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Published by:
Red Storm

Game Genre:
Strategy Game

Game Cheats:
Are Available

Requirements:
Pentium 166, 32 Megs RAM, 4X CD-ROM
16-bit Sound Board, Mouse, & DirectX 6

Retail Price:
$39.95
Our Ratings:
Features

Graphics

Sound FX

Gameplay

Overall

Screenshots:
Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear


Game Review - by Jeremiah Pratt
A year ago, Rainbow Six refined tactical, squad-based, commando combat. Using Tom Clancy's eponymous novel as its foundation, it gave PC gamers true-to-life scenarios and visceral, edge-of-the-seat action. It featured real weapons (no BFGs here, no sir), human opponents (nasty terrorists), and familiar terrorism themes (hostages and bombs). Drop your guard for one moment and you, your fellow commandos, and the hostages were toast.

Storyline:
Your evil fundamentalist and Russia gangster foes walk pre-programmed routes and often seem oblivious to imminent doom. Ambushes to nail one enemy can take out far more than that, as the lone victim's cries often turn his pals into lemmings for a moment. I slaughtered a good half-dozen adversaries in both the dacha and Kosovo missions by simply firing into an opening and waiting for them to trot by. It gets ugly when you haul out the grenades. Man, I never knew that heartless killers could be so self-sacrificing. Anything for the cause, I guess.

Features:
Improvements over the original abound in subtle and obvious ways. 3-D maps let you better visualize your mission, weather effects -- driving rain, footprints in the snow, steaming breath -- add realism, the sniper mode is ultra-realistic, and the AI on both sides has been ratcheted up a notch.

Gameplay:
Those of you familiar with Rainbow Six will be able to jump right into Rogue Spear without having to even crack open the manual. The controls are basically the same as in the original, with a few keys remapped to give it the playability of a more standard shooter like Quake or Unreal.

For the most part the game handles extremely well, running smoothly on all of the systems we tested it on. However, the controls can be a bit sticky at times and the mouse fire button is sometimes non-responsive when there's a lot of action happening on-screen. This is particularly frustrating at certain key moments, like when a group of four terrorists come running down a hallway toward you.

Like Rainbow Six, when you start a mission, you can either opt to go with the pre-determined routes, weapon load outs, and squad assignments or choose your own. You can customize all of your team members and their paths if you want, but I usually just use the default paths (the people who set the routes did make the game after all, so they probably have a fairly good idea of where to go) and alter the weapon selections slightly to suit my taste. If you haven't played the original Rainbow Six (and, according to PC Data statistics there are about 4 of you out there who haven't), there are a number of handy practice tutorials to get you up to speed before you jump into the actual game.

Unlike the simple sweep and clear missions of Rainbow Six, sniping plays a much more important role in Rogue Spear, and there are a few missions which are almost impossible without a couple of snipers to hang back and pick off some baddies before your team goes into the hot zone. Of course, to that end, there are a number of new long-bore sniping weapons added to your arsenal, as well as several more assault rifles and shotguns to boot.

Bullets also come in multiple types now (full metal jacket and jacketed hollow point), giving you more of a range when it comes to outfitting your operatives. Now you can opt for bullets that pierce armor better or are more suited for tearing through flesh and bone.

While, at its core, Rogue Spear plays almost identically to Rainbow Six, the design team has incorporated a number of new features to make this sequel even more enjoyable and playable than the original. One of the best new features is the ability to lean around corners. In the original you would literally have to step around a corner to look for possible baddies, leaving your entire body open as a target to anyone with a gun. Now you can just poke the top of your head around a bend and check out the scene without as much risk of being shot. You can also move while crouched now, allowing you to duck-crawl behind desks and other low-lying objects for cover.

These new movement options really enhance the gameplay to a degree that was missing in Rainbow Six. I'd still like to see a jump or dive feature so I can quickly get out of an area when one of my dumb ass teammate decides it's a good time to toss a grenade into a room I'm clearing.

Of course, when it comes down to it, the number one defining feature of any shooter is the Artificial Intelligence. The development team obviously paid special attention to one of the most notable downfalls of Rainbow Six as the AI in Rogue Spear is quite good overall (both on your side and for the terrorists). Attackers come running to help their compatriots if they're within earshot of the battle. Your team members will survey the scene and defend your back when you're picking a lock. Some enemies have deadeye aim and can pick you off from across a wide hall, while others couldn't hit a slab of beef at three paces.

However, the AI engine is not without its flaws. Sometimes enemies will run up to you and just stop, waiting to be shot. Other times your back-up guys won't respond to impending danger, letting you get chewed up by a treacherous foe without so much as squeezing off a round. Sheesh! Little help, please. Thankfully the path system in Rogue Spear was greatly improved over Rainbow Six, preventing your teammates from sandwiching you in tight spaces, which effectively trapped you for eternity.

Graphics:
Yet Tom Clancy's minions still tried really, really hard. Character models now feature a higher polygon count, making for sharper looking squad members and better animations. In some ways, the artists went a touch too far with this. Remember writhing around in B-movie death throes while playing Cowboys and Indians as a kid? Well, the artists at Red Storm do too. Pop an Osama bin Laden wannabe in the shoulder and you're often treated to a collapse that's frighteningly Keanu-esque. Whoa, indeed.

The dated engine didn't prevent the level designers from crafting some truly unique maps on which to ply your skills. If you recall the Spanish amusement park from the original game and the Taj Mahal from the Eagle Watch add-on, you'll feel right at home in the new game's hijacked airliner, Metropolitan Museum of Natural History, oil tanker off the coast of Japan, and Serb-shelled Kosovo. Both the major and minor aspects of each location are recreated in exquisite detail. Meaning that the designers stayed true to both blueprint and real life. Nothing comes off like a generic set piece from a computer game.

Sound FX:
The sound in Rogue Spear is simply amazing, and the designers did a great job of utilizing 3D surround effects to get you into the feel of the game. If you're lucky enough to have a four-speaker setup, you can actually tell where the action is taking place simply by following the direction of the gunshots. Of course, you may want to avoid charging directly into a firefight. One of the neatest sound effects in the game will only be heard if you're a little too close to a grenade when it detonates. Your speakers will chime loudly and ring for about 30 seconds, just as if you really were next to a loud explosion.

Overall:
If games could be rated completely in a vacuum, Rogue Spear would have to be acclaimed as a masterpiece. It does just about everything possible to provide an enjoyable, unique diversion in front of our monitors. But so did Rainbow Six. While this game is certainly a good one, it deviates very little from the formula pioneered by Red Storm in 1998.

And as winning as said formula undoubtedly is, I'm not sure that such a straightforward rehashing is what fans have been waiting for. Those of you with no compunctions about paying a little extra for a super expansion pack will have no regrets about buying Rogue Spear. It goes for those who've been replaying the original missions ad nausea to fill the time until the sequel shipped. But if you got your fill of Rainbow Six some time ago, think twice before digging out your dinars. All of this might look a little too familiar.


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