IT'S BEEN a long time since we last got hands-on with Ding Chavez and company, but it's been worth the wait.
For the first time, the Rainbow Six series branches out into three different styles of game play. The first two make up the new campaign mode. Ding Chavez's missions will be most familiar to Clancy fans. You control a squad of up to three members of the Rainbow Six team using quick menu or voice commands in an attempt to infiltrate enemy territory or neutralise hostage sieges.
The biggest revolution here is the new HUD. It looks like a special-ops visor with projected indicators for ammo, health, grenades and even visibility. There's also a battery-powered heartbeat detector that will highlight nearby enemies for a limited time. While the visor is less intrusive than in previous builds, there's still something a bit Robocop about it, especially on Easy mode where square targets appear around enemies. At least this can be turned off and all the information is well presented.
Ding's team has also had a makeover. Following a tough recruitment drive, Rainbow Six has grown to 12 members! You don't get to choose who you take with you on each mission, but Ding and Dieter Weber are always in play.
Dieter's missions are the second gameplay style in Lockdown. You'll often jump into the German sniper's army boots and use your high tech WT2000 rifle to protect the rest of the team from an isolated position. You can't leave the area and usually have a very tight time limit to protect everyone.
The third gameplay style is easily the most radical. Titled 'Persistent Elite Creation', this online mode lets you create a unique counter-terrorist and tool him up with everything from weapons and armour to new uniforms and team insignia. Earn enough experience by winning battles and you'll also be able to train your Elite with various skills.
Having a character that improves the more you play on Xbox Live is a fantastic incentive. It's especially good because there are so many options, which means you can create a totally unique individual that suits your play style. Rainbow Six: Lockdown is going to be huge on Live, but with 14 campaign missions it should also offer great entertainment for lone guns.