If we were gambling men, we'd be willing to wager that you're in dire need of some summertime action. That could come in a number of guises, of course, but a decent portable shooter would be a good start.
And storming in on cue comes Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas. But while the first-person shooter gameplay it deals out gets the job done, like any gamble there's a risk you'll end up feeling cheated out of your money.
The game suits you up as Brian Armstrong and Shawn Rivers, two members of the titular anti-terrorism squad, tasking the duo with recovering two of their comrades kidnapped by a well-known terrorist organisation.
Armstrong, team leader and primary field operative, and Rivers, a sniping specialist, must therefore work together to rescue their squadmates. But things get a bit hairy when they're unable to locate their pals and instead find a biological weapons laboratory outside Las Vegas city limits. Suddenly, Armstrong and Rivers' priorities shift towards dissolving the terrorist plot before they can recover their allies.
Preventing the citizens of Las Vegas from becoming the victims of a biological weapon requires a loaded gun and quick reflexes, with Rainbow Six: Vegas doing away with the sophisticated military tactics typically associated with the franchise on home consoles, and opting instead for a more action-led approach.
As Armstrong and Rivers, then, you run through five levels completing simple objectives such as gathering vital intelligence, disarming weapons and saving hostages. Naturally, it all takes place against the backdrop of a sanctioned terrorist killing spree.
And, really, plenty of bullets and sharp reactions are all you need to play Rainbow Six: Vegas. There's little doubt the intent was to create a fast-moving shooter, which is noticeable by the way the game fails to possess much depth. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's important to set your expectations accordingly, particularly if you're a fan of past Rainbow Six games.
Still, as a shooter, the game offers a surprisingly solid experience. The controls, despite being inevitably handicapped by the PSP's lack of a second analogue stick, are suitably responsive – movement is handled via the analogue nub, while the camera is assigned to each of the face buttons. Backing this pleasing set up are the shoulder buttons, with 'L' targeting enemies and 'R' firing your current weapon.
Beyond being able to move easily about Sin City, you can take cover by pressing up against any vertical surface. Your perspective then changes from the first- to third-person, enabling you to peak around corners and pop bullets at opponents while enjoying a low probability of getting hurt. It's a simple system, but it effectively adds a nice dimension to what would otherwise be rather shallow gameplay.
That said, the few strengths Rainbow Six: Vegas flaunts like a feather boa-ensconced Sin City showgirl are overshadowed by major shortcomings.
Clocking in at under six hours, the campaign feels far too limited to warrant the full admission price – five missions simply aren't enough to create a lasting single-player experience. More to the point, it's not a particularly engrossing one either, with rather dumb enemies, no melee function available, and unspectacular graphics further stacking the odds against it.
The short length of the single-player campaign certainly puts a lot of pressure on the multiplayer portion of the game to perform. It does, but like a Las Vegas escort, it puts out for a cheap thrill, and the novelty wears as thin, once your initial night of passionate play is over.
From a purely technical standpoint, multiplayer runs without a hitch, featuring smooth performance and an easy-to-use interface. It's fairly simple to create a user handle and join in the action, which for the most part is more entertaining than the single-player campaign. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that multiplayer matches smartly strip away the pointless story-based objectives and hone in on the action instead.
What ends up crippling the experience, however, is a deficit of players. Venturing online, you'll notice a decided lack of multiplayer participants, which makes it difficult to get good matches going. Gathering four players is about as difficult as hitting 21 in Blackjack, with most matches doubling down with an average of two players. One-on-one team competitions just aren't thrilling enough, and even when you're lucky to get a full house game going, it's hard to not wish the game supported just a few more players.
Nevertheless, when fully staffed, the online gameplay can deliver enjoyable – if not necessarily remarkable – experiences, going as far as making Rainbow Six: Vegas an attractive option, despite the game's other limitations. But you simply can't ignore how the weakness of the single-player campaign dulls things overall. Ultimately, Rainbow Six: Vegas' whole package doesn't come together against the odds.