Ubisoft's latest tactical shooter looks like a promising one, but a few parts of the game are worth keeping an eye on.
With Rainbow 6: Patriots, Ubisoft Montreal wants to draw upon the political resentment bubbling within the dark, disenfranchised corners of the American public. This is a game where the biggest terrorist threat facing America comes from its own citizens--those bitter and well-armed enough to violently thrust their ideals onto anyone they deem necessary. That messy, uncertain political climate is something Ubisoft wants to make use of in not only the story, but even the shooter gameplay itself. By giving players what Ubisoft calls "constant ethical dilemmas," the game often asks players to trade a little part of their humanity for some greater goal whether they're playing as the counterterrorist Rainbow team, the terrorists themselves, or everyday citizens caught in the crossfire. It's an intriguing setup that looks very promising based on what we've seen, but a game like this leaves itself open to intense scrutiny by its very nature. Here are a few elements of the game that especially caught our eye:
Where It Could Go Right: Humanizing the Enemy
How many modern-day shooters have you played where the enemy represents little more than some vaguely Russian or Middle Eastern opposing force that exists merely as targets in a turkey shoot? With Patriots, Ubisoft wants to humanize the enemies, show you their motivations, and even give you the chance to play as them in situations where they feel doubt over their actions. If done right, seeing the human side to the enemies you're facing could be quite the breath of fresh air in the genre.
The leader of Rainbow team is a fellow named James Wolfe who, according to Ubisoft, is a realist willing to take "ethical shortcuts" whenever necessary. In one situation, he orders you to throw an innocent civilian strapped with a bomb off of a bridge because there's no time to diffuse it. While we're hoping his personality develops into a morally complex antihero, it's too early to rule out the possibility that he may just be an unlikeable jerk. We're hoping it's not the latter because there's no shortage of first-person shooters where players just can't relate to some unpleasant tough guy. In fact, that's pretty much most first-person shooters.
Where It Could Go Right: Morally Ambiguous Gameplay
Prior to tossing that bomb-strapped innocent off into the river, there's a scene in which you're playing as a sniper perched high above a bridge and trying to protect the guy from being ushered into Times Square by a group of terrorists. Suddenly, things turn hairy when police, unaware that he's an innocent, begin opening fire on the civilian. You're presented with a difficult task: having to turn your fire onto friendlies to save a greater number of lives. (There are a lot of people still trapped on that bridge.) Whether you kill those police or simply incapacitate them is up to you and your skill with a sniper rifle, but no matter what, it's an odd feeling to not have an option other than the one where you open fire on those boys in blue. This is one of those areas where Patriots could really stand out from the crowd and throw moments of moral ambiguity into the shooter action. As long as it's done intelligently and Ubisoft makes sure to earn it, this part of the game could be a really interesting selling point.
Where It Could Go Wrong: Technology That Takes You Out of the Moment
One of the tools Rainbow team makes use of is something Ubisoft describes as a compact, technologically advanced version of an airport X-ray scanner that allows players to look through walls, buildings, and, in some cases, determine which citizens have guns on them. While this sort of tool certainly works for Batman (yes, it's basically detective vision), we can't help but feel that such fancy, theoretical technology feels a little misplaced in an otherwise realistic and human story of clashing ideals and the struggle to maintain one's humanity in grim situations. Sure, it wouldn't be a Tom Clancy-style game without some near-future military technology at your disposal, and it could wind up being an extremely useful game mechanic. We just hope it doesn't become Robocop vision.
If you've played Battlefield 3, Homefront, or countless other shooters, you know how infuriating it can be when the game forces you into being the last of your squad to walk through a door even when you were the first one to get there. In Patriots, not only do you have the power to breach the doorway when you want, but you can also quite literally kick a door off of its hinges and take down an enemy with it. Now that's what we call counterterrorism.