Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard
Aggressive negotiations...with a machine gun.
If you need proof that the iPhone can handle a console quality experience, look no further than Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard. We're huge Gameloft fans, and this time, the publisher took its skills to the next level, producing a brutal and downright fun first person shooter with all the trimmings, from 11 missions of terrorist hunting mayhem to fast-paced and smooth online multiplayer. Visually, it's a bit rough around the edges, and the inability to customize the button layout knocks it down a peg, but factoring in the numerous positives, there's no question this is a superstar App.
Single player is what we'd expect from a game like this, as you lead a team of three counter terrorists into hostile territory, killing evildoers while completing various objectives and securing hostages. You're able to crouch behind and safely fire from cover, aim down the sights of a weapon to score headshots and toss grenades to destroy multiple bad guys at once.
What makes Shadow Vanguard stand out is the presentation, as Gameloft borrowed a page from Ubisoft's Xbox 360 exclusive, Splinter Cell Conviction. Not only will you see objectives painted onto walls in a stylish manner, but you also have icons that, once pressed, instruct your cohorts to perform different actions, from going into cover to breaching a room with a flash bang grenade. It sure beats giving them orders using a d-pad.
Taking this a step further, bringing a friend along for the ride (either through local or online co-op) bumps up the replay value significantly. Gameloft also gives you a chance to earn XP that helps unlock different weapons and attachments, giving Shadow Vanguard an extra layer of depth.
Then you have the local/online multiplayer, which is by far the coolest feature. There's only five maps and a couple of modes (Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch), but the action moves so buttery smooth that we can't help but jump into a match at all hours of the day, simply because it's so easy and seamless; online leaderboards keep track of matches played, kills, deaths and XP earned.
The only thing that mars this otherwise phenomenal video game is the firing button, which sits exactly where our thumb would go to tilt the right stick. Gameloft provides ample space above this icon, but we continue to accidentally squeeze off a few rounds at the worst possible moments. If enough people complain, perhaps the company will release an update that lets users customize the HUD.
On top of that, Shadow Vanguard probably won't win any awards for best graphics. While not ugly by any means, some of the visuals (most notably bushes and character faces) look horrible. At the same time, the game also looks decent on the iPad, so long as you're OK with magnifying its flaws.
Of course, outstanding graphics don't make a great game. Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard is without question one of the App Store's premier first person shooters. Fork over the $6.99 and hop online. We'll be right behind you...literally.
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1.3 or later.
What's Hot: Co-op single player missions, online multiplayer, using icons to direct squad mates, numerous weapon attachments.
What's Not: Accidentally pressing the fire button, some ugly graphics.