Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas
Maybe an ambitious developer will some day prove me wrong, but I don't believe that any mobile game will ever be able to tell a genuinely compelling, original story. The medium just isn't right for it. Gameloft never ceases to surprise me however, and their ability to weave a narrative into a varied and polished gameplay experience seems to be improving with each subsequent action title. Who knows - maybe I'll be eating my words sooner than I thought.
Vegas mirrors the set-up of the console title of the same name - terrorists have taken over a high-profile Vegas hotel, and it's up to your covert squad to take them out, rescue hostages, defuse bombs, and otherwise save the day. The game is full of surprises - as you thwart the terrorist's plans the action actually leaves the casino entirely, moving to two more very different locales before the end.
Like the recently reviewed Black Hawk Down, you don't actually control the movement of your characters with the directional pad. Instead you move a cursor, and use it to interact with the environment. Press the center button, and the player moves to the highlighted spot. When placed over an enemy, the player fires on them; placed over a bomb, the player defuses it. It's all very intuitive. I complained about this set-up being slightly clunky in BHD, but in Vegas I didn't have any issues. The cursor seems to have an intelligent "stickiness" about it - when you begin to get close to an enemy or a door or something else you're probably trying to interact with, it'll automatically stick itself to that object, making the movement and aiming process more fluid.
The on-foot action is interspersed with equally enjoyable sniper sections. The sniping is a much more arcade-style twitch experience, and is a great compliment to the tactical, stealthy main game. From your zoomed-in sniper viewpoint (you're located on a neighboring roof) you must locate and neutralize the terrorists. The game recognizes hit locations, and awards bonus points for headshots. In later sniper levels things get even more frantic - you're required to take out terrorists in a limited amount of time, before the kill the hostages present. Identifying who is a terrorist, lining up your shot, and then pulling the trigger all in the span of a few seconds all works wonderfully and can actually get pretty intense, despite the small screen.
The only real issue I had with the game is that, like most mobile action titles, it's just too short. I didn't time my run through the single player, but I know that if I would have purchased the game for the going rate ($6-8), I would have been slightly disappointed, even though the gameplay that is there is extremely engaging. The sniper gameplay was pulled out into it's own high-score oriented mode to boost replay value, but when these titles usually run an hour or 90 minutes from beginning to end, developers need to begin coming up with additional features to increase replay value.
Still, Gameloft essentially nailed this mobile translation. Vegas is a perfect mixture of tactics, action, stealth, and shooting. It's easy to hop in and out for short bursts of fun, but a long session through the game didn't get boring either. It's a great example of how intelligent mobile development can take traditionally dense genres and make accessible experiences out of them.
What's Hot: Great Mix of Stealth and Action. Great Sniper Mode
What's Not: Too short. Needs more replay value.