This late-2001 addition to the enduringly popular Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six series brings new maps, new equipment, and ten new missions to the first-person squad-based action. Mission assignments follow a distinctly developed plot involving a string of mysterious "copycat" terrorist acts. Whether they know it or not, the citizens of the world are counting on the Rainbow team to uncover the deception and put a stop to the devastation. Up to 16 players can compete (or join to fight the evil forces of terrorism together) over the Internet or a local network.
Undoubtedly, when one talks about CQB or the tactical first person shooter, Tom Clancy's literary and entertainment franchise, Rainbow Six (R6), will come up. When it first came out though, R6 was not universally embraced by all action fans. Many first person shooter players criticized and continue to criticize its strict rules, its heavy emphasis on realism and harsh difficulty levels. R6 literally took out the window, the idea that a human can survive much more than a pistol, much less a rocket launcher or grenade. Though many of these critics have flocked to Counterstrike (which in my opinion, is much less realistic), R6's successor, Rogue Spear, probably alienates them more, taking the 'one shot one kill' routine even further.
From Rogue Spear's base engine, the developers at Red Storm have incorporated all sorts of expansion packs including the ability to fight in urban environments or practice real-life covert operations training. The last expansion pack, Covert Ops Essential, was really more like documentary or educational material. With no more than a handful of new in-game material, the bulk of the CD was dedicated in introducing players to the real world of Covert Ops. Of course, Red Storm and its development partner stressed repeatedly, this is not an official expansion pack like Urban Operations. But the reviews and players undoubtedly did not take this advice to heart. Rogue Spear: Black Thorn, swings around and repays those who were disappointed with what was Rogue Spear's last outing, in spades.
The premise of Black Thorn is much simpler. Rainbow is being tasked to foil a series of copycat terrorist acts. The idea is not too surprising since we saw that was what happened in the novel, Rainbow Six, itself. However, it allows for a diverse range of missions in various exciting locales. You'll be fighting from jungles to cruise ships to airplanes. You'll fight on American soil in isolated bases in Alaska and on the streets in Africa. Many of the missions still involve rescuing hostages but instead of the usual, infiltrate a place and rescue hapless hostages being tied up, a lot of tricks have been pulled in the map design to increase tension. For example, in one of the missions, the hostages are on a bus, driven by one terrorist. To accomplish this, you have to wade silently through a horde of terrorists in narrow streets and fierce urban firefights. The scenery is not unlike what happened in another Clancy novel or movie, Clear and Present Danger.
Rainbow is outfitted with various new pistols and rifles. I found most of the additions were of weapons with high rates of fire and large ammo counts. I had previously used third party mods with my Rogue Spear or Urban Ops games, so the presence of weapons like the 'P90' are not entirely new. But the whole pace of the game quickens when you have guns that spew ammo like no tomorrow. In contrast, it is much different from the firefights in Operation Flashpoint, where taking precise, aimed, single shots was the preferred mode of combat. The developers certainly have built up an arsenal of weapons for Rainbow to choose from, so much so that the previous stalwart, the H&K MP5, is no longer the default weapon of choice. There are so many tools now to do the job, choosing what weapons to loadout is simply a matter of personal preference. On that same point though, there is still room for mod developers to add more exotic firearms.
One of the reasons why these types of weapons were added may be linked to the additions of enclosed urban areas. There are certain maps that involve raiding the tight interiors of a cruise ship. You can also storm a small office building, complete with terrorists crouching behind cubicles, in Montreal. In these situations, the long rifles that were so important in your Russian escapades of the original Rogue Spear campaign, are unsuitable. The elements introduced in Urban Operations, Attack, Defend, Recon, etc. can now be applied to all the single player maps as well as more than a dozen multiplayer maps. That gives a hefty amount of new material for fans to play with. Their diverse locales incorporate a variety of textures and scenery.
There is no doubt that when you boot Rogue Spear up with fairly modern hardware, you will think the engine is aging. Rogue Spear still has problems portraying large expansive areas and recent titles like Operation Flashpoint or Novalogic's Landwarrior games remove the "boxed-in" claustrophobia often associated with Rogue Spear. It seems like every expansion pack takes the detail level even higher and Black Thorn is no exception. Though the interiors are even more heavily populated, they are still a bit shy of what was achieved by Sierra's SWAT 3.
Undoubtedly, people will wonder why Rogue Spear is so enduring despite the fact that it seems to miss its competitors on key marks. The fundamental gameplay rules behind Rogue Spear are still incredibly attractive. In no other package can you plan and execute manoeuvres to the tee. Many games have you move from one waypoint to the next and claim this is planning. Rogue Spear excels in planning, especially in complicated CQB situations where timing is key. Black Thorn also retains all of the realism trappings of Rogue Spear and its predecessors. Weapons recoil, weight encumbrance, footprint in the snow continues to be counted towards the list of attractive features. Though recent challengers like Operation Flashpoint have shown success, there simply is not other counter-terrorism game that matches the tension you get through Rogue Spear.
Black Thorn also features one of the most mature, albeit not persistent/dedicated, multiplayer games around. The following on MSN's The Zone is phenomenal. Black Thorn, being stand-alone in itself, is probably the final build or package Red Storm wants fans to use. Previously, the expansion packs had to be run on top of one another and this game incorporates all the best tricks of previous Rogue Spear games into one. It doesn't add ground-breaking multiplayer modes. It includes all the assault, defend and other variations from Urban Operations. However, it adds a Lone Wolf feature where one person is armed to the teeth while others hunt him/her down with pistols.
Right around Black Thorn's release, SWAT has also been re-issued in a new edition. I'm sure people will ask why these two franchises still persist in updating themselves, despite the fact that they were released years ago. Without a doubt, Rogue Spear remains one of the most challenging tactical first person shooters, par excellence. In a CQB environment, it is nearly unrivaled. Those who have been shy of the Rainbow franchise can buy with confidence that Black Thorn represents "the best of the best" from the Rogue Spear series. One thing that has driven me away from SWAT, from time to time, is its rules on arrest and police ethics. Rogue Spear is pure and unadulterated CQB action. Black Thorn is, ultimately, still based on Rogue Spear, so those who are easily frustrated will not appreciate the fact that objectives are becoming more difficult and exotic. But for its fans, Black Thorn is a fitting close to one of the most impressive gaming franchises in recent memory.
People who downloaded Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear: Black Thorn have also downloaded:
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear, Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear: Covert Ops Essentials, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3: Athena Sword, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Lockdown, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon
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