesting and repayable tactical battles. You can go back again and tackle the game in realistic mode, or you can experiment with different approaches. And there's plenty of replay value to be found in the extensive multiplayer suite. The single-player campaign can be played cooperatively on Xbox Live, both in story mode and in terrorist hunt, which pits you and your buddies against a bunch of randomly placed terrorists. You can also play with up to four players cooperatively, which is an interesting number since the single-player campaign features only three Rainbow agents at a time. Still, realistic difficulty is tough enough that you can really use effective team tactics to tackle some of the harder missions, and there's something very cool about being able to strategize with your buddies while in the middle of a fight. The only setback to co-op mode is that instead of automatically loading the next level in the chain when playing in story mode, the game recycles the existing map. You have to set up the server ahead of time to advance to the next level in the story, or load it manually.
In addition to co-op, Rainbow Six Vegas features a number of fun competitive modes with support for up to 16 players. Retrieval is a particularly good one, modeling itself after the typical capture the flag-style game, and featuring respawns so you don't have to sit out if you get killed. There are a number of modes that feature no respawns, if you want the "authentic" Rainbow Six experience of no second chances. The levels themselves are adapted either from the single-player campaign or created specifically for multiplayer, such as a university library that's alluded to in the story. The action in multiplayer is just as intense as in the single-player game, especially since you can use the same cover tactics that you used in the campaign.
You can use thermal or night vision to cut through smoke or darkness, and it's helpful for spotting terrorists before you enter a room.
What's also interesting about multiplayer is the persistent character that you can customize over time by unlocking new weapons, armor, and accessories. For instance, you can unlock tougher body armor, though the downside is that it lowers your mobility. Body armor comes in various pieces, such as the torso, shoulder pads, and legs. The weapons in multiplayer are all taken from single-player, and there's a healthy assortment of real-world and prototypical military gear in here, divided into shotguns, submachine guns, light machine guns, assault rifles, and sniper rifles. Each weapon can be customized individually with various scopes or sights, and there are various grenade types that you'd expect, like fragmentation, smoke, and flashbang. Rainbow Six Vegas also supports face mapping. If you have the Xbox Live Vision camera, you can scan your face onto the model, creating a unique, if slightly creepy, version of yourself in the game. Finally, many of the achievement points in Rainbow Six Vegas are tied in multiplayer, which is further incentive to get down and dirty online. You get points for racking up kills with various weapons, accomplishing multiplayer missions within a certain amount of time, and even mapping your face into the game.
Rainbow Six Vegas sports some excellent graphics, and they're on par with this year's superb Ghost Recon. In fact, these are a bit better, because instead of run-down slums and industrial areas, you finally get to fight it out in a first-world setting. The amount of detail on everything is impressive, but it's almost photo-realistic when it comes to your Rainbow troopers, as you can admire all the high-tech gear these commandos bring into a fight. The beautiful visuals, which still look good on a standard definition display, certainly bring the diverse Vegas casinos to life. They're all fictional, of course, as no real-world casino would want to have its virtual counterpart shot up in a game such as this. However, if we do have one lament, it's that that the game doesn't really make the most of its Las Vegas setting. Sure, you're fighting it out inside casinos full of slot machines and card tables, but you get the feeling that the game could have been set anywhere else and it wouldn't have made much of a difference. But if you're going to set a game in Las Vegas, then set a game in Las Vegas with an Elvis song or two, or at the very least a Wayne Newton tune. Las Vegas is an over-the-top and surreal experience, which is something that Rainbow Six Vegas doesn't quite capture.
Rainbow Six Vegas packs a ton of replay in its single-player and vast multiplayer suite.
The voice acting in the game varies, with the lead character sounding a lot like an angry version of the executive officer from Star Trek: Enterprise, but for the most part it's all about the evil terrorists making evil threats and the good guys spouting all sorts of hoo-ha. There are helpful voice cues, such as when your teammates yell out that they're swapping magazines, which means you need to provide cover while they're otherwise unable to fire. And the bad guys are pretty helpful about yelling out their tactics to one another, though the game's premise has many of them being ex-Special Forces, which is an awfully rookie mistake. The sound of guns firing is pretty authentic, though at this point every realistic shooter has the same level of effects. Still, the game sounds as good as you'd expect.
Rainbow Six Vegas breaks the rules for the series and rewrites them for a new age, which is fitting, as this is the first Rainbow Six game for the Xbox 360. And thankfully, Rainbow Six Vegas ignores the city's official motto; if everything that happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas, then we might have been deprived of this excellent, immersive tactical shooter.