Raven Shield Preview 1

Ubi Soft gave the UK its first look at Raven Shield this week, and we were there, itching to get some hands-on RS action, and we were not to be disappointed!

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Mike McCoy /
Mike Grasso

Game On!
Mike Grasso
Movie
Thermal Image
Door Entry
Police Support

 

Introduction

The presentation was introduced by Manab Roy of Ubi Soft UK, and given by Lead Designer Mike McCoy, and Technical Advisor ex LAPD SWAT member Mike Grasso.

The presentation opened with Mike Grasso explaining how the entertainment industry demanded more realism for consumers, whether it be games or movies. This was illustrated through the showing of action scenes from two of the many movies Mike has advised on. In The Rock Mike explained how the Special Forces found themselves in a difficult position when they entered an area to find the targets covering them from an elevated position. Mike advised that the same maxim applied to those Special Forces, as applied to Raven Shield gamers when playing The Prison level – “high ground is the best ground”. You can find our short movie of Mike Grasso above, where he talks about Realism and Raven Shield.

INFO

PUBLISHER
Ubi Soft

RELEASE DATE
NOV 2002

OFFICIAL SITE
Raven-Shield.com

OFFICIAL FAQ
Read it here

After talking the assembled press through an action packed scene in Heat, we moved through to the games room where the Raven Shield LAN was geared up.

Mike McCoy ran through the Meat Packing Plant showing off the new enhancements over previous R6 games, before letting us loose on some LAN and single player action. So what were our impressions of Raven Shield?

 

The Planning Phase

The first surprise was in the planning phase. When it came to Rainbow Six’s planning phase, you either loved it, or you loathed it. Whichever category you fall into, Raven Shield aims to please, and it hits the target – dead centre.

If you find the planning phase too much work, with the click of a button, you can bypass it completely and be launched straight into the action. There will be no equipment warnings, no default plan warnings, just action from the moment you click. On the other hand, if tactically planning your mission before sending Team Rainbow in rocks your boat, Raven Shield comes up trumphs once again. Although the planning schematic will be instantly recognisable to Rainbow Six vets, it comes with some neat enhancements that promote a quicker and more thorough set up. Central to this is the use of the right mouse button to bring up a commands menu which allows quick and easy waypoint setting, among other things.

While the 3d view in the Original Rainbow Six worked to a certain extent, it was limited in that it failed to put the planner right on the spot – which is exactly what Raven Shield succeeds in doing. It does this by displaying a 2D image of the exact location at every waypoint, but even cooler, once a sequence of waypoints has been set, the planning computer will run a 3D simulation of the route, ensuring that the team go exactly where you mean them to go. And that’s not all that’s new to the planning phase, an additional waypoint is now available over and above the standard go-codes, the Milestone.

The Milestone is an information waypoint and causes the team to pause and report back with a situation report. This feature had not been implemented in the version on display, but promises to add another level of immersion in an already tension filled thriller. Another small improvement displays the direction and distance to the next objective displayed in the HUD during the action phase.

 

AI

One of the most impressive aspects, and one that is clearly much improved is the friendly AI. This was especially noticeable as the trailing members of a team provided excellent cover to the rear and sides during forward movement. Each member covered a zone scanning left, right and to the rear, in a truly life like fashion.

Even more impressive were the door entries. Depending on the layout of the room next to the door, the team, upon instruction, will adopt a tactical formation, best suited to the layout. The convincing fashion with which these entries are executed really has to be seen to be appreciated. Suffice to say that the old adage ‘if you want something done right, do it yourself’ that applied so accurately to the bungling attempts seen in the original game years ago, is now nothing more than a bad, distant memory hoohaa!

If you decide to open doors yourself there is additional information presented so you know whether the door will open in or out, and of course there is the incremental opening option that allows players to open doors slowly. Notably, Mike McCoy told us that this feature might not make it into the X-box version, more on that later. Of course, with correct use of the Heart Beat Sensor, and a powerful enough weapon, it may not be necessary to open the door at all – just shoot straight through it and eliminate the tango on the other side!

The much discussed death animations work exactly as previously disclosed by Ubi Soft. The tangos slump to the ground in a very convincing manner. Where in earlier R6 games bodies could end up glitching through closed doors, now they slump against doors or walls, before their legs buckle and they collapse slumped on the floor. Sometimes with a rather disturbing twitching motion!

Weapons

Even is this early version of the Raven Shield code, some of the effects surpass those I have seen in any other game. Flashbangs and Gas Grenades can be seen hanging from the belt clips of team members equipped with them, but it is when they are actually brought into use that we see how cool they really are. The Flashbangs cause erratic head movements, loss of focus and general disorientation, not an easy thing to simulate on a computer monitor, but hats off to the Dev team, who have managed to pull it off – it works great.

The gas grenades cause a similar effect, but with an additional loss of focus, which causes a blurry slow-motion type of effect, very similar to the type of effect simulated on the big screen in movies. It looked fantastic, and used in the right place at the right time, I can foresee these two weapons being used to great effect in multiplayer team adversarial.

New to the R6 Series :

Mac-11/9 Machine Pistol
Micro-Uzi Machine Pistol
SR-2 Machine Pistol
MTAR-21 Bullpup Sub Machinegun
USAS-12 Automatic Shotgun
TAR-21 Bullpup Assault Rifle
Type 95 Bullpup Assault Rifle
VSS Vintorez Silenced Sniper Rifle
23E Light Machinegun

Another enhanced feature is a new reticle movement. In addition to the infamous Reticle Knock (first introduced in Rogue Spear Urban Operations) and reticle bloom. Reticle Knock simulates the confusion and shock of taking a hit, through erratic movement of the reticle, making aiming a difficult proposition. Reticle bloom happens under normal fire and widens the reticle area to simulate reduced accuracy for sustained fire. In addition to these we now have, what I’ll call “Reticle Kick”. This simulates the kicking motion of a discharging firearm, and is especially noticeable when viewing the optional weapon view, as the weapon kicks up violently after each shot. No doubt modders will get a kick out of this new weapon parameter.

The attention to detail with weapons has been improved upon. For example thermal imaging equipment and bipods can be fitted to weapons, and become visible in the weapon view. Mike McCoy explained how with the bipod fitted the operatives will move in a different manner when prone, as they attempt to move the weapon with the heavy bipod attached. All weapons have 1.5 X zoom, which can be increased to 3.5 X with the scope fittment.

The P90 and PDW look like being uber weapons again. The P90 especially had very little recoil on full auto, and with a 50 round clip, this will be the spray and prayer’s weapon of choice. By contrast, the M4 was a beast, with a massive kick, and virtually unusable in full auto. The m14 was as nice as I remember it, a powerful weapon, yet controllable due to it’s size.

M60s and M249s both make an appearance in R3, both very loud. Just hearing the noise they make is an experience, and makes you want to take cover. The sniper rifles sound good as well, their single loud crack always a welcome sound. The attachments are (even at this early stage) very well implemented, with the standard three choices (suppresser, miniscope, c-mag) available on most primary weapons. Machineguns get no attachments however, and certain weapons are limited by their own configuration (the P90 can’t use an extended mag, the sa80 already has a mini-scope).

The thermal scope is going to be a huge tactical tool in the game. I’ve got no doubt of that. However, I don’t think it’s going to be unbalancing, as it’s very well implemented. Your peripheral vision is completely removed, and you have to use your full zoom level to get full effect (further impeding your sight arc). It’s powerful, but only if you have a buddy stood next to you covering the 340 degrees you can’t see when you’re using it.

When it comes to recoil, both the machineguns and the sniper rifles suffer badly from muzzle climb (Reticle Kick) but there is a way around that – the prone position. Sniper rifles and MGs all have Bipods, which are deployed when you go prone. This has two effects. The first is that it limits your movement yet further (an operative will naturally try to pivot using the bipod) the second is that it gives your weapon greatly increased stability. You’re much more able to lay down accurate suppressive fire or to fire repeated sniper shots at multiple targets. Again, this this is a well balanced feature that’s most impressive – it’s obvious a lot of thought has gone into it’s implementation.

First Person Weapon View

There’s been a lot of fuss at the official forums about the first person weapon view. There really shouldn’t be. It’s very well done, looks good and adds to the game, I had my doubts, but it looks good, and I am now converted. You may well be too when you see your operative alter his grip on front of the gun as you peek round a corner, or see him flex his fingers when he has a moment to do so. Also, the reload animations are spectacular, absolutely accurate and nicely done.

Visuals

Visually the game looked great, as was to be expected using the latest build of the Unreal engine. Mike McCoy explained that they had set out to recreate the look and feel of Rogue Spear on the unreal engine, then started enhancing it using the latest technology offered by the powerful Unreal engine.

Console Versions

The X-Box version is going to look exactly like the PC version, and may be a simultaneous release. The X-Box version is being developed in-house by Ubi Soft, such is their determination that both versions will graphically be indistinguishable. This is something the developers were keen to achieve, and they proved they could do it with Ghost Recon, where both versions look identical. Where they will differ depends largely on the configuration limitations offered by the X-Box, in particular the control options. This may result in some features such as incremental door and window opening not appearing in the X-Box version. Another difference will be the planning phase, which is completely overhauled for console gamers. Instead of freeform planning available in the PC version, console gamers will be offered a selection of preset tactical assaults to select from.

Platforms

PC
[nov 2002]

X-Box
[nov 2002]

PS2
[q1 2003]

Gamecube
[q1 2003]

 

Conclusion

Even though this was an early version of the game code with many aspects not yet fully implemented, what we did see, was very impressive. Raven Shield is shaping up to be a quality addition to the series, one that will appeal to seasoned R6 vets as well as gamers new to the series. Having played Raven Shield, I can put a few fears to rest and assure you that it is very much R6 blood running through the veins of this Unreal powered game.

We’d like to thank Manab Rob of Ubi Soft for allowing us to test drive Raven Shield, Mike McCoy and Mike Grasso for their openness and willingness to discuss all aspects of the game (and autographed Raven Shield poster!) and a special thanks to Mike Grasso for sending me home with a unique New York Police Department cap!

Rocky | JoeSchmoe