The release of a new Tom Clancy branded game used to be something that fans looked forward to, sure that the title about to be released was going to be of the highest quality, be it on the PC or console. Recent releases such as Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter have only strengthened the stranglehold Tom Clancy games have on the tactical shooter genre. With that in mind, why in the world would Ubisoft dilute the brand with a release so bland, so uninspired, and so lacking of the features that made past games runaway hits? I am not sure what segment of the market Rainbow Six: Critical Hour is designed for, but it fails in almost every important way both as a shooter, and more importantly, as a Tom Clancy game. While there is nothing particularly wrong with the graphics, they are as bland and uninspired as the game as a whole. The color palette, so vibrant and deep in Rainbow Six 3 is now dark, drab, and dull. The character models seem to have taken a step back, both in texture count and detail, and the various tangos you will mow down seem more stiff and lifeless than ever. The animations are also poor, with terrorists collapsing in unbelievable poses and running in straight lines and right angles as they charge blindly at you. The evironmental graphics aren’t much better, with bland and muddied external textures and boring, plain internal locations that make the levels utterly uninteresting to navigate. Sound has generally been a strong point in Tom Clancy games, and is one of the least offensive parts of Critical Hour. The music is standard Rainbow 6 fare, with the standard orchestral score overlaying the menus and briefings. The music is fine, but its the same thing we have been hearing for years mostly, and with little to no variety and almost no music in the game, there really isn’t much to write home about.

The sound effects are better. The briefing and voice work is competent if not excellent, and the sound effects are above average. The weapons all sound distinctive and bear a reasonable similiarity to real life weapons. Environmental sound and audio is sparse, but what is there isn’t all that bad. The terrorists still have ridiculous voices when they yell out at each other or you, but at least they are funny. Not much has changed in the way Critical Hour controls compared to past Rainbow Six titles. The basic control is simple and easy to learn. Controlling a shooter with a console controller is still somewhat inexact, and the controls in Critical Hour feel more sluggish and less precise than Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter or Rainbow Six 3. Even so, the controls are implemented well enough and aiming and moving are fairly easy and reasonably accurate. The implementation of a newer menu based command system and weapon selection system are a nice bonus, and actually make ordering your teammates around quite a bit easier. The problem with Critical Hour, or at least one of its biggest problems, is that the game just isn’t fun. The basic gameplay formula is the same as any previous Rainbow Six game, but its implemenation is the worst of the series so far. Most missions inolve simply moving from building to building in outdoor maps or room to room and killing a few enemies. While there are different objectives, they usually involve backtracking or pressing the use button at a console at the end of a poorly designed building with two or three enemies crouching or standing in unnatural or just plain odd positions in each room. The gameplay is really no more complicated than that, and frankly no more interesting than that. Its just plain boring, uninspired, and not fun. There is little replay value in Critical Hour. While you can replay the missions on a higher difficulty level (and there is no fun to be had doing that), or attempt some mediocre multiplayer, there is no real reason to play the game again after you finish the missions the first time, and the game can be finished in about 8 hours by a player of reasonable skill. The game isn’t a great value to begin with, and its replay value is even worse.

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