No big surprise, but I'm behind in my Xbox 360 game reviews. So it makes sense to start with the game that's been sucking up my free time in huge quantities lately. And I'm not talking about Call of Duty 4 (see my review) or Grand Theft Auto IV, though both certainly have their place. No, I'm referring to Rainbow Six Vegas 2, the sequel to a five-star game I reviewed last year.
Like its predecessor, Vegas 2 is fun, addictive, and immersive, with a nice mix of single player, co-op, and multiplayer experiences. A team-based shooter, Vegas 2 will appeal to fans of the first game, but it stands on its own as well.
The big question, of course, is whether Vegas 2 stands up to the current Xbox 360 shooter champion, COD4. The answer, as it turns out, is no. Too, Vegas 2 doesn't really offer much over its predecessor, and is in fact just a continuation of the same game. That's fine, as the original Vegas was fantastic. But as the Xbox 360 game market matures, a me-too title like Vegas 2 simply isn't as compelling as it would have been a year or more ago. So in the end, Vegas 2 is excellent, yes, but hardly trend-setting.
Plot: In Vegas 2, you complete the cliff-hanger ending from the first game and hunt down the leader of a terrorist plot aimed at bringing down the city of sin. I don't believe I'm giving much away by revealing that there's a double-agent involved.
Graphics: First-rate again, and up to the standard set by the Xbox 360. It's about on-par with COD4 in my opinion.
Sounds: As with the original, the Vegas 2 soundtrack is mostly atmospheric and similar to the original. One weak spot is the voice acting, which sounds great but looks horrible.
Game play: Here, Vegas 2 provides some important upgrades over its predecessor. Key among these is a killer idea called ACES (Advanced Combat Enhancement and Specialization), which carries over all of your player character characteristics between all play modes. So as you increase in power, any improvements (such as ranks, weapon upgrades, and so on) carry over. This also means that you can achieve ranks and other upgrades through a combination of play types, via single player (solo and/or co-op), terrorist hunts (solo and/or co-op) and multiplayer, either online or local. What a great idea.
Unlike in the first Vegas, you can now run, which is surprisingly beneficial as anyone who's switched between games like Halo 3 (where you can't) and COD4 (where you can) will tell you.
NPC AI is generally pretty good, but I got tired of commanding my squad to launch a grenade at a particular place only to be told they couldn't do that. Maybe I'm missing the point of leading a squad of killers around, but I thought part of that would involve them following my commands.
Replayability: Excellent. Thanks to three distinct play modes, each of which can be enjoyed alone or with another player, Vegas 6 has huge replay value. I actually went through the single player campaign three times, once on Normal, once on Realistic, and then again on Realistic in co-op mode. Then I played through several Terrorist Hunt missions on Normal to snag a few achievements, and then played every one of them again on Realistic. Finally, we've been checking out multiplayer here and there. It's excellent, and thanks to the ACES system, you can actually improve ranks and get achievements online, which is appreciated, but it's no COD4.
I'd also note that the ranks system combined with some healthy achievements spread contributes to replayability if you're into that kind of thing. I certainly am: While I'll never have enough free time to hit "Elite" status, I'll probably keep going until I get the "Officer" achievement, which should happen soon. Given how much time I've already devoted to single player and Terrorist Hunt, that will probably occur during online play.
Multiplayer: Vegas 2 offers the usual selection of multiplayer game types and allows you to complete the campaign and Terrorist Hunt missions with a second player via splitscreen, LAN, or over Xbox Live. This adds up to a first-rate multiplayer experience. Again, it's not quite as fine-tuned as COD4, but Vegas 2 does offer a healthy community of players online.
Final score: Highly recommended.