The first Rainbow Six Vegas was a breath of fresh air when it dropped in late 2006. In an attempt to streamline a series that was once focused on planning phases and punishing diffuculty, Ubisoft designed Rainbow Six less like a real world tactical op and more like an episode of 24. The end result was a great mix of action and strategy, and offered up a killer multiplayer experience.
Rainbow Six Vegas 2 doesn't appear to be reinventing the series as much as the first game did. In fact, to the untrained eye you'd probably think you were looking at the same game. But beneath the graphics and gameplay, whose tweaks are minor but appreciated, some very nifty additions have been made that are sure to enthuse just about any member of the Rainbow team.
First of all, experience. A couple years ago the concept of "gaining experience" in an FPS just meant that you knew where the Redeemer spawned in Deck 16 in Unreal Tournament. These days developers have introduced more incentive to play and replay their games. The original Rainbow Six Vegas unlocked new weapons and character options as you played more of the multiplayer, while Call of Duty 4 unlocked weapons, camo patterns and attachments while online. Rainbow Six Vegas 2 remains on the experience bandwagon, but throws a bit of a curveball, allowing you to gain experience in every mode, even when you're offline. That means that even folks without a solid broadband connection will be able to understand the joys that come with customizing your character's hat, armor and boots, as it's this custom character that will appear in the campaign (not the generic Logan from the first Vegas).
Another big addition is a much more entertaining co-op mode. Now you're able to have drop-in, drop-out co-op with another player, akin to Gears of War, with you both earning experience as you mow through AI terrorists. Much appreciated is that the graphical fidelity of the campaign remains, even if you are playing with another person, which is a big improvement over the low resolution, lighting-free version of the maps that loaded up when you tried to play co-op in the first Vegas.
Apart from those changes, though, the campaign in Vegas 2 will be pretty similar to the one in the first game. The action takes place during the events of the original, too, so you'll often see references to the other team as they go about their missions, with signs pointing to the upcoming opening of Dante's Casino, for example. You may even see Logan and his team off in the distance, though working with them directly is not likely, since you didn't actually see any other squads the first time around and there's continuity to be considered.
Rainbow Six Vegas 2 is looking pretty solid for a Spring release, which is great news since there aren't usually a ton of triple A titles out around that time (save for GTA, of course). We'll keep tracking it and hopefully get some hands-on with the mutliplayer sooner rather than later.