Rainbow Six: Eagle Watch

Originally published on 11 March 1999 for the now-defunct 3DGaming.net, I clearly abandoned all pretext of taking myself even remotely seriously. But that was also the sort of thing that 3DGN built its image around – we didn’t take ourselves seriously and we tried to offer readers entertaining writing. I like to think we succeeded.


You run around. You shoot stuff that doesn’t look like you or your next door neighbor. And then you do it again. And again.

Concept

In case you haven’t heard of Rainbow 6, it’s just about the most amazing “shooter”, a term I use lightly, to ever hit the market. In a genre flooded with Quake clones, Rainbow 6 was a fresh of breath air when it was released. Unfortunately, the fun was limited by the lack of a level editor. For the most part though, there’s no “real” story. Basically, you get in, you take out the bad guys, rescue some folk, and then go onto the next mission. Not exactly a heart stopping masterpiece, but then hey, I’ve come to expect no brainer gameplay from shooters in this day and age.

The basic premise comes from the Tom Clancy novel of the same name. The concept as written in a book is essentially an anti terrorist squad that replies to terrorist threats before anyone else can, quickly, efficiently, and secretly. And you’re the guy heading the operation. Have fun. As with Tim’s gripe about the storyline, mine is the same. There’s no real cohesiveness here folks, the levels have about as much to do with one another as Burt Reynolds does with good movies.

Ok, so you say it’s cool. What else?

But after a while, that becomes a moot point as the gameplay saves the day. Remember, the game is “loosely” based upon the novel of the same name, but at least the book had a plot. Once again, Rainbow Six: Eagle Watch is a wonderful example of gameplay saving the day. Got that? Good.

With the exception of Mysteries of the Sith, MechWarrior 2: Ghost Bear’s Legacy, and the various addons for X-Wing and TIE Fighter, very few missions packs live up to their predecessors. Rainbow 6 is one of the rare few that does. It’s not a step up from its father, infact, it’s exactly like Rainbow 6, but the level design is so far beyond that of the original that it deserves whatever recognition it gets.

See the bad guy with the gun? Put a bullet in his head.

Gameplay

The gameplay in Eagle Watch is just as amazing as the its prequel. Being a self proclaimed Quake 2 aholic and railgun whore, R6 was one of the few games that changed the way I looked at first person shooters. No longer could I pretend that I was John McLane and that everyone around me was Hans. Now I had to think! What? In a 3D shooter? That’s what made Rainbow 6 so damn amazing. And Eagle Watch is the same way.

The one major issue though is a lack of any real story. The novel has every terrorist event occur to test the main character’s will for some kind of enormous challenge. The game version lacks the same novelty feel that the book conveys, thus losing any interconnectivity between the various missions, other than that they get harder with time.

It’s fun to play. But is it fun to look at?

Thankfully, there’s an option to load a preset map that sets predetermined paths for the other troops to take. It’s sad that the AI on the other soldiers sucks so badly, because had it not, the game might have been more fun. Despite that though, the gameplay rises above the craptastic AI to save the game. I always believed that the point of a mission pack was to continue the story of the original game, and I only wish that Red Storm had attempted to make some kind of story in the game so that the level progression would seem more logical and flowing.

The one fact that must be remembered is: this is a sim. Not an action game. There is a severe difference between the two. With sims, it’s harder to just jump into the game and play. You have to know which keys to use and how to make one thing to do another. Because of this, the keys are always complicated since there are so many of them.

Everything else seems the same unfortunately. The graphics still have the occasional glitches, the AI is still at times fuzzy, and the weapons are for the most part the same. So outside of the levels, you ask, “Well, then what is new in the game Ilya?” Well, from the looks of it, 3 new weapons, 4 new operatives, and some interesting new deathmatch options. Other than that and the new missions, there’s not much else. Sadly, I was hoping for more. But then, they can’t all be golden, can they?

Is the game prettier than an SAT test on a Saturday morning at 7am?

Graphics

In a pinch, it’s the same crap as before. That’s right, in the last half a year or so since Rainbow 6 came out there have been no graphical improvements in the industry. Yup. Right. Ok. Sure. And David Caruso has a career. There’s still the occasional clipping problem, and the flat “I’m a dancing polygon!” look that everything has.

While the models actually do something when they’re not moving, they don’t do much. I think I saw someone scratch his ass once or twice, but that was about the only really neat thing I could think of to mention. Although I don’t want to start up a flame war about this being an aging engine, there’s always room for improvement.

Enough with the shiny monkey’s ass, I wanna see the porn!

Compared to Unreal and Half-Life, I’m left wondering why no one thought to make improvements upon the engine? Were they all so busy working on five levels to stop and think “Well, there’s been some new graphical developments these last few months, and people bitched about a lack of story, let’s give them one!” Yes, I’m very cynical. There was almost a 6 month period where a few people could have made the graphics so much better.

I was hoping for lotsa skin here. I got guns instead. A fair exchange.

Cinematics

In his Rainbow 6 review, Tim mentioned the lack of any real cinematics throughout the game. Same complaint here. Except my opening introduction didn’t have any voice over at all. Just prerecorded gameplay with music. I wish I could have a neat voice telling me about the beat down I’m going to bestow upon the terrorist scum.

The least Red Storm could have done is created some cinematics to make the story actually function. Instead of having me assume I’m going in and introducing people to the wonder of an mp5 because I’m a laugh a minute guy. At least then I’d feel like I had a purpose to play the game. Believe me, every bad guy has an alterior motive. If you don’t believe me, read the Evil Overlord List. I’m sure a bad guy would rather be in his dungeon drinking tea while torturing a victim than going out and setting bombs up all over a building. He does have a life you know.

We call this sound effects. This game borrows it from another game by a similar title, called Rainbow 6.

Sound

Half-Life and Thief emerged before Eagle Watch did, and in that time I expect that everyone all of a sudden said “holy shit!” and began working on implementing better sound it into their games. Rainbow 6 sorta did that. There’s no real 3D sound per say. It really depends on your definition of it. When moving around, my anti terrorist guy made so much noise cause of all the shit strapped to his ass, and who knows where else, that I wanted to personally end his life for not being quieter.

Other than that little flaw, the sound is fairly on the mark. The weapons sound the way they should (although since I don’t know Charles Heston and his little gun toting psychos too well I wouldn’t know, but I would imagine they sound the way they sound in the game).

Perhaps the most outstanding part of this game (other than the orgasmicly lush level design) is the soundtrack. It’s the same as the music on the first CD. But at least it can be said that the music was developed by Hollywood professionals, and whoever wrote the music had something to do with the music from The Rock. It’s good stuff to. I actually listen to it now and then, even though all the songs are short as hell.

It’s good stuff. I’ve heard better, but still, it’s good stuff. As for the rest of the sound, it’s all (and I’m sure you can see this coming… lifted from the original. I guess it’s too much to have some new noises? Maybe have some terrorists shout orders to one another while I sneak around and reveal to them the wonder of my silencer?

Interface

I have to quote another 3DGN writer(Tim) on this paragraph, otherwise it’ll be a waste of html and Office 97. “‘(Woo-ooh-ooh) It’s all been done. (Woo-ooh-ooh) It’s all been done. (Woo-ooh-ooh) It’s all been done. (Woo-ooh-ooh) It’s all been done (done, done) before.’ — This Barenaked Ladies lyric applies here.” I love the amount of originality presented in this mission pack.

3 rings for Elven kings…wait, that doesn’t belong here. Dude, this can take forever to figure out. Have a cookie.

Multiplayer

Anyone else here a Hydra-SB addict? I’ll even accept Gamespy for an answer instead! Now don’t you hate it when neither support a game? Well, that’s yet another flaw. The co-op multiplayer is absolutely rock solid. On a 33.6 the game can get a bit laggy at times if the server absolutely sucks though. And with the one-shot-one-kill attitude, the game can become that much more difficult to enjoy online. And it’s absolutely a must to go and kill a squad member and blame it on someone else. Kinda like that body guard in Out of Sight who shoots himself in the head when he runs up the stairs and slips.

DM in R6 was never very fun, and since there isn’t a great deal of space in which to move, when compared to Delta Force, the DM aspect looses its fun quickly. Fortunately, there are four new options at hand to elongate the online aspect of the game: Scatter, Assassin, Terrorist Hunt, and Save the Base.

There are also six multiplayer modes that derive from the main four types: Assassin, Scatter, Scatter Assassin, Team Terrorist Hunt, Scatter Team Terrorist Hunt, and Save the Base. Each offers something different and helps elongate the life of what could otherwise be viewed as a stillborn child of a game.

You can kill alone, with a friend, in the company of many friends, and with absolute strangers.

Conclusion

This has been something of a challenge to review due to the nature of the game itself. Rainbow 6 was unlike any other game I’d played when it was released. And I’d come to expect quality work from the team that designed the game. But everything presented here suggests a shoddy, rushed product. The manual is a worthless waste of trees. The game ships with all of 5 new missions.

The sounds and music are all lifted from the original game. There are only 3 new weapons. And the install is buggy. I had to reinstall Eagle Watch twice to get it to work. Bugs are amiss to the point where I discovered I had to go and edit something in my registry to play the game. I can only imagine a newbie who doesn’t know what he’s doing editing something in his registry. Oh yes, I had to turn off the opening video as well.

Besides these outlandish bugs and the lack of any story whatsoever, the grand total of 5 new maps and several new multiplayer options just isn’t enough here to make me want to recommend that anyone run out and buy this. And it requires that Rainbow 6 be installed as well. If Rainbow 6 happens to be your favorite game, then I see no reason to not run out and buy this, otherwise it’s not really worth it.

Software developers release new levels all the time online, I don’t see why Red Storm couldn’t have done the same with Eagle Watch. There’s some decent work done here. But everything just seems to not work right together. The multiplayer and interface are the best parts of the game, and although the concept is neat, it’s just not deserving of a higher grade.

The Goods

Quick Peek: A unique and challenging first person shooter than requires as much thought as it does balls.
Pros: Interesting concept and gameplay, varied internet options, stunning level design.
Cons: Pathetic manual, new troops are useless, only 3 new weapons, only 5 new maps, no level editor, AI tends to act idiotic.
Value: If you don’t already own Rainbow 6, you can pick it up and throw in Eagle Watch for another $20. If you like shooters with a twist, give this a whirl.

End of the Line

System Reqs: Pentium 166, 16MB RAM, Rainbow Six
API’s Supported: Direct3D
Hype Level: 5/10
Overall Grade: C
Recommendation: For fans of the original who have the patience for this, it’s a fun experience. But if you’re willing to shell out $60 for Rainbow 6 and Eagle Watch and you know you’ll love it, then hey, go for it. Otherwise, it’s a cheap thrill that can be saved for something more worthwhile. Buy a book.

The Grade

Concept: B
Gameplay: B
Graphics: D
Cinematics: N/A
Sound: D
Interface: B-
Multiplayer: A
Overall: C

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