It's very hard to decide whether Rainbow Six Vegas 2's minimal advancement in any area beyond 2006's Rainbow Six Vegas is a rare case that supports the maxim, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", or a disappointing lack of will and effort. But to save yourself a lengthy internal dispute, let's cut straight to the chase and tell you that it really doesn't matter that much. Rainbow Six Vegas was a brilliant game and just a little over a year later Rainbow Six Vegas 2 brings us another campaign in a slightly more brilliant game. To spurn it for failing to reinvent the flashbang in this iteration would be churlish, and you'd not only be biting off your nose to spite your face, but punching yourself in the knackers to reprimand your little soldier.
Yes, it's visually identical to the first Vegas game and while still handsome, it's starting to look just a tiny bit yesteryear in the texture department. Which it is - Vegas 2 clearly isn't making full use of the latest Unreal technology, but sticking with whatever custom package Ubisoft licensed from Epic last time. It also remains in Las Vegas, which smacks of economic adaptation of levels that missed the 2006 release, especially as the plot is anyway largely parallel to, rather than abutting, the prequel.
But casinos actually make up a very small part of Vegas 2 and to be fair, this is urban combat. With modern conurbations' ubiquitous sprawls and tactical action quite rightly riding shotgun while plot watches 24 on the backseat DVD player, the actual city only lends a little background flavour. When you get down to it, it's individual level design that counts in a tactical FPS and here Vegas 2 even outshines its excellent forbear, with a monorail station, oil refinery, gymnasium, luxury penthouse flat and a mountaintop cable car station among the well realised sets. There's even a LAN gaming hall at the Las Vegas Convention Centre, which is a fun touch (and lets Ubisoft plug Far Cry 2 with massive posters).
But the best aspect of the level design is that this time all are specifically adapted for co-op gaming. Every level has multiple entry points and unlike the first Vegas game there's drop-in co-op at any point of your solo campaigning.
Even the cut-scenes are co-operating now. There is a downside to such excellent integration however, and this is the downsizing from four to two-player co-op for Vegas 2. No doubt this will cause much community grumbling, but in our experience two-way co-op was the most commonly shared Vegas experience in any case and it is far better to feel that you're sharing the full campaign rather than just disjointed missions. Frustrated four-ways may take some comfort that this time AI team-mates remain and are controlled by the host player.
You're so controlling
Rainbow Six as a series has a reputation for insane difficulty and rumoured requirement of such strategic skill and control that should you measure up, you're probably already working with a real tactical firearms unit. And while this reputation is fair if you trace the Rainbow series to its source, for years now it has been completely untrue. The Vegas games are not only accessible, but have also nigh perfected the first-person shooter control scheme.
Ironically, it's the wide range of actions and commands available to you that put some people off, when in fact the intuitive handling unlocks such levels of dextrous multi-tasking in your brain and paws that you'll think you've suddenly become a woman, or at least what your girlfriend might grudgingly consider 'not useless'.