Thursday, January 12, 2012

Old Guy Game Guides: Rainbow Six-Vegas 2

I’ve always been a fan of First Person Shooters. They used to feel much more immersive than third person games, adding an element of fun to the explosions.  I developed what (for me) was a decent amount of skill at Operation Wolf, Operation Thunderbolt, Space Gun, Lethal Enforcers, and others after countless piles of wasted time and quarters at the arcade.  That genre adapted particularly well to the point and click shooting method of PC games as well.  Therefore, I was very excited to find out how my previous skills would translate to the exciting new graphics and game play of the PlayStation 3.
Stylish, yet still spastic.
After some initial research I settled on what sounds like a minor league sports score instead of a battle game - Rainbow Six: Vegas 2.  This was my introduction to the idea that there are different TYPES of first person shooters. All of my experience translates into the “run and gun” or arcade type…buying a tactical shooter may have been more of a tactical error.

One of the main reasons for choosing this Tom Clancy title was that it was one of the few (old and cheap) games that allowed split screen two person play. (I am fully aware almost all shooters have on line multiplayer, but I can play badly very well on my own, I don’t need scores of teen agers highlighting how much I suck, thank you.)  The problem with this was my once again total surprise at the constant profanity in a game, meaning I can’t play when my daughter is awake, which tends to be when there are other people in the house.  My wife lovingly agreed to ignore her anti video game nature and try once after bedtime, but as I watched her character walk backwards down the stairs while pointing her gun straight up in the introduction area, I realized I’d be going it alone in the future.

It took quite a while to get out of the “move fast, shoot fast, wear shoes” mentality of gaming driven into my head since grammar school.  I eventually learned the value of things like stealth, cover, and letting your virtual teammates wander into the line of fire to lure the bad guys out. (I said “Tactical Shooter” not “Compassionate Shooter”.) 

Below are a couple of stories to illustrate the learning curve.

Lesson One:  There are still too many buttons on a PlayStation controller.

After being gunned down repeatedly in the large open room with three balconies in the game’s story mode (see Lesson Two), I decided to try something else.

“Terrorist Hunt” presents one of the multiplayer maps with a pile o’ bad guys against my little team.  All previous attempts had gone hilariously badly, usually with my three man squad wiped out somewhere between the first appearance of on screen text “enemy” and “sighted”.

Practice and patience helped, until finally I managed to take out all but one of the twenty terrorists. (OK, technically my squad took most of them out as I covered them while cringing behind things with a sniper rifle.  The whole idea that I wasn’t playing Operation Thunderbolt anymore finally sunk in.)

With one bad guy left to ferret out, the "team member is injured notice" with the little indicator arrow appeared.  This indicator arrow points toward the injured team member. In that respect it is far more helpful than the "enemy indicator" arrow, which seems to mostly point to both sides of the screen simultaneously, in random directions, or toward the laundry room.

I sprinted toward the injured virtual dude, and just as the "hit x to heal team mate" message appeared; the aforementioned randomly pointing enemy indicator arrow also appeared.  As it appeared just after a hail of bullets came onto our position, I once again question its relevance or usefulness.

We were behind cover and, in a reversal of the “run and gun” shooters I was used to, had the terrorist outnumbered 3 to 1. Thanks to finally remembering not to kneel when sprinting (that had to look impressive), I had reached the downed imaginary man just before the barrage.  The team member was graciously clinging to life, thus preventing the game from ending.

All I had to do was "hit X to heal team mate" to beat a Terrorist Hunt level for the first time.

However, in the heat of the moment, I did not hit "X".

Rather I hit the button labeled as "R1" which is also known to us old school gamers as "the fire button".

This changed the effect from the desired:

"heal team mate"

to the rather less desired (especially by said team mate) of:

"Shoot an entire clip of light machine gun ammo into team mate's head"

So "A" for timing, and "F" for button selection.
Sorry, dude.

Lesson 2: Games are not always relaxing in the expected way

I was supposed to be home resting to get over a mild head cold while my family was out.  After answering the question "Who Watches the Watchmen?"  (Me, that's who, directors cut on Blu-ray, double plus awesome.) I decided to play a game.  Since I was supposed to be relaxing, I didn't try the then new Watchmen game that came with the movie.  Instead I decided to use my vastly improved skills and knowledge to make it through the aforementioned three balcony room.  This, I theorized, would be "less frustrating" and "more relaxing" than a new game.

After over an hour stuck repeating the same room, it turned out to be neither.

The level started with a door leading to a hallway.  The hallway contained two terrorists, which I shall refer to as Mr. Near (just inside the door) and Mr. Far (down the hall near some vending machines). The hallway also had windows and doors into a three level rock climbing room.  If I didn’t take out Mr. Near and Mr. Far quickly enough, they ran into the room, called some friends and shot at us through the windows.

The bottom level of this room had a few randomly placed wooden boxes which functioned as less than adequate cover.  The two upper levels were balconies completely surrounded by cover providing railings with many indoor rock climbing walls between the balconies and the floor.  One would think that there'd be a great deal of climbing combat on these walls.  One would be very wrong; however, as the highly trained strike team can only climb up and down the two rope points in the room.  The bad guys could only climb here too, but as they had both the high ground, and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of incendiary grenades, they were usually too busy barbecuing me to need to climb.

A much better name for the "Rock Climbing room" would be "The Barrel" room.  With my squad playing the part of "fish in a", and the bad guys playing the part of "Easy as shooting".

On the rare occasions I did manage to survive long enough to get the team to climb up to level two, I learned that the game spawns a new horde of enemies at that point.  Unfortunately after finishing a rope climb, my "highly trained" squad mates' default mode was not "assault mode", "defend mode", or "provide cover fire mode”, but appeared to be "sit on the floor far too tired from climbing to even shoot at the terrorist who is standing on you and picking off your squad leader as he climbs a rope completely undefended mode”.

Needless to say, I didn't make it to the third floor, never mind the end of the level.

I did notice after having to replay the opening scene countless times that I began to take my frustrations out on Misters Near and Far.

I started by suppressing years of arcade instincts and playing very tactically.  Silencers on, I'd run a camera under the door, to locate Mr. Near and Mr. Far, order the squad to open the door and take out Mr. Near while his back was turned as I used a sniper rifle to catch Mr. Far down the hall.

That changed fairly quickly to just walking through the door with a silenced assault rifle, pop Mr. Near at point blank range, and engage in a hallway battle with Mr. Far hiding behind the vending machines while my squad hid behind me (again, highly trained).

Further unsuccessful attempts led to opening the door and tossing a grenade at the feet of Mr. Near (while giggling maniacally), then undertaking a firefight through the windows with Mr. Far and his buddies.  While this actually provided more cover than being inside the “barrel”, it became very difficult to conduct said firefight while also healing one of my squad mates, who invariably felt that Mr. Near would be far too lonely in the hallway, and would follow my grenade in. (Highly...Trained)

By the end of an hour I had forsaken the sniper rifle with the high powered scope, the silenced assault rifle, and the grenades in favor of the "Raging Bull" .500 Magnum six shooter.
"It shoots through schools" - Danny Vermin Johnny Dangerously
I would kick open the door, make sure I shot poor undeserving Mr. Near in the face, then run over his corpse and sprint down the hall blasting away (in game) while yelling nasty things about Mr. Far's ancestry (in living room).

Actually, that last bit turned out to be quite relaxing after all.

Thanks to input from a friend that plays this type of game on “hard” instead of my “casual” I finally got through the room.  It required a tactic that was the opposite of and in fact counterintuitive to all of the game play up to that point.  After being shot a near infinite number of times peeking out of cover, it never would have occurred to me to leave the squad on the ground while climbing up to the balcony myself.  Apparently the sight of their leader being used as Daffy Duck style target practice by a room full of meanies increased their aim a thousand fold…Go Team.

That didn’t matter, though, as passing that level put me into a part of the game without the team, where I have been stuck now for a year.  Playing a several levels with the same friend during a visit illustrated a couple “fire from cover positions” that I didn’t even know existed. (See why I didn’t play on line.)  Unfortunately it also reset me from the middle of the solo level back to the beginning, and now I can’t even get back to where I was.

I did manage to beat a terrorist hunt level, which gave me the confidence to try my first on-line "team deathmatch".  Even though the machine said it was finding matches with players "similar to my level of experience" almost everyone else had weapons and ranks I am no where near unlocking in my solo efforts.   I managed to take out (by luck) one to two opponents in each twenty minute round, while managing to get shot (by stupidity) about once a minute. (Especially when the unseen guy on the other team had a sniper rifle aimed in through the window of our respawning room...Nothing like appearing in a pile of your own corpses, just to join them a distant muzzle flash later.)  Apologies all around to anyone else on the team hoping for a better score, and MAJOR apologies to the two players on my team I managed to gun down in a combination of panic and unfamiliarity with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon I harvested from another victim of that sniper. Apparently, having worked on some design specs for it as an engineering intern many moons ago does not qualify me to aim one nor handle its recoil properly.  I also learned that the body armor available in game is about as useful as the kind used by Imperial Stormtroopers. None of the other players seemed to be wearing any, and it didn't reduce my high rate of death.  It only served to make me a larger slower target.

On the positive side, I did receive several invitations to join other games afterward. This means either I didn't play as terribly as it felt...or they really appreciated the large slow target. Maybe I 'll stick with Lethal Enforcers for the Sega Genesis downstairs.

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