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Insert Tired Vegas Cliche Here

Jeff takes a first look at the final version of Rainbow Six Vegas 2.

We managed to get our hands on a review copy of Rainbow Six Vegas 2 today. I've been playing around with it off and on all afternoon, and it sort of makes me want to ditch the office early so I can go home and play it in a dark room with no distractions. So, in other words, it's making a terrific first impression.

I'm currently working my way through the second act, and my experience through Rainbow Six Vegas 2 has been an exercise in streamlining so far. I'll need to go back to the original Vegas to be sure, but a lot of things, especially the cover and leaning mechanics, feel cleaner and easier to deal with this time around. Not that they were horrible before, mind you.

It's largely the same sort of tactical shooter that the last game was, with some interesting changes to the weapon unlocking and rank stuff. Essentially, Ubi drew a fat XP bar on the bottom of the screen, just like Call of Duty 4. But you also earn points in three different areas as you play through the A.C.E.S. levels. That's "Advanced Combat Enhancement Specialization," according the manual. But really, they're three different meters that level up depending on how you take out your enemies. Headshots earn marksman points. Up-close kills earn points for your CQB rank. And blasting dudes through cover earns Assault points. Every time you go up a level, you get something, like more XP for your main rank or new weapons. So far, it seems like a good system that'll reward you regardless of your style of play.

My main problem with tactical console games is that they tend to overcomplicate the controller. Vegas 2 has a lot of different commands in it, and there are plenty of buttons that do different things depending on if you hold it down or if you tap it. Overall, though, the controls are pretty logical once you get the hang of them.

There aren't many online games up and running just yet, since the game doesn't officially ship until tomorrow. But there seem to be a handful of servers running, and they seem to be full of Spanish speakers. After nailing two guys, one of my own teammates blasted me in the face. Great. My knowledge of Spanish starts and stops with cursing, so maybe I'll lay some of that on them.

The cool part is that your A.C.E.S. and experience points carry over between single-player and multiplayer, so you can unlock stuff either way. It'll be interesting to see if that stuff works in unranked games. Using private matches and blasting your friends from a distance to pump up your marksman stat seems like it'd be a little unfair.

The default ranked team deathmatch mode gives you one respawn. That's two lives, total. And death comes very quickly if you're careless. I'm a little too careless, so I'm getting worked so far. I never got good enough at the previous game, but maybe this time I'll finally learn enough patience to play effectively. Also, the ranked matches dump you all the way out to the main menu afterwards, with a brief message explaining that you can't stick with the same group of players in ranked matches in order to keep things fair. Seems like that should drop you back into the search/join game area.

We'll have a review later this week.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+