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Urban Ops by Red Storm Entertainment

Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?

“It’s ok, we’re here to save you.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes. We’re counter-terrorist operatives from a secret force known as Rainbow Six.”

“Really? Bet that pays well?”

No, that doesn’t happen in Urban Ops, the latest expansion pack for Red Storm Entertainment's extremely successful Rainbow Six series. Following on from last year’s Rogue Spear, Urban Ops brings you more of the same terrorist-baiting fun in new and varying locations from around the world.

Being an expansion pack, you’ll need to already own a copy of Rogue Spear to play it. For your money, you get several new maps (with some old classics thrown in), some new features and what adds up to a general tidying-up of the original. The value for money question is something we’ll get to later but for now, join me as I don my Kevlar vest and enter the world of counter-terrorist operations. (You’re fired - Ed).

A bad guy yesterday. Careful now... Hurry, we'll miss the train!

For those who are unfamiliar with the series, R6 is a sneak-em-up style shooter, where taking a bullet in the head is a sure path to the ‘Mission Failed’ screen and running about like a loon will book you your very own body-bag before you can say “Kalashnikov!” You play the part of counter-terrorist team ‘Rainbow Six’, who are comprised of the best of the Special Forces from around the globe. This merry band of crack troops are called upon to defuse tense situations in an amazing variety of locations (I wonder what their air-miles alone are worth?)

Crap story lines aside, its all a good excuse to hunt down and kill the bad guys. Oh, and save some hostages whilst you’re at it. All this righteous murder needs a careful plan, and this is where R6 has always shined. Before any mission proceeds you are given a briefing - listen up, it’s actually quite useful. For a start, you’ll find out vital information such as where your mission is and what the hell you’re supposed to be doing there. It could be anything from disarming a bomb to rescuing some hostages. And disarming a bomb. And rescuing some hostages.

The point is, you’ll be given clues on how to prepare for the mission. If a mission demands a silent approach then it’s a good idea not to bring a Gatling gun and armour so heavy it groans. You need to give careful thought to who’s gonna carry out the mission, what equipment they’ll need and how exactly they’re going to go about it. There’s a wide selection of operatives to choose from, all with a multitude of stats to help guide your choice. Having chosen your squad, it’s then onto the inventory section, where various weapons and uniforms are available. Planning your insertion is the next stage. The 2D representation of the attack area is vital in allowing you to plan your mission. Setting waypoints and go-codes for your teams (of which you can have a maximum of four) is vital unless you want to just stand around, scratching their arse. After all, you’re the boss, that’s your job.

'Leaning' in all it's glory. Now where's that damned map...? Posing for the camera...

When you’re done with that, it’s onto the main action of the day. The game itself can be played a number of ways, be it camper, rusher, super-sneak or double-triple-cross expert. The new movements from Rogue Spear, such as ‘lean’ are well implemented, if a little imprecise at times and the AI appears to have had little another tidy-up. Terrorists find cover, panic and rush you (which can be very unnerving sometimes) which means that no two games are the same.

The real jump in AI between Rogue Spear and Rainbow Six was the implementation of your team AI. Tales of team members getting stuck in stairways and behind doors dogged R6 till the day it died, but thankfully since it’s predecessor, those dark days are behind us. Sometimes your team can be too clever for their own good, going after the terrorists in a show of bravado and often walking unwittingly into an ambush. Thankfully, response states can be switched on the fly with a quick key-press, so Charge-of-Light-Brigade type incidents are kept to a minimum.

Overall, your team is far more flexible than in R6 and can be given specific orders on the fly, such as throw a grenade, snipe, defend or fetch me a can of beer. I think. Your team spread themselves out far more intelligently than before and seldom get under your feet. Unless they’ve been shot and you happen to be standing on their head, that is.

The 5 new single player missions specific to Urban Ops include some Venetian streets, a Mexican slum, a hotel in Hong Kong, a Turkish Bazaar and lastly, my favourite, the London Underground. (For those who don’t know, that’s London’s subterranean train network, not a political movement…) They offer a good variety of open and closed environments. You’ll need eyes in the back of your head for sniper-happy maps like Mexico whereas the rock-hard Hotel map demands incredible reflexes and accuracy if you want all of your team to survive.

Quick, duck!  I don't want anyone to see me buying Jazz mags! Relaxing during a ceasefire. TAGOR is here to save you.

Online gamers are served well with the inclusion of a load of new multiplayer maps including a fog-laden graveyard, a Sub-pen and a railway bridge. These work well and should keep the fans happy for some time. For the nostalgic R6 player, Red Storm has included 5 old maps from the original for you to play in single or multiplayer mode.

The question is, is all this enough to persuade your local R6 nut to shell out hard cash? The interface has been given some improvements and happily, there’s now a custom game option where you can decide the number of terrorists to hunt down on any particular map. There’s also some new game modes, including ‘Defend’ that puts you in the middle of an assault of bad guys anxious to press a rather important button you just happen to be guarding. Red Storm are also obviously mindful of what a fruitful R6 MOD community there is out there, and mod’s can be switched on and off from within the game making the whole process a great deal smoother. The sum of parts is a friendlier game to pick up and play.

Overall, it’s about what you’d expect from an expansion pack. No world-shattering innovations, a load of new maps and a little time spent fiddling under the bonnet. With games like SWAT 3 looking over it’s shoulder, R6 and it’s offspring might be starting to show it’s age but for those who prefer their play with an injection of tension instead of rocket-jumping, it still holds it’s own. Despite it’s slightly aged engine and occasional quirks, Rogue Spear is still the game of choice for those who like to think before they shoot and Urban Ops adds as much to series as a mission could ever hope to.

Now can I have my flashbangs back Ed?

Over and out,

That'll teach him to wear khaki! This guy's beenw aiting for a ticket too long!

(For all you TAGOR nuts out there (that’s right - I’m talking to you two), we’ve generously included the TAGOR armpatch for use in Rouge Spear and Urban Ops. Just don’t blame us if they see you coming. Grab it here.)

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