Allied AI seems slightly better than it was in the first Vegas, at least in terms of how efficient they can be in killing every bad guy in sight when you shove them into a room ahead of you. This is somewhat offset, however, by serious brain lock where they get jammed behind doors or crates and spin their wheels. Snipe a tango from across a theater? No problemo. Navigate a room filled with boxes? Er, gimmie a moment.
Another major renovation is the Advanced Combat Enhancement and Specialization (ACES) system, which is a convoluted name for a simple way to reward players for what they do in the game. Points are now dished out for the three combat categories of Marksmanship, Assault and Close-Quarters Battle, letting you up your skills in an RPG-like fashion. So if youíre one of those big-time sniper types who loves to shoot tangos in the head from long distances, like yours truly, youíll get Marksmanship points for every kill during a mission. Likewise in the other two skills if you like to smash through doors or scrap up close and personal. Collect enough points and you receive a goodie at the end of the level guaranteed to aid with your combat specialty. These bonus weapons donít make a whole lot of difference to how Vegas 2 plays, although just receiving them adds an extra layer of authenticity to the whole experience as it now seems like the R6 bigwigs are tracking my progress.
Multiplayer is a bit more give and take. Co-op mode through the campaign has been weirdly dialed back to supporting just two human players from four. Even stranger, only the host gets to control your two AI allies, so one player winds up directing the entire team. Thatís not exactly cooperative, Ubisoft. Gaining levels has at least been opened up to compensate for the co-op quibbles, as you can now earn ranks playing offline and then take that soldier into online matches. This isnít a huge boon to multiplayer, although at least the option provides more incentive for online fans to finish the single-player campaign.
The rest of the multiplayer just repackages the ten offerings from the first Vegas with new maps and adds three new modes of play in Team Leader, Demolition, and Total Conquest. Only Team Leader offers anything innovative, though, courtesy of a concept whereby you have to take out the opposing teamís boss in order to make kills permanent. This focus makes matches really intense and unforgiving, especially for noobs. Playing against random people over Xbox Live was even more ridiculous than usual, although I at least learned some new cuss words.
Even with the phony terrorists and barely updated gameplay, Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 keeps the momentum of the first game going strong. Some added innovations would be appreciated, although this sequel blends so well into its predecessor that I donít really care about the absence of anything really new.