There was a time when gamers if heard the name Tom Clancy, they'd immediately associate it with a certain little game called Rainbow Six, and not a slew of badly made titles - in fact, there are only a few decent ones. Created to commercial acclaim in 1998, Rainbow Six was one of the first real tactical shooting experiences in the industry. In retrospect, the first game honestly wasn't the greatest, but the sequel Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear, released in 1999, was certainly a blast, one with plenty of good memories of tactical chatter and coordinated multiplayer sessions.
Rogue Spear was certainly quite a love-hate relationship. Set in the real world, focused on real world affairs, and realistically difficult to boot, the game was a world apart from its first person shooter brethren released to market around the same time. We're talking about the likes of Quake III Arena and the original Unreal Tournament. What set the game apart wasn't just the setting, but also its fundamental gameplay mechanics. Where you'd normally see run-and-gun mechanics in plenty of other FPS titles, Rogue Spear grabbed that fast-paced action with an iron fist and slowed it down to an intense, thrilling experience.
Developed by then-independent Red Storm Entertainment, a studio formed by Tom Clancy himself and British Navy Captain Doug LIttlejohns - and now a wholly owned subsidiary of Ubisoft, the core principles of the Rainbow Six games focused on planning and execution. You'd spend just about the same amount of time planning your mission as you would actually playing it, from selecting your teams, issuing weapons and equipment, how to breach an objective, where to move your teams and when to engage the enemy, all of which then transforms into a beautifully orchestrated symphony of tactical action when you're finally dropped into the game.
The best part of the experience was the online multiplayer, which offered both competitive and co-op modes. The menu-based preliminary planning was dropped in lieu of a lobby system where team mates could coordinate their plan of attack before a game started. Now the experience probably isn't the same for everyone as not everyone was part of tight-nit clan that knew each other well enough to bring on the pain. I, myself, led a clan of pretty hardcore players, and when we weren't playing against others, we would enjoy a number of friendly games amongst ourselves.
Co-op was exceptionally well done, pitting our team of vets against AI enemy units, of which the difficulty and density levels could be adjusted. Coordinated team movement and communication was the name of the game, where each of us would infiltrate an objective from multiple breach points with the objective ranging from neutralize all tangos or rescue the hostages. Terms like "tango down" and "threat neutralized," as well as various other tactical phrases were thrown about like conventional lingo.
Regardless, Rogue Spear wouldn't have been such a great experience if it weren't for its core mechanics, all of which functioned as and how they were intended to, with features like lean-and-peak and team commands. Even the weapons performed according to their specs. Each firearm had their own various firing modes, from single shot, three-round bursts to fully automatic - and boy, did Rogue Spear have a massive list of weapons to choose from, especially since more could be added via mods: my personal favourite and rather overpowered firearm was a little thing called the OICW, the Objective Individual Combat Weapon, a prototype assault rifle and automatic grenade launcher fitted with smart grenades that explode on impact or delayed penetration. I know this doesn't sound all too amazing in the year 2011, but remember, Rogue Spear came out in 1999.
Rainbow Six, however, has become somewhat of a forgotten gem. The latest sub series, Rainbow Six Vegas, was fun in its own right, but was never really true to form as it appealed more to the current generation with fast paced action. The name itself implies something other than what Rainbow Six used to be. Regardless, it still managed to hold on to some form of tactical gameplay with the mark and execute system, which then carried on into Splinter Cell: Conviction.
It's too bad Ubisoft, as of now, has no plans for the Rainbow Six series, outside of a recently released iOS game. Personally, I would love it if they just dropped titles like H.A.W.X. and EndWar, if only to focus on a new Rainbow Six title, one true to its roots, with John Clark and the elite RAINBOW unit returning to take on real world issues and not some science fiction nonsense, a path that Ghost Recon - another Red Storm classic - has stumbled through throughout its tour, with the most recent Ghost Recon: Future Soldier being delayed even further into 2011, and possibly 2012.