Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Critical Hour Review

Rainbow Six Critical Hour is hybrid game that takes the interface from Rainbow Six Lockdown and places it on the missions from some of the early PC games in the series. The recycled missions are probably new to most Xbox gamers, but since they were drawn from many sources they are presented as a look at the history of the Rainbow Six squad. Basically you’ve got the equivalent of one of those sitcom “memory” episodes in the game’s campaign and it is about as much fun to watch. Well to be honest I’m not one of those guys who has to have a deep and compelling storyline in his games. If I want a deep and compelling story I can sit down and watch The Godfather on DVD. What I really care about is compelling gameplay and this is where Critical Hour let me down.

Another bland room...
When you play a Tom Clancy game you can expect detailed mission briefings, quality cutscenes, and extensive pre-mission planning. However, you won’t find any of this in Critical Hour. Instead you get a short text briefing covering the “history” of the mission and a little bit about the tactical situation and mission goals. Mission preparation involves basic weapon selection for your team and that’s about it.

The first thing that will hit you when you enter the game’s first mission is the primitive look of the graphics. The textures are very bland and basic, the environments sparse, and the jaggies abound. Perhaps the old PC game levels with their 10 year old graphics were ported straight into the game, but if not it sure looks like they were. The character models for both your team and the terrorists are better, but not by much. Their movements are not as smooth as we’ve come to expect from late-generation Xbox games and enemies look just plain odd as they fall after being shot.

Critical Hour is like other Tom Clancy games in that just a couple of hits will take you down. This fact usually adds a degree of tension to these games and forces you to follow a sound tactical approach to the missions. Run and gun always results in drop and die, and always sooner rather than later. However this aspect of the game has been neutered by the fact that the game’s radar shows you the location of enemies even behind close doors and walls. In other Rainbow Six games it is very important to give your squad orders to breech and clear a room whenever you come up against a closed door because you never know what is waiting for you behind it. In Critical Hour you only need to do this for the rooms where you’re told that one or more enemies are located. In an attempt to keep some sort of element of surprise in the missions the game likes to occasionally have enemies burst through doors or come running down hallways. However, a terrorist out in the open is always an easy target so these “pop-up” enemies are not much of a problem. Should you find yourself surprised and shot, you won’t make the same mistake twice. The same enemy will charge you from the same location each time, so after you reload the mission you’ll be ready to drop the enemy as soon as he pops up.