I think we can all agree that Rainbow Six 3 on the Xbox was a highly popular game and easily one of the most popular Xbox Live games out there. I also think we can agree that we’ve all been clamoring for more Rainbow Six goodness and UbiSoft Montreal has seen fit for us to get more goodness with the release of Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow.

Many people will probably dismiss Black Arrow as a simple expansion pack, but the beauty is that you don’t have to own the original game in order to play this one. Ding Chavez and his team are back to make terrorists over the world have nightmares. New levels, tweaks to the gameplay, bigger Xbox Live options (such as squads, a clan-like setup) and a single-player campaign that is actually fun have been added in this version, but let’s get to the scoring.

The Xbox Rainbow Six 3 had the best graphics out of the versions that were released on consoles, so it should be no surprise that Black Arrow duplicates those graphics from November of last year and sharpens them up a bit.

This was never a drop-dead gorgeous game to begin with, but what it does have it displays very well. The world of Rainbow Six is very gritty and dark and there are more characters involved in this series than there is in the graphically superior Splinter Cell series. However, those are two different games in different genres.

You will see a bit of slowdown here and there, although without the graphical flashiness of Splinter Cell or Ninja Gaiden I am a bit surprised this game slows down so much even in single-player sections. I can understand multiplayer, but come on.

Overall the graphics are good in Black Arrow although many may be disappointed that they didn’t do an overhaul of the graphics engine with this new release.

The music is pretty non-existent in this game, but the overall sound is still top-tier, especially when playing online. The beauty of being able to hear your opponents talking when you are close to them is really revolutionary. Obviously, this is ported over from Rainbow Six 3, but I always found that to be one of the coolest things about the game.

The voice commands are also back during the single-player portion of the game. I enjoyed this aspect in Rainbow Six 3 and I’m glad to see it here as well. It really does heighten the realism the game is trying to portray.

Controls are as tight as you remember. Nothing has really been added to this section outside of a bigger lean on the recoil engine of the game. In many FPS games on the computer you can usually strafe-circle your opponent while firing, in Black Arrow you’ll find that the longer you hold down the fire button the more sporadic your aiming gets.

This becomes a large problem where close-quarters battles will be luck of the draw with who wins and loses them. The beauty of this problem is perfectly represented in this Penny Arcade comic.

Outside of the more erratic recoil, the controls are the same as they were in Rainbow Six 3

The good news is that the single-player 10 mission section are a lot more fun than Rainbow Six 3‘s offerings from last year. The story is that terrorists are kidnapping scientists and the Rainbow Six team is dispatched to take care of them. Many people will probably skip the single-player section of this game, but there is a cool mode hidden in there once you get through the levels, the Lone Rush mode.

Lone Rush forces you to move quickly through a level. You begin the level with a time limit at the bottom of the screen. As you go through and save hostages, diffuse bombs and kill terrorists your time will increase. You have to make it through the level before the time ends. It’s a pretty fun mode to play and makes the single-player experience that much more enjoyable.

The only problem with the Lone Rush mode is that you can only unlock each level by beating it in the single-player portion of the game. This means you won’t see level 10 in Lone Rush until you beat level 10 the regular way. It’s unfortunate, but Lone Rush is an excellent addition to the game.

Of course, you’re here for the multiplayer aspect, aren’t you? Well, UbiSoft Montreal has implemented the new Xbox Live 3.0 offerings, two dozen maps (with more coming via download), the ability to co-op the single-player missions and some new multiplayer modes. So, let’s get started with them.

The biggest addition with the Xbox Live 3.0 compatibility is the ability to create Clans (in the case of Black Arrow they are called Squads), create their logo and easily challenge other Squads to multiplayer matches. The game modes from Rainbow Six 3 are here, but there are some additions: Retrieval and Total Conquest.

Retrieval is basically a CTF (capture the flag) game mode, but you’re grabbing canisters instead of flags. I’m not sure Retrieval works very well in the Rainbow Six games because of the fact that it is a slow moving tactical game and not a game built on speed like Unreal Tournament and Tribes are. It can be pretty fun though, but you have to be much more careful of your surroundings as you’re trying to bring the canister back to your base.

Total Conquest is an excellent addition to the multiplayer modes. The best way I can describe this mode is through Battlefield 1942 on the computer. In the Conquest mode you have to take control of all the spawn points (or flag points in this case) in order to win the match. In the Total Conquest section of Black Arrow you are trying to capture and then defend satellite dishes. This mode is very strategic, going from the offensive to the defensive and deciding how to go about getting the next dish.

Add these two multiplayer modes to the ones from Rainbow Six 3 and you have a lot of multiplayer loving, at least until Halo 2 comes out.

Chances are you will pick this game up for one reason: the multiplayer portion of it. If you go into this game thinking it’ll be a great single-player game, I recommend you go out and look for the Splinter Cell section of the Tom Clancy universe. Rainbow Six 3 is still played a lot today on Xbox Live and I can easily see this $40 “sequel” to be picked up in mass quantities just for the new modes and the new maps along with future downloadable maps.

This game should tide you over on the multiplayer FPS side of things until Halo 2 comes out. I know that sounds bad, but I also know a lot of people are waiting for Halo 2 to see what kind of multiplayer options there are in it.