16 August 2015

FWS Forgotten Classics: RAINBOW SIX (1998)

The genre of military shooter video games is one of the most popular and most profitable in the realm of modern video games, both on the home console and the computer. With titles like HALO, Battlefield, and of course, Call of Duty, we often forget the founding fathers of these oversexed titles today. While Wolfenstein and DOOM started the nosebleed high popularity of first-person-shooters, it was games like Medal of Honor (1999), SEAL Team (1993) and this title from 1998 that added the military/tactical element. Today on Forgotten Classics, we will remembering one of the founding fathers of modern military shooters: 1998's RAINBOW SIX. At the time the game was released, Red Storm set the game slightly ahead of the 1998 release date, making this game, at one time, 20 minutes in the future.

The Tactical Shooter Video Games
The genre that this 1998 game occupies is called the "tactical shooter", and while it is similar to an first-person shooter, there are important differences. Tactical shooters are often FPS POV games, but combat is not determined by massive grenade tossing, big fucking guns, hundreds of rounds fired, and regenerating health, like the COD and DOOM games. Instead, the tactical shooter is low and slow, where planning is more important than gunfire, and team work is critical. Often more realism in terms of bullet damage, weapon selection, and mission; the tactical shooter is the more mature brother to the COD games of the world. These games often verge on tactical simulations, and are not limited to Special Operations, but also include in SWAT and HRT units. The first "real" tactical shooter in video games is debated, however, it could be 1993 EA SEAL Team. The genre of tactical shooters also includes military sci-fi, like Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri. However, 1998's RAINBOW SIX was the most successful tactical shooter at that time, and laid down some of the foundations of the genre.

Why is FWS Talking about R6...It is Even Military Sci-Fi?
RAINBOW SIX was designed to take place in the very near future, like a few years ahead of us, and the situations, weaponry, and geopolitics are all projections of possible scenarios.  This places RAINBOW SIX into a unique sub-genre of military science fiction: "20 minutes into the future", and this more difficult than setting your fictional world in the deep future. Very near future tales have to live and breath in the world as we know it, but altered along realistic pathways. One of the reasons that FWS is even  talking about 1998's RAINBOW SIX is to highlight this unique tactical video game that changed some of our thinking about how military games should be designed. Plus, giving the deteriorating state of modern military shooters, like COD and Battlefield, I wanted to talk about a unique game within the genre that was an early pioneer.

What is RAINBOW SIX and Why the Hell is an CT Unit called Rainbow?!
RAINBOW is the name of a fictional international counter-terrorism team pulled from elite operators all around NATO and other friendly nations. Tom Clancy's novel of the same name and the video game were both developed around the same time, and it is rumored to have been based on a real counter-terrorism black unit that operated within NATO in the pre-9/11 days. While the RAINBOW CT unit was featured only in one novel, it did have some of Tom Clancy's iconic characters being involved with the unit, and there were a number of games developed around the concept. This fictionalized CT unit was constructed around 1990's understanding of terrorism, the tactics and weapons of the time, and 1990's threats. These ideas and concepts filtered through to the game. RAINBOW SIX the video game was developed by Tom Clancy's gaming company, Red Storm (named after one of his 1980's books). Originally, Red Storm was developing an SOF game that involved black operations or even FBI HRT, but when they learned of Clancy's in-development novel, they decided to parallel their game and the novel. While both the book and the game were successful, Tom Clancy would never return to the world of RAINBOW in any novel, while the video game series would live onto today with the upcoming release of RAINBOW 6: Siege. I actually met Tom Clancy when he came to Fort Worth in 2005 on a book tour and discussion. While he was willing to discuss the book, he shit all over the games, and told us assembled that: "I just collect the checks". Nice. When one fan asked about why there are no more follow-up books in the RAINBOW SIX concept, he told us that "liberal environmental tree-hugging virgin scarifying pagans" were unhappy about his book's ecoterrorism angle, and the backlash from these groups prevented his publisher from allowing Clancy to write more. Needless to say, I was unimpressed by the man in person, but I still love the games and some of his early books, especially Without Remorse.

Background on the Game

Most believe that RAINBOW SIX the game and the novel were developed under a conscious cohesive strategy by Red Storm Entertainment and Tom Clancy. However, that is not so, making it just that more amazing. In 1996, Red Storm Entertainment and the game that would be RAINBOW SIX both came about into existence. Centered around the real-world FBI's enigmatic Hostage Rescue Team. It was always envisioned has a realistic shooter with an environment modeled after real-world hostage rescue missions and units. The setting moved around from Cold War to modern day, to near future, and was original going to be called "Black Ops". Tom Clancy was involved in the early meetings about this new game, and he endorsed the concept. At this time in 1996, Clancy was not looking at his own HRT based book. That would change in April of 1997. The book and game were oddly similar, and it was decided to marry the book and game under the RAINBOW SIX banner. The original team devoted to one of the first major releases for Red Storm was Brian Upton, one other programmer with founders Tom Clancy and Doug Littlejohns. During the summer of 1997, the bulk of the groundwork was done along with advisers and consultants being brought in from Tom Clancy's contacts. Even firearms manufacturer Heckler &Koch were involved. Issues came when the game development team attempted to aline the game's mission and environments with Clancy's novel. With the failing deadlines and a project too massive for the small team, Red Storm hired more staff, and pushed to get the game out. Reception at E3 was very positive, and after 21 months of development, RAINBOW SIX was released in August of 1998, at around the same time as the novel. It would be considered one of the best games of 1998.

The Historical Context of RAINBOW SIX
The 1990's were a great time to be gaming, and it would see the rise of the Playstation and the fall of ATARI. During this time, the first-person-shooter arrived on the scene like a juggernaut, and quickly a number of games followed in the footsteps of DOOM and Quake. 1998 would see the emergence of Starcraft, Half-Life, and Metal Gear Solid. All of these games would have military and tactical elements, but none attempted to replicate a more realistic digital battlefield without health-packs, big-fucking-guns, or frequent ammo drops. This was also a time before Americans as a whole really paid attention to international terrorism or even the military, unlike today.
While there were events happening here and overseas, like the 1993 bombing of the Twin Towers, the specter of Al-Qaeda and UBL were simply not on the radar of mass media or most American's minds. Unlike the rise of Modern Warfare and Medal of Honor, 1998's RAINBOW SIX lacked any foundation in the real-world, save for the Waco Siege and SWAT operations. There were other pioneers in the realm of realistic "shooter" games that predeceased RAINBOW SIX, namely the Police Quest: SWAT games from the mid-1990's, EA's SEAL Team from 1993, and Police Quest: SWAT 2 also came out in 1998, and was also a realistic "tactical simulator" game instead of a DOOM style "kill'em and let god sort them out" shooters. Speaking of historical context, this was a game developed around the Counter-Terrorism tactics and weapons of time, which may look dated and hated today, but back in 1998, it was correct. Black ninja kit with urban camo, big goggles, Adidas combat boots, and a H&K MP5 SMG in your hand was all hallmarks of 1980's/1990's CT units and iconic operations like the SAS assault on the Iranian Embassy in April of 1980. This was the heyday of the iconic and legendary German MP5 submachine gun, and that the time of the game's release, 10mm and .40 chambering versions were being issued to various CT units. The 10mm variant, the MP5/10 was featured in Clancy's book, and was the primary weapon-of-choice for RAINBOW.    

The Many Faces of RAINBOW SIX (1998): Port-to-Port

Sony Playstation
In December of 1999, the port of the R6 PC game would arrive on the very popular Playstation system with the port being developed by Rebellion. This is the only version I've played until recently, and while it was different than the original PC release, it does feature one important difference: the guns. In the game, you can actually see your gun, instead of a red cross-hairs, like in RAINBOW SIX: Rouge Spear or the original PC release. I always amazed that none of the other ports of this game had the guns featured. What is the fun in just having an floating cross-hairs? Of course, much of the tactical pre-mission planning was completely neutered, and a majority of the game was "dumbed down" for the home console. It suffered from uglier graphics, glitches, and bad AI. Most reviewers called this the worst of the R6 ports Oddly, I read that this version of R6 is 2nd most played due to it being on the Playstation. This can still be downloaded from the Playstation store today, and it is still ugly.

While Apple computers were making a come back in the late 1990's, they were often delayed in getting ports of PC game. In very late 1999, the original PC game was ported by MacSoft to the Apple, and it was shipped with the Eagle Watch expansion pack as well, making this game a great deal when compared to the original PC release. This game was well received back in 2000 by Mac press reviews, and proved to be popular on the Macs.

The Nintendo N64
Nintendo normally avoids hard-edged military/shooter games, however, in November of 1999, RAINBOW SIX was ported to the powerhouse N64 system by Saffire Games. This port is considered by the N64 reviewers as one of the best games on the system and scored 10 out of 10. Most of the PC game is here in the N64 port, and it was a rare shooter. One of the criticisms was the planning phase was too complex for the N64 controller, and you had to use a number of buttons and awkward position to achieve the planning phase.

Saga Dreamcast
Some have called the Saga Dreamcast port the best PC-to-Console version of the game. All of it was there including the full planning phase, and it made the most of the powerful system. Sadly, while this version was the most accurate of the ports of the original PC game, it was on a failed home video game console system. The Dreamcast would be Sega's last gasp on the home console market. Much like the Macintosh release, the Dreamcast port included the Eagle Watch expansion missions. This port was developed by Majesco Games and was released in May of 2000

Gameboy Color
The single strangest ports of the RAINBOW SIX game was to the Gameboy Color. The entire format of the game, including perspective was altered to a top-down tactical shooter with 14 missions.This port was developed by Crawfish Interactive and released in April of 2000. The reviews were very "meh", often placing 5/10, and it was considered tough by some gaming magazines and players. This seemed an odd choice for a port and it was unloved and quickly disappeared. 

The RAINBOW SIX: Eagle Watch Expansion Pack
In late 1999, Red Storm would release an expansion to the original game called Eagle Watch. Five more missions were included with three new weapons (H&K G36K, Desert Eagle .50 AE, and the H&K G3KA4), and several new characters; all set in real-world locations. This includes an mission to liberate the Russian Space Shuttle launching facility from terrorists. Yes, the Russian Space Shuttle. More multiplayer options, and improvement to the overall R6 game. Eagle Watch was ported to several home consoles, but did not get the "Playstation treatment" as the original did. This expansion pace was well received and was faithful to the original game.

Why is RAINBOW SIX Important?
Prior to the release of RAINBOW SIX, there had never been a game quite like it, especially in the shooter market. This 1998 video game was designed around anti-terrorism and hostage rescue scenarios with accurate weapons used by real-world CT units for the time, and since realism was the goal, players could design the operation from enter-to-exit, allowing them more control and mission planning than any military shooter for the time. Considerations had to be made about strength of the enemy, what kind of weapons, equipment, camo, operator's skills and abilities. Planning, at first, could take longer than the gameplay. Also, unlike DOOM or Quake, RAINBOW SIX was not purely a shooter with a heavy metal soundtrack, instead, it was marketed in the same manner as the SWAT video games, a "tactical simulator".

What Happened to RAINBOW SIX?
Upon its release, the 1998 game was praised and sold over half a million copies, warranting the PC game to be ported to the home console market. It was followed up by an expansion pack and online play. After 1998, the core concept of the R6 games would continue all the way up to games like RAINBOW SIX 3 Raven Shield. However, slowly over the evolution of the R6 games, the more hard-edged tactical simulation angle was lessened in favor of a more military shooter angle, as the marketplace dictating. By the time of the release of R6: Vegas on every home console and computer, the intense hard-core realistic military tactical-simulator angle of the 1998 original RAINBOW SIX was completely abandoned.
While some of the original games were closer in spirit to the 1998 game, today's R6 games are more of a hybrid between the modern military shooter and the core concept of RAINBOW SIX that separate it from other shooter games, such as "you can really die fucking quick" and "you are not a big-dick pipe-layer tactical bearded operator". The last big release was RAINBOW SIX: Vega series of games (which 2 was better than 1) in 2006 and 2007. The next release for RAINBOW SIX was to be Patriots,but it was canceled, and Siege was developed instead. Siege is laser-focus on teamplay and realism, where one group fortifies a structure and the other team, the assaulters, attempts to clear the structure of hostiles. Some mission types require the rescue of hostages. It is scheduled for release in October 2015 and could be quite good if the gameplay trailers are accurate, giving us a quality CQC force-on-force game.

1998's RAINBOW SIX Today
It seems that the nostalgia applies to some games and some era of gaming, because for some reason, the original RAINBOW SIX is not endured in the same manner as even older games. While RAINBOW SIX was popular game back when it was released over 15 years ago, it has been largely forgotten by most current military shooter players. Older gamers, like myself, that were fans of the game around the time of its release, still recall the uniqueness of the game, and use it as a frame-of-reference for their own creations. The sad thing is that even UBISOFT has forgotten the R6 franchise original roots, and keeps turning COD knockoffs. That could be changing with the release of R6: Siege and the focus back on more realistic situations and damage. While the original 1998 game and its 1999 expansion pack are still available for download, there has been no real attempts at an remastered game or reissue. In 2006, UBISOFT would release R6: Critical Hour only on the original Xbox. This game was a sample of fan favorite maps from the original RAINBOW SIX maps and missions, but used the R6: Lockdown engine. It is believed that this game was an response to disappointment of R6: Lockdown, which was deeply flawed. While better than R6: Lockdown, R6: Critical Hour was still a disappointment, leading to aborted ports to the Playstation 2 and the European gaming market.This was the last gasp for the original games. While the original game has been largely forgotten, there are still videos made on the 1998 classic and some of the ports, various internet articles (like this one) that still celebrate the uniqueness of this founder of the tactical shooter genre.

The Other RAINBOW SIX Game: The Sum of All Fears
During the research phase of this blogpost, I learned that there was another Tom Clancy game developed around the tactical shooter CT scenario. This was the video game to the 2002 military thriller Sum of All Fears, and is often regarded as game similar in spirit and setting to the original RAINBOW SIX games. While it was more simplified than the RAINBOW SIX games of the time, it did feature primitive voice commands (like SOCOM).  Some have compared this to the Playstation R6 port, being that it was less complex, more devoted to shooting and CQC. This was released on PC. Gameboy Advanced, and the Gamecube in the US market, and the PS2 in Europe. The studio that did the port of R6 to the Gameboy Color, Crawfish Interactive, also did this port to the Nintendo systems. The game only scored average to poor with critics. The game is largely forgotten today.

Who is that Masked Man in the Cover-Art?
One of the most arresting images used for the game was the cover-art of an SWAT/Special Operator with a large pistol drawn, fully kitted out in ninja gear and face obscured by those goggles. So, what is the story behind the image? It turns out more than you might think. When I bought the Playstation game back in 2002 for my PS2 ( I was a little late to the R6 party), I searched for the origin of the photo and came across a story on www.hkpro.com on the true being the goggles. The man behind the goggles was John T. Meyer, the former VP of Sales and Training fro H&K USA, and the photo was taken in 1992, as the new USP pistol was being rolled out for the American market. The image was part of the overall H&K ITD "SWAT Team", that was part of the German companies overall marketing strategy. Employees of H&K, whom most were military vets, donned the latest in tactical fashion and weaponry, and placed into scenarios. Photos and art were based on the photoshoots that advised H&K products to all manner of companies and business. These were a fixture in gun stores during the 1990's, and these helped establish the connect between special units and H&K. Red Storm was given permission to use the image by H&K, given the working relationship between the two companies. By the way, the pistol in his hand is the USP .40.

Next Time on FWS...
Chow time in the military is one of the most important moments of a soldier's life. It is the time when they can take a moment to refuel and recollect. Sometimes, that chow can come in a dining hall behind the wire, and other times, they have to eat in the field with field rations. The types of rations available to troops are very different that what my grandfather ate in World War II and Korea. Along with the discussion of field rations, we will be discussing space food as well.


  1. Nice post man! i still have my R6 Original CD-ROM here! Speaking on Rainbow Six,i know you are a Spec Forces enthusiast, so let me tell you a story, i hope you read it Mr. Bregnard!

    Back in 1997 (when i wasn't born yet) my father just got graduated as a Brazilian police officer and he and some of his classmates signed in on a project alongside Miami-Dade County's Police Departament, to receive SWAT training with actual SWAT officers (!). Then he travelled to Miami, after receiving his Training and returning back to our then-hometown of "Passo Fundo" (Literally: Deep Step) where he and the rest of the officers formed what would be know as the "Grupo Tatico G3", the first S.W.A.T Team of that city. My dad even got some medals for his work, he got a good role at the police dept! You may be asking yourself what R6 has to do with that; After coming back from the U.S he was more into SF than ever, so that he stumbled across a game called "Rainbow Six", he didn't found it THAT special, then he noticed the "Tom Clancy's" (one of his fav writers) on it. He bought the game and he even taught me how to play it, back in 2003-4, so this is basically one of the games that made part of my life! well, i've only played the first one, and i know it's enough, since the newer ones are crap (i almost "cried" when i saw R6:Siege) that's it for today, by the way, i love your blog, your novel looks amazing, someday when i get my hand on dollars i'm going to buy it.

    1. **My corrector correct it wrong, i meant "Special Forces" but he shortened to "SF"because i've used that word before.

  2. I'd totally forgotten about the Sum of All Fears game! Up to that point I'd only played the more typical shooters out there, so it was a pretty nice change of pace. In hindsight the game wasn't great, but certainly not a bad game for the time. The fact that you could lean to the side when by a corner was pretty mindblowing.

    1. I also have to add in that Tom Clancy is a very mixed bag for me. Honestly, I don't consider him to have been a very good writer, just a guy that could get published writing about things that I like. I couldn't tell you the name or personality of a single character in Red Storm Rising, but the fact that he was talking about stealth fighters a couple years before the F-117 was revealed was pretty memorable. It's a shame he got really partisan in his later years, from what I can tell Locked On was little more than a thinly veiled anti-Obama tirade rather than an espionage/military novel.

  3. I was pretty shocked when I saw him in Fort Worth, and his rambles about his ex-wife were bad as well. The kid who asked about the R6 book was taken back. It is sad to see a good solid writer of the 1980's, slip into the James Patterson mode. Ugh. However, he did give us some good games and books.

  4. Damn I loved RB6. It was never the same after vegas.

  5. Hi William ! I, too, am a big fan of R6 and Swat series, in particular Raven Shield and Swat 4 (for online gaming). It's been very long since I've played them, and I've never been to the newest games since every recent militarish games all look the same to me. It wasn't the case back then, and I liked my R6 for the mission purposes, the ability to succeed without killing a single person, and it felt really great when I captured my first terrorists online with Swat 4. Else, if I want to exterminate humanoids I rather play one of the Unreal Tournament opus. Btw, I'm craving for playing to the new one, but I digress.

    I'm a big fan of your work, as I've almost read every post on this blog, especially those concerning weaponry and space war tactics, in combination with Atomic Rockets website. For a french wannabe writer like me, I have to say that you guys bring a lot to SF and hardware theories and facts. So, thank you again for your hard work! I'd surely watch your novel when I'll get a Kindle (unless there is a way to read Kindle books on PC).

    Space food is a vital point for life in space, along with oxygen recycling and artificial gravity. While ISS astronauts are still using dehydrated food for their trips, when thinking of alternative food I think about two things : the first is Solyent, the 2013-2015 project, a powder that contains all the nutrients for the body. A bag of Soylent weights 500g and fits 1 day for 1 person. Here you can find information about weight and dimensions http://discourse.soylent.com/t/how-much-physical-space-does-soylent-take-up/10834/4 . I don't know about how much weight astronauts' food, but Soylent still has the same drawback that is, it has to be shipped to the user. Another disadvantage is the lack of chewable parts. Might have human teeth evolution issues if Soylent were the only food available for generations...

    Another idea is truely less realistic, but I find it interesting to think how this can be feasible. The manga "Blame!" features a strange food called "rock" (theoretic name, French name is "roche"). This thing grow on walls like an organism. It looks like rock (like the name). It may or may not be hydrated to continue growing (I have no clue about that but it seems to be low on requirements), and it is solid so you can break small parts, take them away and eat them like some kind of cookies. IMO this kind of food could be very useful but it doesn't exist yet.

  6. I remember the R6 on gameboy color. At first it made me mad but then It suddenly clicked and I loved that they put a lot of control in it for such an early hand held title. You could make your tac plans just like in the PC game and pick your operators and loadouts. Towards the end of the game the missions had to be carried out in biohazard suits and you couldn't breach the suit or you would lose the character. I had flawless executions of my missions in the end. I really liked the game and wish it had gotten a bit more praise.

  7. I enjoy reading your posts on Military Sci-Fi, and I remember the R6 games. I bought them after they had came out and enjoyed them. I didn't know R6 was still available for download, though. In regards to R6 in later books, while it wasn't the "main character" like in the R6 book, it did appear in Bear and the Dragon, in a significant role, and in later books as well.

  8. One aspect of the R6 games that went largely unnoticed with the PC version was the ubiquity of fan made "mods" for it.

    There were tons of sites where one could find custom weapons and equipment (including SF or historical ones) changing the nature of gameplay entirely.

    Subsequent versions or expansion packs would take cues from fan based amateurs. The series didn't even originally have light machine guns or SAWs until fan mods did it first.