One of the greatest announcements, for me, of recent gaming times came with the word that there would be a new Rainbow Six games. While I was unashamedly a fan of the derivative Vegas titles and would have been happy to play more of that style of Rainbow Six, my expectations were knocked out of the park when it became clear that Ubisoft was taking a much, much different direction with the Tom Clancy IP.
My jaw dropped a few times during the darker moments of Homefront, and I’m keenly anticipating the Apocalypse Now of games when the fully gritty narrative of Spec Ops: The Line is revealed in June (I previewed it last month). But those two titles look about as dark as The Muppets when compared to what has been revealed thus far for Rainbow Six: Patriots.
The trailers and initial previews promise a contemporary setting where the so-called terrorists are espousing beliefs along the lines of the Occupy movement, perspectives are changing, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to have to get your hands dirty several times before the credits roll. As a fan of the darker topics of life, it’s refreshing to see a game narrative that has the balls to not only question the notion of what it means to be a terrorist but one that is poised to make the player question what is right and wrong on a personal level.
But all of that might change.
Game Informer is reporting that Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat has recently gone into crowd control to assure gamers that the vision of the original heads of the creative team, including creative director David Sears, was still the basis of the direction that the developer is following in the creation of Patriots. “We’re definitely going on with Rainbow, too, evolving the vision that came from David's initial input.” Sears and other staff members are no longer part of Team Rainbow, but they are still employed by Ubisoft Montreal.
That doesn’t sound too bad on the surface, but when Sears attempted to clarify that the project was still in good hands, his response started off strong and created concern by the end. “To paraphrase Mark Twain, I’m not dead, and Rainbow is still very much alive. I’ve watched the forum comments, and one of the things that’s really important for everyone to understand is senior management and the editorial group challenged me to create something plausible, relevant, and that touches on the current fears of the U.S. citizens to the point that I was almost surprised myself we were taking these creative risks. They are still behind it. I spent time working on it because I love it, but there comes a point where you give the vision to everybody and they embrace it and start telling me what the vision is now [emphasis added].”
It’s that last lengthy phrase that has me worried. Couple that with the potentially disturbing implications of Mallat’s claim that Team Rainbow is now “evolving the vision,” and there’s cause for concern. First and foremost, evolution is a subjective term; particularly in the gaming world. Too often the word is thrown around with sequels, and the actuality of the so-called evolution is that it really isn’t evolved at all, or that the original espoused ideas have been watered down… just ask Peter Molyneux.
The second problem is in their specific use of the word ‘vision’. To date, the core factor that has created so much buzz for Rainbow Six: Patriots is the current vision: the fact that it’s unashamedly pushing the envelope, causing division and backing Ubisoft Montreal into a very dark corner that would require solid storytelling to resolve. The original vision is what made me moan at the prospect of a 2013 release date, and want the game a whole lot sooner.
Now, with the prospect of an ‘evolved vision’, hesitation is starting to breach into my otherwise extremely high expectations. Why didn’t they just say that the original vision was intact and they were building from that? If that had been the case, I wouldn’t have even batted an eye at this.
Of course, there’s the possibility that an evolved vision may take Patriots to even grittier places, but considering the inherent risk involved with the original confronting pitch, this seems unlikely. I’d be willing to eat my words if Ubisoft Montreal takes Patriots further down the rabbit hole, but right now I’m concerned. Are you?