Raven Shield ECTS Report By Joe Schmoe

Introduction by Rocky

When Joe Schmoe and Ravenmouth represented AGR-S.com at ECTS a few weeks ago, they harboured high expectations for what they were about to see. With slots booked with Ubi Soft they could not wait to see how Raven Shield was looking. Joe Schmoe had already played Raven Shield at an advance Raven Shield LAN we both attended earlier in the year, and was keen to see how the game was shaping up after a few more weeks development. For Ravenmouth this was to be his first look at Raven Shield.

Little did they know that they were about to be served the most exclusive of Raven Shield previews, playing a brand new version that no other publisher got their hands on – and it took their breath away…..

Early Disappointments

My attendance to ECTS this year was something I was looking forward to. I had an appointment to speak to the people at Ubi, and I was going to see all kinds of cool games and stuff. Then, just a few days before the event, two occurances shook my expectation. The first was the announcement that Raven Shield’s release was to be put back from late October to February (when I’d be away Snowboarding). Obviously, this just wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I’d hoped to be one of the first people playing the game; now I had to face the possibility that I might be a month behind everyone else in the playing!

The second happening was even more of an annoyance. Apparently, the version of Raven Shield on show at the Ubi stand was the same one that had been at E3, and indeed, the same pre Beta version that myself and Rocky had played about with a few months ago. This wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I wanted to see new stuff, see the progress made and drool…it sounded as if that wasn’t going to happen.

Arrival

I turned up at Earls Court, and headed in. The heady mix of a Saturday morning and a load of bright lights and sounds meant that I had one priority first of all…I grabbed a coffee and a cigarette and prepared myself for my meeting. That done, I headed off to see the sights. Hooking up with Raven from team DRAG on the way (who I’d been drinking with the night before), I ambled toward Ubi’s stand. It certainly was one of the more impressive stands of the event, with terminals showing off Rayman, XII, Splinter Cell and GR’s hotly tipped Xbox version (they also had free lollipops). However, at the terminal set out for Raven Shield, I was greeted by a blank screen – this was not what I wanted to see! For a moment, panic set in, and in my haste I nearly fled. But I didn’t.

I was greeted by Manab Roy from Ubisoft’s UK branch, who seemed in a rather chipper mood…something didn’t add up. He knew I was going to ask about Raven Shield, so why was he so cheerful…was he planning to kill me perhaps? We sat down, and with a smile he said that he had something new to show us. Something that wasn’t on display here, and that they’d only been able to setup for today, late in the event. Indicating a private room, he suggested we should enter. That was it, I was convinced he was going to kill us. Obviously a ninja death squad awaited myself and Raven. Hah! I wasn’t worried! I myself was once a ninja too, and Raven had the look of an ex green beret on the edge, I felt sure we’d prevail. The room had a computer in it. This totally threw me…where was the death squad? There wasn’t one. Just a computer. A computer with a new and up to date version of Raven Shield on it!

Exclusive Preview

The development team obviously haven’t been standing still in the months since E3. In fact, it looks like they’ve all been working their socks off. Manab (who seems as excited about Raven Shield as me) was eager to be able to show off the new stuff…and there was a lot to show.

The kit selection and briefing splash pages look great, and the sounds have now been added in. The bleep you get when you select an option will be familiar to anyone who’s played an R6 game before. The uniforms were much improved and look amazing now, with the camo options looking very sweet indeed, and as we’d all hoped they do indeed look even better than those in GR.

Then we were in game. A new map was there for us to look at, based in an Oil Refinery. The map looked very impressive. Dark, noisy, and claustrophobic with gangways, walkways and open stairwells everywhere…this map looks like it’ll be great for MP, with teams sweating it out in the maze of pipes…classic R6 stuff! It’s once you’re in game that you really see where the progress has been made. All the characters look great, their movements and animations have been polished, and the gun models have also been sharpened up. The M249 in particular looks amazing. Just seeing one of your teammates carrying it is enough to throw you into John Rambo mood. Shadows and lightsourcing have been worked on, to impressive effect, and the First person gun models are without doubt some of the nicest I’ve seen. Granted, they were impressive before…some of them look even better now.

Then, Manab switched on the sniper’s thermal vision. WOW! This wasn’t the thermal vision I’d seen last time…this was totally new!!!! Instead of the more thermograph type red, white, orange view that seems to turn up on every computer game with a thermal sight, I was greeted by something that looked as if it had been taken with an actual thermal camera. The image was grainy, monochrome and looked great! I was surprised and pleased…if improvements like this were the reason for the delay in release, then perhaps it isn’t such a big deal after all.

Hands On

Finally, I was let loose on the game myself. This was what I’d waited for! Checking the equipment slots before heading off, I found all the old favourites were there: standalone HBS sensors, breaching charges, claymores and HBS pucks all made welcome appearances, and kitting up, off I went. Up close, I noticed a couple of extra touches that I hadn’t seen before. The ambient sounds have been improved and added to; you’ll hear clicks, rustles and whatnot as you switch to different weapons, activate kit items and pull the pins on your grenades. The HBS sensor now pings with the heartbeats you see, and such was the level of detail, you could read the writing on the grenades your teammates carry. Happily running around the map, I was able to blow a door off it’s hinges with a well placed frag grenade, and was even more surprised when a door subjected to a few blasts from a shotgun swung back on it’s hinges – it’s these tweaks that really do convince that the developers are going all out to make Raven Shield a true classic.

A lot of people have asked about tactical reloading and whether you’ll keep the round in the chamber. I now know the answer. It’s yes. Pausing for a breath in between firefights; I reloaded; and was surprised to see my G36k with an ammo count of 31 (oh, and the ’36 is indeed a lovely firearm; I may even switch from the m14 to this baby).

The other thing people seem to have talked about a lot of late are the flashbang grenades. The retina burn affect, and the ear ringing sensation are still there, and in my opinion one of the most noteworthy parts of the game. However, even I had a surprise when throwing a flashbang up onto a gantry above me. There was a bang, and a strobe of white light from above, and as I moved, heard a scream – the Tango I’d just blinded covered his face with one arm, and opened up randomly with his firearm, firing blindly on full auto. Just another example of how tightly they’ve tuned the AI on this game, everyone I encountered seemed to react differently…sadly, the blind tango got off a couple of lucky shots, and my team were gone. Damnit!

Conclusion

I sat there smiling. This game is going to be worth the wait…the steps forward that are being made by the team leave me in no doubt that Raven Shield is going to be a worthy successor to Rainbow 6, and I can’t think of one reason why this might disapoint. The only downside to this game is that it isn’t released yet…but when it does appear in the shops, I’ll be near the front of the queue.

JoeSchmoe