If the original Rainbow Six Vegas felt like the first night of a trip to Sin City, its recently released sequel feels like the second; a little worn, but still a lot of fun. There's still a casino's worth of content and the best gameplay this side of Caesar's Palace. Plus, the introduction of a sprint button not only increases your speed, but also quickens the pace of the entire game. On the other hand, the cooperative play has been pared down a little and the expanded experience gains are about as glamorous as pillow mints--even if you are grateful for them. A third night of this might be too much to handle, but if you like to place bets with bullets at all, you'll definitely want to put some money down on Rainbow Six Vegas 2.
Despite the name Tom Clancy in the title, the Rainbow Six games are hardly known for their ace storytelling skills. Having said that, the way the original Vegas ended on such a terrible cliffhanger ending, when all it really had to do was give you a reason to kick some terrorist butt, was especially disappointing. Fortunately, the campaign in Vegas 2 makes no such errors. You no longer play as Logan Keller. Instead, you hunt terror and save hostages as a custom character referred to as Bishop in the campaign. Although the specifics of the overarching story are pretty easy to lose track of, one thing is clear: There are terrorists and you have to get them before they get Vegas. However, there are a couple of great scenes in the campaign. For example, there is one where you're supposed to meet up with a guy to find chemical weapons, only the terrorists meet up with him first. Because he's wearing a communication device, you can hear the proceedings as you make your way through the level. First, the terrorist in charge rails angrily, then the guy pleads with him, then the terrorist rails some more, and then the guy starts screaming "NO, NO, not THAT!" Then there are no more words, just animal noises of pain, fear, and more than a little loathing. Other moments don't seem quite as authentic, especially those that involve civilians. While it's nice that they're in the game, you'll occasionally lose if you fail to prevent the terrorists from executing one of them. That's just plain silly because it's unlikely that a group of commandos would leave a bunch of terrorists and weapons behind because Hank the Hostage bit the dust. Also, it's so easy to die in Vegas 2 that you really don't need the extra "game over" screens.
Just like in the previous game, you play through each stage with your two not-so-trusty sidekicks. They're like roulette wheels in the way they oscillate between deadly efficacy and utter helplessness, though the odds are actually stacked in favor of them doing the right thing. Their normally smart, super-effective behavior actually makes it even more striking when they get stuck behind the occasional box. The campaign isn't very long, but it has its share of awesome firefights and is a good way to warm up for the online play.
Although many of the locales aren't the first ones that would come to mind if someone asked you to imagine a shootout in Vegas, they are inventive, nonetheless. There are a few nondescript warehouses, generic loading docks, and lame industrial areas that could just as easily be in Rainbow Six Fresno. But, then, there's also the theater level. This is a full-on replica of a decadent theater complete with stage, backstage, seats, and a balcony. The tricky thing about it is that one team has easy access to the balconies, while the other is pinned by the somewhat open stage. If a player from the latter group can make it across and exit stage left, hopefully with a close-range weapon like a shotgun, he can get all No Country for Old Men on the snipers watching the action below. How quickly the hunters become the hunted.
The best way to cross any open space in Vegas 2 is to sprint, and that can now be accomplished with the push of a button, which is similar to what you've done in nearly every shooter that's come out since Gears of War. But unlike the reckless and half-blind dash in that game, Vegas 2's version is easier to control. It's also more versatile because you can sprint sideways, as well as forward. However, when you see a grenade rattle on the ground in front of you, you'll wish you could also sprint backward (you can't); realism be damned. Sprinting is a small, minor addition to a great big game like this, but it has a major impact on Vegas 2's pace and gameplay. It's obviously a good thing to be able to run a little faster when you're trying to close in on a flash-blind enemy, and it goes with the shotgun like peanut butter goes with jelly. Sprinting around a corner while pulling the trigger on a shotgun blast before the gun is even half on the screen and catching your enemy with a mouthful of buckshot is one of the sweetest kills the series has seen. Less obvious and less gory is the overall effect on the pace of the play. Sprinting provides a welcome shot of adrenaline, especially online.