The middle class is melting away faster than the polar ice caps. People are without jobs, without homes, and without hope. Protests like “Occupy Wall Street” show that the atmosphere in this country is changing. But what if things were to turn away from peaceful rallies and become more forceful. What if movements like the Arab Spring, that started with Facebook and Twitter and a couple of cell phones, were to start gaining ground here? What if someone were to rise up and provide a singular voice for the oppressed within these United States and preach that violent means are the only way to reclaim what has been lost while leading the downtrodden with his radical agenda? And what would you do when these events finally came knocking down your door?
This is the premise that was presented to us for the new Rainbow 6: Patriots from Ubisoft. A project that hasn’t even gone into full production yet and is more than a year away, but clearly has had a lot of thought put into the idea that the most dangerous threats to our security might not come from abroad, but from within our own borders if we’re not careful.
“While the US plans and spends a lot of time prepping in the event of a domestic attack, there has never been an organized domestic terror attack or series of attacks from people who look like us,” said Creative Director David Sears. “So for us, it was a pretty terrifying notion and in a counter-terrorism game you’re looking for the most terrifying subject matter you can find.”
To help set the stage for this new counter-terrorism tale, in the demo we saw we were promised that unlike the Rainbow Six: Vegas games, this story would take place all over the United States in both iconic locations like Times Square and more backwater, rural regions, and even move abroad in a few cases as you track down this threat to homeland security.
But that’s not the only change we saw to the narrative style of the Rainbow franchise. “20% of our game is what we call ‘perspective play’ where you get to see the world through the eyes of the enemy or a civilian or a civil servant. We really want gamers to understand what really happens while you’re shooting up the place,” said Philippe Therien, Single Player Lead Game Designer for Patriots. He then proceeded to show us one of these levels where a man who had clearly not been affected by the economic turmoil of recent times having an intimate moment with his wife when he has his home broken into. He and his wife are beaten and when he comes to, he finds that he has a bomb with a dead man’s switch strapped to his chest. If he drops the trigger, for whatever reason, he goes kaboom. Forced to comply after his wife and child are threatened, he is taken to the Brooklyn Bridge and must avoid a shootout while working his way through a maze of disabled vehicles to get to where the terrorists wish him to go.
Once in position, the view switches back to Rainbow. After rappelling down the side of the bridge and eliminating enemy snipers, you take up position in their place and attempt to clear the area of any terrorists before you can move in to hopefully disarm the unwilling suicide bomber. With time running out though you have a very tough choice laid out before you, made all the harder from our brief glimpse of the world through the bomber’s eyes: Do you kill one to save one thousand?
“To tell the mature story we want to tell and for it to be meaningful you have to have choices. Otherwise it would just be a story according to whoever wrote it. That’s a perfectly cool thing to do. But for us, we put you in difficult situations and then have you make the tough choices and deal with the consequences. We think this makes the story much more relevant because it is just that much more personal since you had a direct hand in what happens,” explained Therien.
Next we saw the advancements in A.I. and technology the Rainbow crew will be allowed to use. Snake cameras are so last generation. Instead, imagine a miniaturized airport scanner that you can use to see a perfect outline of every enemy in the building you wish to breach. This allows for situational awareness like you’ve never had before and you can command your Rainbow unit accordingly with some new easy access one-button prompts, making the situation also more user-friendly. The room we saw had three doors with six terrorists inside and one hostage. From there we were shown a bevy of different strategies, from having one of your units stationed at each door, to everyone sneaking in through the front, or using careful distraction and misdirection to remove the threats.
The most eye-opening aspect of this was that even when using the same strategy twice, the A.I. of the terrorists would act differently each time, and that no matter how much planning went into a scenario, things could still get FUBAR. This gave us a chance to see what the Rainbow development team is calling “Dirty Breaching” where we could still win the day even if a mistake happened or something we didn’t predict caught us off guard. Whether it be someone tripping, a terrorist not reacting like we had planned, or even one where the breach was screwed up, but the terrorist guarding the hostage never pulled the trigger once he heard the noise and just immediately took up a cover position, still giving us a chance to save the day.
Moving away from the single player tactics, we got our first glimpse at an early multiplayer. Although we weren’t allowed to go hands on with anything, we saw the development team show off their newest feature that brings situational awareness to a whole new level in the multiplayer realm. They showed us what they’ve dubbed the ‘Sand Table’, a 3D holographic projection of a multiplayer map akin to something you would you see straight out of a movie. Once in the sand table, you and your friends could take a virtual walk through the level and place markers, plan paths you wanted to take to get to an objective, or even mark sniper points. This can offer teams a chance to truly match wits against another opponent and even the playing field against those with better trigger fingers or allow for new players to be brought up to speed with older ones.
Although our time with Rainbow 6: Patriots was brief, I couldn’t help but be excited from what we saw. But it had me thinking that with the flood of first-person shooters on the market right now, it should be interesting to see how fans react to Rainbow’s five-year absence from the scene. But the folks at Ubisoft aren’t worried. “Historically, Rainbow has been an innovator and a lot of our competition has adopted many of our innovations over the last decade. We just wanted to take some time to go back to the think tank and do some innovation that is going to surprise people. This stuff takes time to think up and takes times to develop and make, but this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Sears. If this is just the tip of the iceberg, then I know a lot of people who aren’t going to be able to wait to dive below the surface to see what else Ubisoft has in store for us when Rainbow 6: Patriots is released sometime in 2013.
What do you folks think? Are you pumped to hear of a new Rainbow 6 on the way? What possibilities do you think the Sand Table opens up for multiplayer? How about Dirty Breaching in single player? And what about the ‘perspective play’? How do you think that will affect the story? Let us know your thoughts with comments below!