Game developer Red Storm had the idea of creating a special ops. type game that was formatted to the FPS genre. The concept was originally to be based off of FBI rescue teams, but later scrapped the idea in favor of a more international unit that was not weighed down to only operating in the United States. The project name was originally called "Black Ops" which is actually the term used when nations use special operations that if known, would be considered an act of war, and so must remain discreet. Since Red Storm is a company closely related to Tom Clancy, word had got out that he writing a novel about international terrorism and a unique unit to combat terrorist threats. The book was entitled Rainbow Six. The Rainbow in the title represents the unification of international forces by NATO, and six is the actual director or overseer of their actions. Red Storm picked up on the idea and renamed their project the same as the novel. Though titled the same the first game's plot was different then the book due to release dates being apart as the game came out first.
Tactical Shooter Gameplay
As this was a Tom Clancy game, the developers wanted the gameplay to be as real as possible at the time. Rather than have the player play the game like a Run and Gun shooter, R6 emphasized on tactics, critical thinking, squad mechanics, and stealth as a means of completing a mission or level. The reasoning was simply because of the "one shot, one kill" factor, in other words, the player could be killed and kill NPC's with a few amount of shots at anytime. R6 also incorporated some of the first squad mechanics in a video game. Right before most missions the player would choose his teammates, and their gear. It should also be noted that each gun behaved differently much like in real life, some had better long range stats while others were more preferable at mid to close range. also depending on the mission like a hostage rescue, it would be better to carry silenced weapons to avoid detection, to gain an advantage over the enemy NPC's. Multiplayer was relatively the same style gameplay as the single player, which made R6 stand out more from other FPS's at the time increasing it's success as a "sleeper" hit. Although ever since Lockdown, the series has become more "Hollywood" or more focused on actions, covering, and faster pace gameplay.
The plot for most or all the R6 games are usually more along the lines of a terrorist threat on a global or national level and the R6 team tracks and finally neutralizes by the end of the campaign. There have been a few exceptions such as Critical Hour, Vegas and Vegas 2, where the plot is more inclined of the characters and knowing their past, and becoming more focused on their actions rather than "stop terrorist at point A, B, C, and finally neutralize" This has so far been where the series has been taking as far as plot goes, while some oppose it, others are unsure or don't particularly mind.
After the "sleeper" hit of the first game Red Storm had created the sequel R6: Rogue Spear. Fans of the original had been more than pleased with the sequel as it was merely a update of technology from the first game, and was more heavily focused on the multiplayer aspect of the game. The Game also introduced mods, for the first time in the series, and had later brought Covert Ops and Black Thorn as expansion packs. Some consider R6RS to be the prime of the series, while others believed the next sequel R63: Raven Shield to be the best of the series. Raven Shield had done much what Rogue Spear had done but better. The graphics were some of the best at the time, and had made the gameplay more accessible but not too much to discourage the fans who had played the series before. This was later ported to the consoles and was just titled R63. The Xbox version was the most successful and even took advantage of the mic or headset used for Xbox Live as a means of commanding the players teammates in single player. With Xbox Live having been out a little over a year, R63 was the top played Xbox Live game at it's release until Halo 2 was released later, though it still was in the top 5 played games. This also marks the 2nd time Ubisoft had published the series as they published the expansion Black Thorn earlier.
After the 3rd installment in the series Red Storm had changed the series with it's next out put: LockDown. The change was more than a mere update it graphical output, the entire gameplay of it's predecessors almost seemed scrapped. Rather than focus on slow pace tactical elements, the game was much like a standard FPS and was fast for the first time. The fans of the series and critics essentially panned the game for going too far out of it's original elements. One thing the series did introduce was the idea of creating a character whose stats could be affected by the type of armor they were wearing. The player could also gain experience points to unlock new guns, and armor. The next game was more of a expansion entitled R6 Critical Hour, which was old missions from previous games, remade using the new gameplay of LockDown. This was also the last time Red Storm would develop for the series. The next game R6: Vegas was created for the first time on the "next-gen" consoles such as the 360, and PS3. The gameplay was less action than LockDown and more than the original three, basically taking the best of both worlds in a way. The game introduced the new cover system that would go into a 3rd person mode but still keeping the sense of "one shot one kill" in mind with this slightly faster gameplay, much like Gears of War. Aside from gameplay the game focused more on plot this time through, and brought back the create a character feature from before. The gameplay was also more involved with it's guns, as you could decide what attachments you wanted to better suit your own play style such as scopes, stocks, ammo clips, laser sights, silencers, etc. Fans who had been let down before had found a interest in the series again, even though it was not quite as tactical as the older games were, and so the game has been popular in reception and created a sequel R6: Vegas 2 which essentially more of the same thing.
Future and Concerns
Though, the Vegas series has rebooted the series, older fans still criticize the gameplay, as it has become a little more focused on actions and mechanics similar to Gears of War than, the older tactical elements of the first few games. Some fans would argue that if they did go back to the old style gameplay of the original Rainbow Six games, that the game would feel dated or stale for today's tactical FPS's, others would argue that, the newer Ghost Recon series or GRAW (Ghost Recon Advanced War fighter) is still similar to it's original tactical gameplay of the older games in it's multiplayer element while still being a good current tactical third person shooter.