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Video Game / Rainbow Six

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"This is your team. Trust each other above all else. On the field, we are a family. We work together and we protect each other. Let everything else go. Got it?"

The Rainbow Six series was the originator of the tactical shooter genre, and was responsible for launching the wave of Tom Clancy's military-themed video games. The games detail the adventures of covert international anti-terrorist strike force "Rainbow", and their battles against the world's terrorist element.

Contrary to popular belief, the games and novel were not planned as a franchise. The game series started life as being about an FBI hostage rescue team, but Red Storm Entertainment wanted to replace the FBI with a fictional group to give the game international appeal. Coincidentally, Clancy happened to be writing his novel at the time, and a license deal was struck. The game actually came out before the book, and the plots diverge halfway through, though they keep the same villains.

The original Rainbow Six, released for the PC in 1998, was a first-person combat game which was revolutionary for its realistic combat, feature slow and steady character movement and one-shot-kill gameplay, in contrast to the One-Man Army approach taken by all previous First-Person Shooter games. The most notable feature was the tactical planning map before each mission, in which you organized up to 4 separate fireteams and planned out their movements throughout the map, allowing you to plan out and implement complex maneuvers using multiple teams. During the mission itself, you controlled 1 team while the computer A.I. controlled the other 3 teams following the path and instructions you laid out in the tactical planning map. Players could switch to direct control of any team and any team member on the fly. It was critically acclaimed for its serious, tactically deep gameplay and received an expansion pack: Eagle Watch, which added characters from the novel to the team roster.


The sequel, Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear, was released the following year. It was essentially a Mission-Pack Sequel, featuring little new in terms of gameplay and instead improving on what already existed with new missions, better graphics, more weapons and equipment and improved tactical combat. Despite lack of any significant improvement it was well received, and was followed by three expansion packs: Urban Operations, Covert Ops Essentials and Black Thorn.

Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield for the PC retained the series' tactical gameplay, while updating the presentation to the standards of modern First Person Shooters, with features such as visible weapons in the player's first person point of view, and an improved graphics engine based on the Unreal Engine 2.

However, the series deviated from its tactical shooter roots starting with the Xbox version of Rainbow Six 3. Rather than being a straight up port of the PC version, the game was heavily refined. Most significantly, the gameplay was made simpler and much more accessible. For one thing, it did away with the tactical map for more straightforward linear levels, with the player controlling a single character (though still backed up by 3 A.I. controlled teammates as they could be in the original) and moving from start to finish through linear levels while mowing down a small army of terrorists. Gameplay was much more forgiving, with players able to survive several assault rifle shots before dying, and the game played out much more like a standard First-Person Shooter than the previous games in the series (although the inability to restore lost health in the middle of a mission resulted in the retention of some tactical challenge). The fourth game in the series, Rainbow Six: Lockdown, continued down this path while incorporating much-hated sniper missions.


A mission-pack prequel to Lockdown named Critical Hour, which featured a series of missions from previous games reinterpreted with Lockdown's new gameplay system, was released exclusively on Xbox but its poor sales and bad reviews led to the cancellation of a PlayStation 2 and PC port.

Rainbow Six: Vegas and Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, are in many ways Rainbow Six In Name Only, being a hybrid first-person/third-person shooter with cover-based gameplay, somewhat similar to Gears of War or Perfect Dark Zero, and featuring a Regenerating Health system and standard First-Person Shooter-style combat, albeit with considerably more difficulty than most shooters considering the player character is still easily killed even while wearing heavy armor. Although Vegas was critically acclaimed for its gameplay and presentation, it's a far cry from the series original tactical shooter roots.

Rainbow Six: Patriots was announced in 2011 after some footage was leaked. However, the game was stuck in Development Hell for a time before finally being cancelled.

Rainbow Six Siege, was first debuted at E3 2014 and released on Dec 1, 2015. Siege's story doesn't have much connection to the previous games, instead focusing on a new group of Operators recruited by a new Six to face a mysterious new terrorist force called The White Masks. Its gameplay is also a radical departure from the previous games, being a multiplayer-focused competitive shooter akin to Counter-Strike, but does feature many realistic elements such as destructibles, as well as many unique elements such as specialty-based ability and gadgets.

Rainbow Six Extraction, a Spinoff of Rainbow Six: Siege was announced at E3 2019 and released worldwide on January 20, 2022. The game involves the Siege operators as they tackle an alien parasite threat, and will be co-op PVE based.

For the series in general:

  • Actionized Sequel: The console version of Rainbow Six 3 did away with the large-scale tactical planning and ability to switch between multiple characters for a more streamlined, action-oriented experience in which you play as squad leader Ding Chavez who can issue simple orders to his 3 A.I. squadmates. The game also added a health bar that could survive several hits (albeit one that couldn't be restored mid-mission) instead of the earlier games' One-Hit Kill gameplay. The gameplay in Lockdown was based on the console version of Rainbow Six 3. Vegas and Vegas 2 take the trend even further with Regenerating Health and third-person cover shooting.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Subverted. It's not Rainbow's HQ itself that gets attacked by the IRA, but the hospital next to it. Several Rainbow operatives die, though.
  • A.I. Breaker: In Raven Shield your team has access to smoke grenades. You also have access to sniper rifles with thermal scope attachments. Throwing a smoke grenade, sitting in the middle of the smoke cloud and turning on the thermal scope allows you to kill enemies without a chance of them firing back.
  • America Saves the Day: Suverted in that the original games also emphasized multinational teamwork - while the "main character", Ding, is American, as are a few of the prominent team members and the RAINBOW leader, they are based in Britain and you will most likely have British, Spanish, Israeli, South Korean, Italian etc. troops in your squads.
  • Armor Is Useless:
    • In all games except Lockdown, you could equip heavy armor (and in case of Vegas, equip parts of it that trades protection for mobility), which supposedly can stop a rifle round. In practice, however, the AI usually scores headshots - and, realistically, even the best armor tends to not survive repeated hits, and as nearly all terrorists you face use high-powered assault rifles on full-auto.
    • Averted to a degree in Lockdown... for your enemies. The Elite Mooks encountered in the later levels wear body armor that lets them take multiple hits from low caliber firearms. Assault rifles still mow them down with just a couple hits, though.
  • Artifact Title: The 'Six' in the title comes from the fact that the player originally took on the role of Team Rainbow's commanding officer, which hasn't been the case since Raven Shield. Not to mention as well that, much like the novel, the games have tended to put more focus on Ding Chavez and his team than on Clark or the organization as a whole, to the point that by the Vegas games Ding himself has taken over as Six.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Friendly AI in the original trilogy. Your teammates prioritize following your waypoints over everything else, including ensuring they survive long enough to get to those waypoints, and will often hesitate maddeningly before firing on a terrorist in plain sight, multiplying the tension of executing a plan you've spent 30 minutes setting up.
    • Squadmate AI in the first Rainbow Six game is dated to say the least. While your AI-controlled team members are surprisingly good at shooting and prioritizing tasks, they also can ruin a perfectly written plan by sticking in walls and suddenly leaving hostages halfway to the extraction zone, who may themselves be running into the wall.
    • On the flipside, terrorists in the original game can't hear gunshots beyond a certain distance (even in the dead of night, and with high-powered and unsuppressed rifles), often hesitate for a second to allow the player to cap them, often can't engage reliably at a distance, and don't recognize the bodies of their comrades on the ground.
    • Terrorists in Raven Shield are fond of throwing grenades at the walls when in small, enclosed rooms with no line of sight to anything, usually upon hearing your footsteps through solid walls (or floors). Even better/worse if the room has a window that they could shoot you (or be shot) through, yet a grenade that can't fit through that window is their response to seeing you on the other side of it.
    • Lockdown marks the point in the series at which the friendly A.I. was smart enough to act independently (upon spotting enemies, they can run into a room and engage them without input from the player), but not yet smart enough to actually take cover particularly well, which often resulted in your teammates charging into enemy firing and getting mowed down.
    • There's also the tendency throughout the series of your teammates to prevent you from moving in the direction you want to move. You'd think Rainbow hired Barney Calhoun to teach its members about the great myth of urban combat.
  • Asshole Victim: Ramon Calderon, a Columbian drug lord in the first game, turns out to have been manipulated and set up into kidnapping hostages from the Horizon Corporation. As Calderon is a drug lord who got the nickname of 'Kneecap' for removing them from rival gang members, no one sheds a tear over him.
  • Badass Crew: Team RAINBOW is made up entirely of the most elite special forces from all over the world
  • Blinded by the Light: Flashbangs are used extensively to disable terrorists without killing hostages. Just be careful, because you can easily blind yourself and your own team members if you are too close to the grenades when they go off.
  • Body Armor as Hit Points: The first three games take this trope to its logical conclusion, as wearing body armor was the only way to survive multiple hits. Vegas 2 also manages this despite the Regenerating Health, as how much health you have to regenerate is dependent on how much armor you have.
  • Body Horror: Victims of the Legion virus in Lockdown undergo this. They undergo massive hemorrhaging and their skin blisters.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Instantly fatal. Vegas 2 allows them to go towards getting rewards. This makes shotguns across the series very effective compared to other games. Get nicked in the side of the head by even a single pellet, and you're dead.
  • Broken Pedestal: John Brightling to Catherine Winston, who says before the final mission that she worked with Horizon to make a difference, and never imagined that her research would be used for what it was.
  • Canon Immigrant: A rather unusual case. While the novel and game share a basic plotline and certain characters, the game's story needed to be locked down first in order to develop the gameplay. As such there are major differences in subplots and characters between the two. However the novel's characters ended up being popular enough that several were incorporated into the team in the Eagle Watch expansion. Additional characters from the novel like Alistair Stanley and Bear Malloy don't even appear in the games until Rainbow Six Lockdown.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Operatives who are "Incapacitated" survive their injuries, but are so badly hurt they're still removed from the roster for the rest of the campaign.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: The tangos in every game have superhuman reflexes, near-perfect accuracy at long range, can hit you without actually aiming - and if they do aim, do it within two seconds, almost always score headshots (rendering heavy armor even more useless), and can shoot you from impossible angles, e.g. straight down from a balcony, sometimes when it seems they can't see you - sometimes in pitch darkness. Lockdown toned this down, but still.note 
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: John Brightling.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Averted. Even nonfatal hits are crippling, and shots to the head or center mass are one hit kills.
  • Darker and Edgier: Patriots, with its morality system and Occupy Wall Street inspired plot looked like it would have used this trope full stop.
  • Driven to Suicide: Alvaro Guitierez at the conclusion of Athena Sword.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Pretty much the entire premise of the franchise.
  • Emergency Weapon: In Lockdown, Shadow Vanguard, and Vegas, you get infinite reserve ammo for pistols.
  • Escort Mission: In the original, any hostage rescue mission, assuming you didn't already clear out all the terrorists. The fourth-to-last mission is one for its entire duration, as you have to escort a member of the conspiracy while protecting him from forces trying to kill him.
  • Excuse Plot: The PC version of Rainbow Six: Lockdown did away with the plot almost completely, cutting out all the plot-related cutscenes and interactions between Rainbow members, making the entire game pretty much just you running down random corridors gunning down terrorists for only the vaguest reasons. The game even jumps straight to credits when you defeat the Big Bad, without an ending cutscene.
  • Expansion Pack: The series were good with these; with Eagle Watch for the first game; Urban Operations, Covert Operations (a mix between missions and counterterrorist encyclopedia) and Black Thorn for the second; and Athena Sword and Iron Wrath (free to download) for the third. Siege takes this one further, adding content releases every three months for one year.
  • Expy
    • The German terrorist group Force 10-18 is based on the Red Army Faction and Global Security is based (at least the history) on the Pinkerton Detective Agency.
    • The Red Sun Brigade is definitely based on the defunct Japanese Red Army, only except that they got a lot of money to pull off international terror attacks.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Generic Rainbow troopers you can use in place of teammates in the first game.
    • Bishop in Vegas 2, whose entire look can be customized by the player. Lampshaded in the flashback level at the start of the game, where Bishop and Ding are apparently seeing each other for the first time in a long while, and Ding's first words are telling Bishop that s/he looks different than he remembers.
  • Filler Villain: "Ghost Dance" in the first game features some Neo-Marxist terrorists who are never mentioned again; who they are is less significant than their showing up at an event that was protected by Global Security. Free Europe also serves this role in "Red Wolf," which takes place in the aftermath of the two-part mission before it.
  • Five-Token Band: Rainbow's team roster is rather improbably diverse for a NATO military unit, including operatives from countries like Egypt, Belarus, Russia, Korea, and Israel who are not part of NATO and even in conflict with some of its members.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: "Team Rainbow," a collection of the World's Biggest badasses.
  • Friend or Foe: Can absolutely happen throughout the games.
  • Game Mod: Rogue Spear had a budding mod community, that gave everything from custom maps to hi res uniforms of real world armies to total conversions that transformed it into Rogue Warrior. They were one of the first to bring out missions to kill Osama bin Laden after 9/11, and even downloaded a scrapped mission from the developers that was set in an airport.
    • Rainbow Six 3, likewise, has gotten a bit of a second wind thanks to the Version 2.0 mod, which gives the graphics a massive update and adds a significant amount of new features and improvements (most notably to squad AI).
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Averted Trope - the ones wearing gas masks in Siege are the Operators of the eminent SAS. Vegas 2 likewise averts this, as everyone, enemy mercs and your team alike, wear gas masks for most of the Convention Center level, and for a valid reason (the bad guys are threatening to release a chemical weapon).
  • Genre Shift: Starting with Lockdown.
  • Good Guns, Bad Guns: Mostly averted, terrorists can show up with any weapons, good or bad. Subverted in Vegas, very rarely you will see terrorists with AK weapons. Rainbow starts out playing this straight as an arrow in the first game (MP5 variants are the mainstay, with the only longer-ranged alternatives being an M16 or CAR-15 and the handguns limited to the USP or Mk 23), but then adds a notable amount of "bad guy" guns in Rogue Spear and Raven Shield. Also, the Alpha Team operatives in the first Vegas 2 mission have AK-47s, and one of the player's starting weapons in both Vegas games is the SIG SG-552.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: If the trailers and developer interviews of Patriots are anything to go by, the True Patriots would have been made up of people with some serious and legitimate grievances against the government and the rich, but chose to voice those grievances with shocking acts of violence against innocent people. Rainbow meanwhile would go to any length to keep them from their goal, including disabling police officers and watching civilians get killed in the crossfire to save many more people.
  • Hand Cannon: Every game since Rogue Spear has included the infamous Desert Eagle, with it and Raven Shield notably including both the usual .50 AE version as well as a slightly-weaker but higher-capacity .357 Magnum one.
  • Harder Than Hard: Elite difficulty. The games are already Nintendo Hard on Veteran, but this level is murder.
    • The original games are complete murder. Armor, weapons, and tactics do not count - only reflexes do - and your enemies can snipe you as soon as they see you looking at them through your scope.
  • Hard Levels, Easy Bosses: Most named enemies are an Anticlimax Boss. Calderon in the original is armed with an assault rifle, but so are his mooks. Vezirzade and Maxim Kutkin in Rogue Spear only have handguns, but they like to hide in corners and ambush you. Gospic in Raven Shield is not so much a concern.
  • Hazmat Suit: The first game plot is about biological warfare, and includes hazmat suits designed to protect against viruses. One mission is a biolab where the suits are available for the loadout (and going into the dangerous area without one kills the operative at the end of the mission, but getting injured is not an issue), and the final mission requires the suits just in case the virus is spread within the biodome. Siege calls back to this, having the entire team in black hazmat suits for the final "Situation".
  • Heroic BSoD: Michael, after failing to save the people in the stadium.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: In the console version of Rainbow Six: Lockdown, the Rainbow team members didn't wear helmets, to show off the detail in their facial models and help distinguish them from each other. After receiving many fan complaints about how unrealistic this was, helmets were added back onto the troops for the PC version.
  • Hollywood Healing: Averted massively in the original games. Wounds persist across missions, severely lowering your operative's stats until they recover. They have to be kept off several missions in order to recover.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Though the enemy will notice if they see their friends go down.
  • Hostage Situation: There are a number of moments throughout the series.
    • In the first game, one level consists of rescuing children who are being held hostage by terrorists at an amusement park.
    • The demo footage for Patriots has a man watch as his family is taken hostage and he is forced to wear a bomb vest to keep the terrorists from killing them. Rainbow ends up being forced to let the bomb detonate.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: In Rogue Spear, you must arrest a rogue Russian Army captain who has been selling weaponry to the Big Bad out of his outpost. Turns out, his outpost was abandoned, they had nowhere to go, and had no choice but to support the big bad.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The enemy A.I. in Lockdown has remarkably bad aim at anything less than close range, in contrast to their laser-like near-perfect accuracy in previous games. This is most likely to compensate for the changed core gameplay in Lockdown (focusing on a single player character rather than multiple teams of exchangeable operatives). Their aim does improve in the later missions when they upgrade to Elite Mooks, but they're still not as deadly as the A.I. in the first 3 games.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Tom Clancy wrote it, and the games will be happy to point it out to you.
  • "Instant Death" Radius: In all the games in the series, if an enemy shoots you at point-blank range, it's an instant kill. This is even true in Lockdown and Vegas, where you could otherwise take several hits before dying. You don't benefit from a similar bonus when shooting enemies at point blank range.

  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Ballistic shields appear in Vegas 2 and Siege.
  • The Mafiya: Maxim Kutkin in Rogue Spear.
  • The Mole:
    • Anne Lang in the original game - she's initially revealed when one of your advisors makes a breakthrough in discovering the Phoenix Group's intentions, calls Lang about it, is told not to tell anyone else and to stay where she is, and is then kidnapped by the Phoenix Group not thirty minutes later.
    • The Informant that supplied lots of information in Rogue Spear turns out to be the man everyone thought to be the Big Bad.
  • Morton's Fork: Some of the decisions in Patriots would have been these judging by the trailer, such as having to decide to throw a man off a bridge or not from the trailer; either you do it or your squadmate does it. This obviously would not do Rainbow any favors in Public Relations.
  • Motive Rant: In the first game, Anne Lang has one at the briefing for the penultimate mission, and John Brightling has one after his arrest.
  • Multinational Team: The whole point of Rainbow.
  • Nintendo Hard: One-Hit Kill (even with the heaviest armor you can get) gameplay combined with the inability to save mid-mission resulted in very high game difficulty. Additionally, characters killed during a mission were gone forever and would be replaced on the team roster by generic Red Shirts with much lower stats, while injured team members had decreased stats.
  • No Such Agency: As in the novel Rainbow doesn't exist, and all its operations were officially performed by special forces units loyal to the country in which they took place. Discussed by John Clark in the closing cinematic of the first game when he tells you that you knew when you signed on there wouldn't be any medals or parades, but that you deserve them both anyway.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Most of the series' major villains have fairly standard international terrorist political goals. In contrast John Brightling, the series' first and most prominent villain, is a wealthy environmentalist extremist who wants to wipe out the human race to save the world. Believing human civilization is doomed to collapse from its own excesses within a century anyway, he and the Phoenix Group plot to hasten its demise with a genetically-engineered Ebola outbreak in order to minimize the damage to the planet while allowing their hand-picked chosen few to ride out the apocalypse and establish a more sustainable, socially and environmentally responsible civilization.
  • One Bullet Clips: Realistically averted in the first 3 games in the series, where each magazine you carried was individually tracked, thus in a long mission could eventually start loading in old mags that you already fired some of the rounds from. Played straight in Lockdown, Vegas, and Siege, though if you completely empty your gun, there's an additional animation of you cocking the gun to load the first round into the chamber, and if you reload early you still keep the extra bullet in the chamber (some of the few games to remember this while still playing the trope straight). Vegas at least also makes the odd choice to pretend it's averted, as the ammo counter on the HUD will only list the number of full magazines your remaining bullets could completely fill rather than an exact amount.
  • One-Hit Kill: In the original games, one or two bullets was sufficient to kill any character in the game, both players and enemies. This made combat much more tactical, involving slow and steady searching and room clearing rather than the standard First-Person Shooter "run in guns blazing" approach.
    • Extremely annoying is when your teammates do not react as fast as they should in regards to clearing rooms, winding up with dead team members.
      • In the first two games heavy armor could take many hits before being penetrated. However, this only works on shots that actually hit the armor - headshots were just as deadly in heavy armor as in none.
    • This is still present to an extent in the later games, mostly due to headshots still being instantly fatal - even when using the impenetrable riot shield and wearing the heaviest armor, eventually you are going to be shot and killed.
  • One-Hit Polykill: It is possible to kill two or more enemies with a single sniper bullet. You can even do it with a revolver in the Vegas series.
  • One-Man Army: Averted in the games before Vegas. Your teams are there for a reason, use them! Trying to Rambo through a mission will get you killed, even on Recruit difficulty. This is a bit easier in Lockdown and Vegas because of the regenerating health, but still punishingly difficult.
    • Subverted in Vegas and beyond. The only difference is that you are instead a Three-Man Army, but you're still sent on missions with ridiculous odds like being tasked with eliminating hundreds of heavily-armed enemies in a large building (usually while reinforcements frustratingly wait just outside the building).
    • Optional in Terrorist Hunt mode, where you can choose to go lone wolf. Don't expect it to be easy, though.
  • Only Mostly Dead: "Incapacitated" status, except in Raven Shield where they're as good as "Dead". In the first two games, they may later be back, but with "Wounded" stats for a couple missions. In the later games, your teammates are only subject to this, rather than Permadeath, although if your squad leader is downed, the game ends.
  • Opening Monologue: The intro cinematics of the first three games.
  • Operation: [Blank]: Many mission names in the first three games.
  • Permadeath: In the original 3 games, characters killed during a mission are gone forever, and are replaced on the team roster by generic masked Red Shirts with lower stats.
    • And even characters who are simply Wounded may be unavailable for several missions while they recover. Operatives can also be "Incapacitated", in which they survive but are so badly injured that they're out of action for the rest of the campaign. Basically, this is a game franchise where you want to be very careful when it comes to the safety of your team members.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The original game to the novel, or the novel to the game. There is only the World Park and Australia missions in the game, and there are no snipers so Homer cannot shoot the child killer in the gut. The ringleaders of the conspiracy are also captured rather than left to die in Brazil.
  • Rare Guns: Most notably the WA 2000 introduced in Rogue Spear, and the XM8 in Vegas.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Seasons 5 through 7 of South Park sometimes used music from the original game to score particularly tense and dramatic scenes.
  • Renegade Russian: The Big Bad of Rogue Spear, as well as a few of his underlings. His underlings plead that they had no choice but turn to crime when the Soviet Union dissolved.
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • The villains in the cancelled Rainbow Six: Patriots were a domestic terrorist group who call themselves the True Patriots, who target Wall Street and use populist rhetoric similar to that of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
    • The villain in the console version of Rainbow Six 3 was the President of Venezuela, a somewhat more politically timely antagonist in 2005 than the 90 year old Nazi mastermind of the original PC Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield.
  • Rocket-Tag Gameplay: As with many tactical shooters, enemies die in just a couple of shots, but the same is true for you.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: Averted, particularly in the earlier games. Shotguns are highly lethal from beyond 10 meters, like in Real Life. Slugs are also an option, at least in Raven Shield, to increase the range even further at the cost of buckshot's close-range versatility. It gets better when one considers how headshots are instant kills, so even a single pellet in the face will do the trick. Played more straight in Lockdown and Vegas, which play by more conventional FPS mechanics; you can still hit with a shotgun from further than you can in, say, Modern Warfare, but not much more.
  • Simultaneous Arcs: The end of the first game alternates between missions taking place in Australia ("Lone Fox" and "Wild Arrow") and two taking place in Brazil ("Black Star" and "Mystic Tiger") at the same time. The former pair involves thwarting the plan to release the virus, and the latter involves capturing the main villains. You have to take separate teams to Australia and Brazil.
  • Sniping Mission: You can take over the Sniper's role if you wish.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In Raven Shield one mission has you return to Gospic's mansion to kill everyone as Ave Maria plays in the background rather than the occasional burst of tense thriller music. The parade mission also has the sounds of a party in full swing, lounge music in a bar and laid back beats in a motel, contrasting the earlier mission's haunting tone with Awesome Music even if it seems out of place.
  • South Asian Terrorists: A terrorist group Rainbow is assigned to investigate in the Eagle Watch expansion is BOTHRA, or Brotherhood of the Higher Realm Army from Pakistan, a take on fringe groups with an Islamic face.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the video game the Big Bad and his inner circle are simply arrested and put on trial, while in the novel Rainbow strands them in the middle of the jungle with no modern tools or even clothes; it's emphasized that this is essentially a death sentence.
  • Starter Villain: The first mission in the first game pits you against "Free Europe," a British neo-Nazi group with no connections to the other antagonists.
  • Stealth-Based Mission: Most missions require that you move undetected, or the hostages will be slain. There are also missions where a Rainbow operative must be sent in to plant a bug, and detection results in instant failure - and unlike Metal Gear, there is no radar to know an enemy's patrol - it's by trial-and-error. Rogue Spear's versions have a bonus quality: you get to return to those maps a couple missions later to kill every single idiot who plagued you before.
  • Stupid Surrender: Inverted: Enemies in the first couple games may occasionally take hostage positions when low on health, not bothering you for the rest of the mission and counting as kills. You can still execute them for no penalty, though.
  • Teleporting Keycard Squad: Overused in the more recent games. Even the original series did it in some really annoying places, e.g. after rescuing hostages. The good guys do it too, in the final mission in Vegas 2, Logan's Charlie Team seems to show up out of nowhere.
    • Made especially obvious in the Vegas games with the inclusion of a thermal scan (basically heat-based radar), where you can activate it, walk into a purportedly empty section of the level and watch as half a dozen armed heat sources spontaneously appear, come out of hiding and fire at you.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The first mission in Rainbow Six dealt with 'Free Europe', a band of Neo-Nazis. Raven Shield also mainly dealt with these guys, with the Big Bad turning out to be an original Nazi.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: In spades for the original trilogy, and it never quite goes away even in the more streamlined sequels.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change:
    • Happens several times throughout Rogue Spear. You cannot shoot anyone as you infiltrate a complex, and this being a realistic shooter, you have no idea if the patrol you're trying to get past is facing your way.
    • Also, the two stealth recon missions in the original, Yellow Knife and Deep Magic.
    • As well as at least one wiretapping mission in Raven Shield.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: Played straight in the original games, averted in Vegas, then played straight again in Siege.
  • Updated Re-release/Remake:
    • Rainbow Six: Critical Hour is a "greatest hits" of missions from previous games reinterpreted in Lockdown's Actionized Sequel engine, somewhat similar in concept to Hitman: Contracts.
    • Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard, which is a remake of the first game in Vegas' style of gameplay.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: John Brightling's and The Phoenix Group's goal in the first game.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Maxim Kutkin in Rogue Spear. After the death of Vezirzade, thus foiling his plans to sell nuclear weapons, he goes off the deep end and threatens to cause nuclear meltdown. He issues nonstop demands that make no sense, when it's clear he knows he's doomed and only cares about taking as many people as possible with him.
  • We Cannot Go On Without You: "Mission Failed: Ding Chavez/Logan Keller/Bishop is Dead".
    • Averted in the first game; it's quite possible for Ding to get killed in the first mission depending on how badly you play, and the game goes on anyway. In fact, the game continues even if literally all of the named characters are killed, you're just stuck with useless Red Shirts for the rest of the game.
  • Western Terrorists: The terrorists in all games differ greatly in nationality and ideology, and Arabic and/or Islamic terrorists are pretty uncommon. The vast majority of terrorists in the games are either fascist, communist or nationalist western groups. This is also the case in the novel, as well as most of Clancy's works.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In Lockdown, in one of the missions it's mentioned that one of the hostages is Alistair Stanley's niece. During the mission, she makes a radio call stating that she's escaped from her captors, during which she is suddenly attacked by one of the terrorists. She's never heard from or mentioned again, and Clark never says that she was killed or acts like anything important happened.
  • What the Hell, Player?: Your team will call out the generic Oh, Crap! radio call "Murphy! Murphy!" if you throw a grenade at them accidentally.
    • Shooting your teammates in the original would earn you a grumpy "watch your fire!"

For the Vegas series:

  • America Saves the Day: Subverted in Vegas in which even though you stopped the crisis, the Big Bad gets away and plans to sell every Rainbow member's personal information out to the highest bidder. And in Vegas 2 Gabriel screws up your mission in the opening, which while not getting the civilian hostages killed, does result in the death of the NSA negotiator. Also, Echo Team bites the dust. It looks as though you're fighting a losing battle until the game plays it straight by letting you come out on top. Also, Bishop, Keller and Six are about the only Americans on the team. Michael Walters is British, Jung is South Korean, the intel officers are Israeli and Canadian and the helicopter pilots are from Russia and New Zealand. Plus, the US is the one under attack. So it's more like the rest of the world-saving America.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • You can carry a disproportionately large amount of ammo in the Vegas games, and your pistols have infinite ammo. Even on the Realistic difficulty, the only most noticeable reduction of your layout is the amount of grenades you carry.
    • The Regenerating Health in Vegas. Gives some leeway for mistakes while your low total health still encourages tactical shooting and cover.
  • Armor Is Useless: Almost played entirely straight in Vegas 2 on Realistic difficulty. You can usually survive one hit from smaller-caliber arms, but a second one before your vision blurring that doubles as low health warning is gone, is almost always asking too much.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Mike and Jung in the Vegas games take this up to eleven, sometimes being totally oblivious to the presence of terrorists until in point blank range, got blasted in the face or following your orders in the most idiotically suicidal manner they can think of. Thankfully, they're a lot harder to kill than you and can be conveniently healed most of the time, so they work well as bullet magnets. They aren't the only ones in these games, either, as every now and then terrorists in a pre-scripted conversation with one another will end up failing to notice you open a door right next to them... or aiming at them from around it... or tossing a block of C4 in and directly nailing one of them in the face with it.
  • A-Team Firing: Attempting to blind-fire from behind cover in Vegas results in this. Outside of a few feet, the most you can hope for while shooting is to force the enemy into cover so you can safely pop out and actually aim.
  • Blatant Item Placement: How convenient, a crate filled with every type of weapon Rainbow carries sitting in a half-finished construction site! Admittedly, many of the item boxes in Vegas could be enemy supplies, but they appear in empty, unguarded rooms, sometimes in places where they couldn't have fit through the doors.
  • Body Horror: In the first Vegas, the micro-pulse bomb is capable of causing its victims to boil from the inside. This is demonstrated in a pre-rendered video, where Irena threatens to use one on Vegas if the military and police don't back down. The camera cuts to a man in a chair, who happens to be the test subject for the micro-pulse bomb. He boils increasingly, but the video ends before we see what happens next. Imagine what everyone else in Vegas would look like if the micro-pulse bomb was allowed to detonate.
  • Book Ends: Both Vegas games begin and end outside of the titular city.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Not so much in the original games, but quite common in the Vegas games.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: The Glock 18 from the Vegas duology is the only sidearm in the game with full auto capability. However, its magazine capacity starts at a measly 10 rounds, and the High-Capacity Magazine only adds seven rounds, so you're better off using it in semi-auto mode. On top of that, it can't accept a suppressor for some reason.note 
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The NSA Agent in Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 dresses exactly like a Splinter Cell agent.
    • And the "My Name is Sam" Achievement for 5 consecutive silenced headshots, which has an icon very much like Fisher's trifocal NVGs.
    • A single callback to the events of Lockdown is used to establish that Ding Chavez has replaced Clark as Six in the first Vegas. Chavez is otherwise not identified by name until later in the game, and a single blink-and-you'll-miss-it instance in the second.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Your teammates in Vegas will often whip out sarcastic remarks on occasion, such as when the player executes a particularly sloppy room entry.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Irena and Alvarez are this for Vegas and Vegas 2, respectively.
  • Drought Level of Doom: The final chapter of Vegas has no ammo resupply stations except for the very end just before the final 2 shootouts, so throughout the mission you can't restock your grenades and will have to grab whatever random guns the enemies drop once your ammo for your primary guns runs out.
  • Enemy Chatter: You could listen in on conversations between terrorists in Rainbow Six: Vegas for some more in-depth info on the game's plot. It is also a great help for you to locate where they are hiding.
  • Escort Mission: Just before the Anti-Climax showdown with Irena mentioned above, you must defend your teammate while he hacks a computer in a much, much harder sequence. Vegas 2 has another sequence like this (though much easier this time), as well as a more traditional escort mission where you have to protect a hostage who managed to nearly escape one of the bad guys' warehouses and offers to help you go in and free the other hostages.
  • Evil Versus Evil:
    • In Vegas 1, a group of terrorists planning to execute the hostages in on national television begin arguing; the one on the stage holds a woman close to him, while another on the floor tells him to let her go. A third terrorist, backstage, tries to calm them both down. They proceed to raise their guns; the first two threatening each other, with the third one acting neutral and aiming at both. If they player doesn't act fast enough, they end up shooting each other and the hostages, and the mission fails.
    • The terrorist holding one of the Department of Defense workers at gunpoint in the highrise doesn't want to follow Irena's plans.
    • The example on the stage above ends up being repeated in Vegas 2, with a pair of terrorists holding the last set of hostages in the warehouses starting to argue about whether to let them go once they've assembled enough bombs for them, or to kill them and ensure no witnesses. If you take too long to breach the room and kill the terrorists, the latter tango eventually pulls his gun and shoots his less-bloodthirsty partner, then executes the hostages and causes a mission failure.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Vegas 2 has the gas attack. Which you fail to stop.
  • Fast-Roping: The Vegas games allow you to this in a surprising amount of places - frequently, if there is a window or ledge that leads to the outside, or a skylight right in front of you, or even a staircase with a sufficiently large amount of empty space leading to the bottom floor in the center, there is something you can clip your rope to and fast rope down. Ctrl+Alt+Del found it egregious. Siege continues with it.
  • First Day from Hell:
    • During the opening mission of Vegas, Kan casually mentions that this is Keller's (the player character) first outing as team leader. Things, naturally, go downhill from there...
    • Vegas 2 does this for Nowak as a member of Rainbow in general. He repeatedly proves to be hotheaded and gung-ho, getting a hostage negotiator killed in his zeal to protect the hostages himself, and he ends up getting ambushed after disarming a bomb, with his teammates unable to go out to help him from the number of enemies, as he's screaming about how he knew this would happen, and that he thinks the team set him up and are going to leave him.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Vegas 2 is fairly lenient about letting the player approach combat situations and potential hostage crisis scenarios as they please, regardless of how any logical situation would require more of a stealthy approach (though it's still recommended). Most egregious in the prologue mission, where Bishop and Logan specifically tell Gabriel to not be gung-ho and go in with suppressors and flashbangs - right as the player slams through a window firing a Desert Eagle and tossing frags with impunity. This is probably so that the progression system doesn't feel too limited to stealth gear when playing through the campaign.
    • There are certain exceptions with very specific hostages that the terrorists are fully willing to kill if they're alerted ahead of time, however, and in one case, the earlier an enemy group is alerted, the sooner they turn on the timer of a bomb a hostage is tied to, giving you less time to defuse it even if you clear the encounter in time.
  • Gunship Rescue: Occurs in Vegas 2 with a twist. Rather than having aid arrive to the outgunned heroes out of seemingly nowhere, your final showdown with the Big Bad is pre-empted by sudden appearance of an attack helicopter.
  • Hand Cannon: The most powerful handgun in Vegas and Vegas 2 is a revolver normally used for hunting large game like elephants.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Vegas 2 goes both ways - by default Bishop wears the same helmet as Logan does in Vegas 1, and s/he can also wear other types of helmets like a US Army-style kevlar one, or s/he can go for something like a boonie hat or baseball cap instead.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Blind-firing from behind cover in Vegas is, naturally, about as accurate as a blind man in a hurricane; actually managing to kill someone in this manner in the second game goes towards rewards, usually new weapons that actually work when used in this sort of manner, like shotguns.
  • Ironic Echo: At the beginning of Vegas 2 Bishop is training Logan, the protagonist of the first game, where s\he will offer words of wisdom about being a team and being able trust and be there for one another. When Logan storms the mansion at the end of the game to help Bishop he repeats the words his teacher gave him. Bishop snarks back, remembering.
  • Just in Time: Subverted horribly in Vegas 2 - you arrive just in time to futilely bang on the door of the arena and listen to the people you were supposed to save scream in terror as they are being gassed.
  • Laser Sight: An available attachment for most of your guns in the Vegas spin-offs. It can be toggled on or off at any time, and when on, it reduces hipfire spread and increases auto-aim assistance, at the cost of projecting a very visible laser.
  • Leeroy Jenkins:
    • Gabriel Nowak in the "Five Years Ago" prologue mission of Vegas 2. He makes numerous tactical mistakes due to his gung-ho attitude, gets a hostage negotiator killed, and is generally regarded as the team screw-up by everyone else. Even for the FNG, one wonders how someone who managed to get into Team Rainbow could be so unprofessional, given that the backstory suggests they only take the top alumni from special forces groups like the SAS or Navy SEALs.
    • A special forces unit founder's autobiography talks of one member that had to leave the unit after his pistol negligently discharged on base even while not on a mission, so high standards and the mental fortitude required to pass selection for special forces really makes this implausible. It gets moreso when reading Blackhawk Down, in particular where one special operations operative shows his... distaste for gung ho, and where the mindsets of his unit compared to a "lower" unit are strongly contrasted.
  • The Man in Front of the Man: In Vegas, Gabe is assumed to be working alongside Irena and her mercs for the mysterious mastermind behind the attacks, whom the team assumes is some extremely powerful and wealthy shadow player. In Vegas 2, it's revealed he is the mastermind, and was able to afford it all because he had no intention of actually paying any of his co-conspirators (Irena and the Cabrero brothers all end up dying either by Uriah Gambit or You Have Outlived Your Usefulness, and Bishop notes that Irena was a Blood Knight who was more interested in causing mayhem for America than worrying about finances).
  • Meaningful Name: Nowak is a Polish surname derived from the word for "new", and was a nickname for people new to a profession or village. It's not surprising Gabe turned out the way he did, considering his name essentially means "n00b".
  • The Mole: Rainbow operative Gabriel Nowak, who's revealed to be the Big Bad in the second game. Too bad he rapidly goes through Villain Decay in the process.
  • Motive Rant: The Big Bad of the Vegas series gives you one of these over the radio throughout the last level of Vegas 2. He continues it when you finally confront him in person, although after a while you can interrupt him and shoot him in the head at that point.
  • Never My Fault: In Vegas 2, the NSA Deputy Director orders Bishop to search the Rec Center Arena for the chemical bomb last, which is the wrong call and results in hundreds, if not thousands, of civilian deaths. When he's later raging at Bishop over the successful attack, the Deputy Director refuses to admit he made the wrong decision. Compare this with Bishop who reservedly but honestly admits they should have followed the van carrying the bomb instead of trying to save the few hostages they'd encountered at the warehouse where it was assembled.
    • This also applies to Vegas 2's Big Bad. Novak couldn't handle being a fuck up who wasn't cut out to be a member of Rainbow, so he became a terrorist just to spite Bishop, who was his superior during his failed recruitment mission.
  • Nintendo Hard: While easier than the original games, the Vegas series is still very difficult, especially if you play it like it was Gears of War or Call of Duty. The regenerating health is merely the developer's mercy for newcomers, and even with heavy armor you die after taking only 2 or 3 consecutive assault rifle hits, so use of cover is extremely important. For reference, on Normal difficulty you can survive about as much damage as you can on Veteran difficulty in Call of Duty.
  • N.G.O. Superpower: To a ludicrous degree. Not only do the terrorists manage to round up hundreds of fighters, train them, deploy them to the US secretly, and attack several casinos all at once, that's just the decoy mission.
  • No Name Given: Bishop in Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 is referred to only by his/her callsign, rather than every other member of Rainbow, who are referred to by their given names. This is because Bishop is a high customizable character who serves as the player's avatar.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: In the first Vegas game, it's quite funny to hear a supposedly Mexican mercenary scream out "I've got the white pendejo!" in the most generic midwestern American accent possible.
  • Not What I Signed on For: Many of the mercenaries in the Vegas series can be heard in idle conversations expressing shock that the job they were hired for is nothing less than an all-out assault on the United States of America. They point out the obvious Suicidal Overconfidence of such a scheme, and comment on how their bosses must be crazy. Also, a couple mercs object to executing hostages, although if you let these scenes play out it always results in the other mercs gunning down the conscientious objector and then the hostages.
  • P.O.V. Sequel: Vegas 2 features the same terrorist attack on Las Vegas as the original Rainbow Six: Vegas, just from the view of the guy leading the squad before they helped Logan. It's partly an interquel, as the first five missions take place across a few hours before the previous game, then the next two take place during and then immediately afterwards.
  • Precision F-Strike: There's a lot of swearing in Vegas...except for Bishop, who only says it twice - once when Echo Team is taken out by a surprise bomb, and once when s\he gets pissed at Gabe joking about shooting Sharon.
    • There is also the one Joanna Torres drops when their helicopter is nearly hit by a missile at the start of the Vertigo Tower mission in the first Vegas game.
  • Promotion, Not Punishment: After disobeying orders in order to take down the Big Bad, your superior chews you out over it over the radio. He ends it by disguising a promotion as a firing.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: Bishop in Rainbow Six: Vegas 2.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: According to this Popular Mechanics article, weapon designer for the Rainbow Six: Vegas games Philippe Theiren explains that the game engine is quite capable of very accurately simulating gunfire in a variety of conditions, but he deliberately fudges the results to conform to how players expect a gun to work rather than how it actually would work. In his words, We could make it as anally realistic as possible. But we're not trying to make a live simulator.
  • Regenerating Health: Added in the Vegas games as an Anti Frustation Feature. However you'll be lucky to survive a single burst or a sniper hit in Normal, and for assault rifles and sub machine guns most tangos fire in full auto.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: The Raging Bull in the Vegas games has damage on par with a shotgun and can kill multiple enemies with a single shot if you're lucky. The only downside is that it can't accept any mods except for the laser sight.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: In Vegas, the terrorists take over not one, but several Las Vegas casino vaults. Most of it is left undisturbed, and none of the terrorists attempt to just grab the cash and escape in the confusion. In fact, you can overhear arguments between terrorists who are ideological and those who are mercenary.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: The final mission in Vegas 2 has the Bravo team acting outside orders. Later it's shown Charlie and Delta teams did the same.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Gabe... and Logan?
    • The Assault Suit in Vegas 2 is quite obviously the Batsuit (or more specifically, the unpainted Nomex Survival Suit that Wayne uses to make the Batsuit) from Batman Begins.
  • Soft Glass: In Vegas, windows are incredibly easy to break, whether from a boot while rappelling, a smack with the stock of your gun, or even mantling through it, which will do no damage to you.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness: This is subverted in Vegas 2. The game has a point system where you unlock new weapons as you play through the game. The subversion is that the weapons with the best overall stats are generally the default ones you start the game with, and nothing you can unlock absolutely obsoletes anything that came earlier.
  • Stupid Evil: Gabriel Nowak, the Big Bad of the Vegas series, went to extensive and excessive lengths to exact vengeance upon Rainbow and the United States by association, causing a terror attack on Las Vegas that would easily be the most devastating terrorist strike in national history if this happened in real life (though this is a drop in the bucket for the Clancyverse). Except not only does he put himself into direct danger and potential discovery multiple times just to personally screw over Bishop, but he engages in Bond Villain Stupidity and never bothers trying to directly kill them until the very end. Even worse, his entire motivation (enough to try to sell Rainbow team's personal info and national classified secrets to the highest bidder) all stem from nearly getting kicked off of Rainbow for being a trigger-happy rookie that almost ruined an entire operation, endangered hostages, and got a negotiator killed. While Bishop could be criticized for defending him, by any realistic military standard the dumbass would've been removed from Rainbow at best, and dishonorably discharged from the military altogether at worst. Killing as many people as he can with a Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, gassing an entire auditorium of innocents, and trying to bomb several places in the city (and succeeding in at least one case along with destroying an oil refinery) are all apparently fair game to get petty payback for his own severe fuck-up, not to mention targeting the only person that stood up for him out of some mad, paranoid ramblings of being manipulated.
  • Take Cover!: Vegas introduced a cover system that changes the view to third-person when you use it.
  • Third-Person Seductress: One of the female Bishop's potential uniforms is a rather tactically impractical low-cut tank top. Which is for naught, as almost any player will wear a bulletproof vest, at minimum.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: In Vegas 2, one mission suddenly forces you into a one-man sneaking mission, despite the entire game revolving around the use and support of your teammates.
  • Unwanted Assistance: invoked Played with in Vegas 2. The NSA Agent Exposition Fairy keeps radioing you whenever you're busy with a firefight against terrorists. Your character even mentions how distracting this is. Turns out he's The Mole, and deliberately radioing you at bad times in an attempt to get you killed. He actively leads the player into at least two ambushes during the course of the game.
  • Villain Ball: When Irena gets the drop on Logan's team and he gets Left for Dead at the beginning of Vegas, she outright tells one of her henchmen to Make Sure He's Dead under the rubble before she leaves. The idiot instead opts to take Logan's goggles and main weapons without bothering to disarm him of his sidearm or, you know, finish the job. Logan subsequently shoots his way through all of Irena's remaining forces in the area, escapes to make it to the Las Vegas strip, and ultimately directly kills her.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Gabriel Nowak has a spectacular temper tantrum of rambling and ranting in a horrible attempt of a "The Reason You Suck" Speech at Bishop at the very end of Vegas 2, not even having any defenses or anything between them after they've shot their way through all of his men and every other terrorist in their path. The point where you can shoot him is notably still a solid few seconds before he actually ends his rant, allowing a swift Shut Up, Hannibal!.
  • Viva Las Vegas!: Hits every major landmark, including The Strip, Brand X knockoffs of the Stratosphere and Caesar's Palace, a casino vault, a monorail station, a random desert oil refinery, and the Hoover Dam.
  • What the Hell, Player?: Firing at nothing in particular in Vegas 1 and 2 garners various reactions from the team, such as Michael telling you to "lay off the sugar".

Alternative Title(s): Rainbow Six Vegas, Rainbow Six Rogue Spear