About time, too. Rainbow Six is one of Ubisoft's most popular Tom Clancy franchises - and though we're still waiting for another next-gen title, Gameloft have deployed an iPhone spinoff. You'd think that Gameloft's tried-and-tested twinstick gameplay and the Rainbox Six series would be a perfect fit for each other... and unsurprisingly you'd be right on the money.
As the new leader of Alpha Squad, players are tasked with leading their three-man hostage rescue team through a selection of hazardous close quarter environments. You'll see a fair few countries across the 11 mission campaign, along with varied objectives that make a refreshing change from just killing everything in sight. When a terrorist is holding a hostage at gunpoint, running in without due care and attention is going to result in some messy explanations.
There are a lot of cool toys to play with. As well as a number of weapons that can be tricked out with silencers, scopes and modifications, you'll also have the ubiquitous snake camera to peer underneath doors and scope out your surroundings. The touchscreen controls make zooming in on targets a breeze and makes the operation feel incredibly immersive. Various explosives and non-lethal grenades round out your veritable arsenal - and every kill grants you XP to unlock more cool stuff.
It's not all about you, though. Get over yourself. Rainbow Six has always been about tight teamwork over the lone wolf mentality, and context sensitive touchscreen prompts allow you to direct them into cover or stack up on a door. Using your trusty snake cam, it's then possible to designate targets for your team to dispatch upon entry. Naturally you can also choose whether you want them to lob a grenade in there first - and it's as easy as pressing an icon on the door itself.
All of these toys, commands and a cover system make Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard much deeper and more tactical than the usual shooting fare... if you want it to be. Going in all guns blazing still works (more often than it should), but it's infinitely more rewarding to take advantage of the nifty new features.
Unfortunately many of these mechanics don't work quite as well as they should. The cover system, whilst functional, is extremely clunky and the squad command dynamic is more limited than you might expect. Whilst the touchscreen icons for stacking up on doors are slick and easy to use, they also mean that you can't trigger them without looking directly at the portal in question. This may not sound like a big deal at first, but it makes flanking enemies from another door impossible.
But these little niggles aren't enough to drag a good game down - and it's unrealistic to expect these console mod cons to translate perfectly to an iDevice. Rather than revolutionise the mobile FPS genre, Shadow Vanguard empowers the player with more options beyond just shooting bad guys in the face. Which is absolutely fine by us.
Multiplayer has always been Rainbow Six's ace in the hole, and Shadow Vanguard delivers the most elusive of online modes: cooperative. Up to four players can team up via Gameloft Live or over Wi-Fi/ Bluetooth, and I'm delighted to report that it's outstanding, fantastic fun. Naturally playing with friends is preferable to perfect strangers (who are likely to ruin your clever strategies by charging in like idiots), but it's an absolute blast regardless.
Oh, and you can also throw down, rank up and pwn away to your heart's content in competitive deathmatches. However, the restrictive number of guns and maps simply won't be enough to poach players away from the likes of N.O.V.A. 2.
Shadow Vanguard looks great and handles well, but it arguably lacks the profound level of polish that Gameloft are famed for. Polygons are slightly jaggier, textures are slightly more pixelated and animations are a little more jerky than you might expect; even when using an iPhone 4 or iPad.
Again, that's not to say it looks bad (quite the opposite, in fact), but Shadow Vanguard just misses the levels of perfection that other Gameloft titles have managed to hit.
- Capable twinstick gameplay
- Bells and whistles make the experience much deeper - and more fun
- Great cooperative multiplayer and strong persistent XP system
- Not quite as tactical as we'd hoped
- Could have used a little extra polish
- Restrictive competitive multiplayer
Summary: Rainbox Six: Shadow Vanguard is much beefier and more worthwhile than your average iPhone FPS, but lacks overall polish. Regardless, it's a cracking start that deserves a superior sequel.
Compatibility: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1.3 or later.
Price: £3.99 - App Store