For a so-so author of throwaway airport thrillers, Tom Clancy has done alright for himself. I don’t mean to slight the man – in my younger years I read and enjoyed at least one of his novels – but consider this. From the variously successful big-screen adaptations of his Jack Ryan books to the outright novelty of several series of novels ‘inspired’ by his intellectual property, not to mention a trio of board games, Clancy seems quite content to sit back on his billfold bed and let the royalties roll in.
In fact, the latest licensing deal to have arisen from his empire involved nothing less than the sale of his own name to Ubisoft, the French development studio behind such torrid mini-game fare as the irrepressible rabbids of Rayman fame are wont to inflict and the thematically daring but otherwise by-the-numbers Assassin’s Creed – oh, and something like thirty Tom Clancy Presents games. In the last decade.
It wouldn’t be unreasonable, then, to expect that the maintenance of any kind of quality bar through such an overwhelming mass of quick-fire development cycles might prove, well... taxing, to put it lightly. There have certainly been some disappointing Clancy games; there have, indeed, been some downright awful entries in the each of three franchises that have spearheaded Clancy’s involvement in video games. And yet.
Perhaps the most striking thing to emerge from a long-sighted look at the history of Tom Clancy in gaming is that his name, among only a few others, has proven to be a mark of – if not revolution or innovation – at the least, remarkably consistent, above-par entertainment. Take the Ubisoft studios behind the Ghost Recons, the Splinter Cells, and the Rainbow Six series: they’re hardly equivalent to the Meiers and the Molyneuxs of the industry, but there’s something to be said for the simple fact that they can be relied on.
Even the very worst of their missteps would have been much improved by a few months longer in the proverbial development oven. And so, it’s something of a relief to see that 2007 marked Rainbow Six’s first year off for a decade; their first holiday, in fact, since Red Storm Entertainment first conceived of the elite squad that gamers have come to hold so dear. But where did everyone’s favourite combat operatives go? Well, I’ll tell you: they went to Vegas... again. Kind of.