Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard – Review

When there are problems, there is only one team to call: The Rainbow Squad. They are making their debut in the iOS. Can Gameloft keep the legacy alive?

One of the main things I have always loved about the Rainbow Six franchise, is the multi-player. I believe that, to date, the game I have actually played the most was Rainbow Six: Ravenshield for PC. It’s up there as one of the best multi-player FPS’s, so imagine my excitement when I heard that Rainbow Six was coming to my beloved iPhone.



First and foremost, I have never been a huge fan of first person shooters for the iPhone. It is my favourite genre on gaming consoles, but on the iPhone it can be awkward to say the least… even with Gameloft’s tried and tested virtual stick setup. The same is the case for Rainbow Six. When starting the game for the first time, it asks if you would like to use the gyroscope. As cool as it is to get that Virtual Reality feel, in practice it’s too hard with gyroscope, at least for me. So, I settled with using the traditional joystick to move the character, and swiping the finger across the screen to move the my aim. On the right hand side, at the bottom, there is the “shoot” button and the “iron-sights” button (see our hands-on for more detail on controls). These were actually a little bit hard to get used to and even after a few hours I wasn’t 100% good with them. Sometimes I wanted to shoot, but the button was so small I couldn’t quite get to it in time. Other times I wanted to aim, and that one is even smaller, so it took me long enough that I would end up dying unless the target was actually far away. Same thing happened with the crouching button, that just seemed impossible to reach at times. Overall, while perfectly useable, it does get a little cramped on screen when things get hectic.

With that said, the gameplay is actually pretty fun and at times feels realistic, meaning that if you crouch and aim you will have a better chance at killing your target. Then again, spraying and praying is sometimes good enough to get the kills too. This is not a good thing in my opinion, for the obvious fact that it removes the whole “strategy” part of the game, but mainly because it loses that “Rainbow Six” feeling. Granted, you could spray and pray at times in Ravenshield and other Rainbow Six games, but chances were you were going to get your ass whooped. Another is that players take too long to die. Something that Rainbow Six is known for is its realism. Aim, shoot, and he is dead. Having to leave your trigger pressed for a little bit longer has never been the Rainbow way.

rsmp2Now, the maps in multi-player are actually pretty awesome. There is a total of five maps and I really loved them all. I had flashbacks of good memories of the maps from Ravenshield. They are THAT good in my opinion, with plenty of variety in the environments, and those all important places to hide, duck and cover across multiple levels within the map.

Spawning, however, seems to be a big issue. And THE major flaw in the game. At times you will find yourself spawning right besides an enemy, or sometimes in the exact same spot you had just died which, we all know, is never a good thing. Another mild annoyance is that you will spawn with your aim at the same spot. Meaning that if you died looking at the sky, because perhaps you were looking at those beautiful clouds, then when you spawn you will find yourself looking at the same angle. Whenever you spawn, you are disoriented as it is, so having your aim looking somewhere but forward, adds to the disorientation even more.

The levelling system is pretty solid, not as detailed as Modern Combat, but still fun. It has the usual army ranks and as you rise up the levels you will be able to unlock new weapons and gadgets. Only thing I didn’t like though, was the lack of weapons. There seemed to be just one weapon per each type (e.g. there was only one assault rifle, one submachine gun, etc.). As far as gadgets go, there is definitely a good variation there, but it is mainly just different kinds of scopes.

rsmp3The online system itself is very good. And while the game is not owned by many yet (at the time of this writing), I was still able to find a match in no time, so that is a good sign. I did find myself with lag from time to time, primarily when the level is at its 10 person quota, but it was really once in every hundredth. What I don’t like though, is the fact that I need to be on Wi-Fi in order to play it online. I understand that Wi-Fi is good so it lowers the lag, but sometimes my 3G connection is better than my Wi-Fi connection. Not only that, but I was hoping I could play multi-player anywhere I went, this is a mobile device after all. That not being the case, is definitely a downside. Co-op, which allows you to play through the campaign modes with up to three people is a cool idea, and makes the experience more realistic and less predictable. But, in practice it just doesn’t work without the ability to do voice chat. To often, your team mates will play the hero and go on a spraying and praying rampage, that or exit out of the game at a critical moment.

Overall then, and for the most part, even with its flaws (like taking longer to kill someone), it still adheres to its Rainbow Six roots. It can be hard to master, and what Rainbow Six game isn’t?, but once you get into a few multi-player bouts you’ll get a good and solid multi-player experience, it’s just not quite great.


So, you’ve read how the multi-player plays. Which will no doubt be the most played part of the game, much like console versions these days. However, there will still be a large percentage of you who will want to dip into the campaign mode.

While it’s not quite the full Rainbow Six experience (more like Rainbow lite), there is still fun to be had in directing your team to storm a room and take out the bad guys.

mzlacvmjnlu320x480-75Campaign mode comprises of 12 missions, each taking around 10-20 minutes to complete (later levels taking longer). Starting out with mission briefs, which feature solid voice over work and an entertaining if unoriginal counter terrorism plot, you are then dropped directly into the action, where you must complete multiple mission objectives.

Opening levels are the most fun, generally because later ones get a little repetitive, especially with many missions requiring a ‘find X, disarm, and repeat’ structure. Sneaking is only really necessary in the final levels, with some pretty trick infiltration sections where a single shot well set off alarm bells. You’ll be reaching for the restart button on many occasions during these trickier sections.

Much like newer versions of Rainbow Six on consoles, the gameplay is skewed more heavily towards FPS action, putting any strategy to the side. Much like Jose mentioned in the multiplayer mode above, it’s just as easy (if a little lazy) to simply run and gun it for the majority of missions. However, doing so really does miss the point, and you may as well be playing Modern Combat 2. To get the full enjoyment out of the game you’ll want to utilise the cool, but limited, team options for taking out the bad guys. As I mentioned in my hands-on yesterday, context sensitive buttons appear on the environment, indicating where you can order your team to, and what actions they can pull off. In most cases these actions are dished out to your team outside a doorway to another room. Where you can order them to target a particular enemy, and then go in all guns blazing or toss in a flash grenade to disable them. The snake cam steals the show here, and though repetitive after a while, using it to storm a room with your team utilising flash grenades or tagging enemies is fun.

mzljudibwnu320x480-75However, this fun is somewhat dampened by the controls. Don’t get me wrong, the usual V-stick and shoot/aim combo, like Modern Combat and NOVA 2 before it, works fine. But, with the many added sub controls around the screen, such as iron sights, crouch, duck/cover, grenade icons and the context sensitive buttons scattered around the environments, it’s all too easy to hit the wrong action. On multiple occasions I threw a grenade on a  stealth mission, instead of simply directing my team. Or, shot my weapon while trying to activate the snake cam. It’s a shame too, because in theory it’s probably the best way to make this game work on a touchscreen, but in practice it’s just too cramped. Maybe adding a few gestures instead of some of the action buttons (down-swipe to crouch, shake to reload for example) would have helped. As it stands though, it does affect the overall experience.

Graphically the game does look the part, some of the levels look great, especially in-door environments. But, the Gameloft engine is really beginning to show its age. With stiff animation and no lip syncing during cutscenes, the overall immersion suffers. Voice work is of a much higher standard than normal – I particularly like the silly conversations that the terrorists have while you spy on them with the snake cam. Music is a highlight too, and really adds to the atmosphere, ramping up during intense moments.

Overall then, and I think die hard Rainbow six fans will find this a little too simplified and easy. The multiplayer is good, but not as fully fledged as say NOVA 2 or Modern Combat, and the campaign is actually better, unlike those other FPS’s mentioned. Unfortunately, the game is hampered by the control issues, and for that reason, unless you really must have some team based play in your FPS, then you may want to look at other AppStore FPS’s for your counter terrorism fix.


Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard is out now for $6.99. Get it on the Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six®: Shadow Vanguard - Gameloft

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  • joe

    i couldn’t agree more with this review.i got my self way to psyched for this game, which left me pretty disappointed. I love the rainbow franchise but this game lacks the total customizability options that made the game unique, like different armor sets, and obviously a wider range of weapons. Still a good title on the iphone but there could be more

  • thefunkhunter

    i’m really glad gameloft put the money into getting a game license. Unfortunately they took away the realism and strategy that the r6 franchise was known for. As a result nothing separates this game from other fps on the ios platform.

  • fake

    is it me or does modern combat feel a lot better. MC2 has better graphics, lip syncing, smoother animation and the best multiplayer experience still. Personally i feel like this was rushed like BFBC. The thing tht r6 hav over mc2 is co op n weapon attachments

  • Shaun

    Maybe a 2.5 star may fit the game , graphic is fine , but not as good as MC 2 , some places are so lagyy , multiplayer is lag too , weapons are limited , friendly AI and enemy AI is sh*t , missions are short

  • tribalport

    great review.

    completely agree with final score .

    I really think allot of issues would be solved for ios shooters if the next iphone had some shoulder buttons .

  • Nigel Wood

    @tribalport LOL, I can’t see Steve signing that off :)

  • tribalport


    sad but true :(

    whilst he is donning the blue jeans and turtle neck sweater the iphone will not see shoulder buttons…

  • Phillip Culley

    Just looking at the screenshots convince me that the screen is over cluttered. They Should do it like how EA did some of their games with the invisible layout, put your thumb on your right side to look also shoot and the thumb on the left to move, anything else you want to do is triggered when your in range :P