The Rainbow Six franchise has been around for a long time, originally based off the books by Tom Clancy, the series has evolved over the years into a more action-oriented style of play rather than the traditional stealth and strategic combat. This time around, Ubisoft has taken a different approach, going back to the roots of the series. Built from the ground up and specially designed for the PSP, the game features a new cast of characters, stories, and missions. Rainbow Six Vegas is heading to all of the major platforms, however the PSP edition is vastly different from its console cousins.

Developed by Ubisoft's Quebec City studio, the PSP edition of Rainbow Six Vegas is their first outing. For this release, the developers have taken the same core gameplay model as its console cousins, and translated it into a playable PSP release. Observe the enemy, plan your assault, and then execute it in traditional Rainbow Six style. The game is oriented around more stealth-based gameplay, as to be expected your body can't take many hits. Avoiding firefights is often the best course of action, similar to that of the traditional Rainbow Six releases.

The story at this time is quite vague (the developer wouldn't give away much information). What is known is that you are sent on a mission to gather intelligence, and as it progresses you quickly realize that there is a much bigger story in play then you've been let in on - one that could jeopardize the entire city of Las Vegas. You control a pair of characters, and the game introduces very team-oriented game where one character is very dependent on another to complete a mission, and vice versa. The missions are somewhat goal based, unlock a gate, take down a group of terrorists, and complete your objectives.

Rainbow Six Vegas on the PSP will offer multiplayer support for up to four players online via the ad-hoc mode, in two different game modes, survival and team survival. One of the facts that I found interesting was that this is the first Ubisoft title that will offer multiplayer support on the PSP - we'll have to wait and see how it pans out gameplay wise.

In terms of singe player, the game will offer three modes of play, story, mission, and terrorist hunt. As you progress through story mode and complete the missions, they become individually playable in the 'missions' section of the game. The terrorist hunt mode is more of an 'offline' multiplayer, in the sense that you pick a specific entry point, and track down and eliminate the terrorists around the map one by one.

Rainbow Six Vegas is putting a big emphasis on weapons; fifteen are available in total, as well as various gadgets to assist in completing your missions. Graphically, the game is a step forward from what we've traditionally seen on the PSP. The level and textures are quite detailed, and I was especially impressed with the blood effects.

Controls have typically been a big challenge for both first and third person shooters on the PSP. In Rainbow Six Vegas, you'll control the movement of characters via the analog stick, and the camera using the right-hand buttons. Camera issues are common for PSP games, especially the shooters, and the developers have spent a lot of time tuning and working with control schemes as they are very essential to the playability to the game. Sitting down with the game, the control model does take some getting used to, but after a few minutes you'll quickly adapt to it, and I didn't observe any major camera issues during the demo. If you find the aiming controls difficult to pick up, the game will also offer the ability to 'lock on' to an enemy target (although it's not as trivial as the SOCOM series on the PSP), as you still have to aim relatively close to the unit for the lock mechanism to work. During the time we were hands-on with the game, the control model seemed quite fluid and very playable - developers are quickly adapting to the different setup required for decent controls on the PSP rather then simply duplicating the traditional dual thumbstick model used on the various consoles.

Unlike many cross-platform ports, it's nice to see that Rainbow Six Vegas isn't simply a dumbed down and feature stripped version of the Xbox 360 and PS3 editions. The title is set to hit stores in early December, and it's looking like it could be a very worthwhile handheld release.