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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 for the PC 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 fire-teams 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. Along with its stand-alone expansion pack Rogue Spear, Rainbow Six was critically acclaimed for its serious and tactically deep gameplay.

Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield 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 fourth game in the series, Rainbow Six: Lockdown. Lockdown did away with the tactical map for more straightforward linear levels, with the player controlling a single character (backed up by 3 A.I. controlled teammates) 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).

Rainbow Six: Vegas and Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, the latest games in the series, 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, and featuring a regenerating health system and standard First-Person Shooter-style combat. Although Vegas was critically acclaimed for its gameplay and presentation, it's a far cry from the series original tactical shooter roots.

The newest game in the series, developed after Tom Clancy's death, is Rainbow Six: Siege a multiplayer only title which stars a variety of international special forces teams instead of Rainbow.

Tropes used in Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six (video game) include:
  • 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.
  • America Saves the Day: Subverted to a degree 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 and you fail to save not only an NSA spy but also an entire room full of civilians from a very grisly death. 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.
  • Anticlimax Boss: Bastian Vanderwaal in Lockdown and Irena Morales in Vegas. Vegas 2 ends with a one-on-one quickdraw between you and Big Bad Gabriel Nowak, which might have worked, except he gives a long Motive Rant before either of you draw your pistols, and once you do he continues to rant on while you have your pistol aimed right at his head. Miguel Cabrero can be something of a Kaizo Trap though; he dropped his gun earlier, but he has another one in his holster and will pull it out once you've finished talking to him.
    • Right before Nowak gets his head blown off, he sicced an attack helicopter on you. So yeah, the unfair quickdraw was more or less payback. To make it even more ridiculous, prior to going to face Nowak, Bishop orders the rest of his\her team to hold position. So, Bishop basically wanted a one-on-one confrontation, and got an assault helicopter for his trouble.
  • 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.
    • The Six in the original novel's title referred to John Clark being the leader of Rainbow, but as with the game based on it, it focused more on Domingo Chavez and his Team Two than it did on Clark.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Friendly AI in the original trilogy. Your team-members will often hesitate maddeningly before firing on a terrorist in sight, multiplying the tension of executing a plan you've spent 30 minutes setting up.
  • Badass Crew: Team RAINBOW is made up entirely of the most elite special forces soldiers from all over the world.
  • BFG - The most powerful handgun in Vegas and Vegas 2 is a revolver normally used for hunting large game like elephants.
  • 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 Armor as Hit Points: The first two games take this trope to its logical conclusion, as wearing body armor was the only way to survive multiple hits.
  • Boom! Headshot!: Instantly fatal. Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 allows them to go towards getting rewards.
    • This makes shotguns very effective compared to other games. Get nicked in the side of the head by even ONE pellet, and you're dead.
  • Boss Dissonance: Most named enemies are an Anticlimax Boss. Calderon in the original is armed with an assault rifle, but so is his mooks. Verzirsade 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.
  • 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
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Not so much in the original games, but quite common in the Vegas games.
  • 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, almost always score headshots, 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.[1]
  • 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.
  • 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 seems to be using this trope full stop.
  • 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.
  • Difficulty Spike: The first four missions of the first game are a warmup, then the difficulty hits you in the face with Ghost Dance.
  • Driven to Suicide: Alvaro Guitierez at the conclusion of Athena's Wrath.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Pretty much the entire premise of the franchise.
  • Emergency Weapon: In Lockdown and Vegas, your pistol has infinite ammo, although it does have to be reloaded whenever the magazine 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 Irina mentioned above, you must defend your teammate while he hacks a computer in a much, much harder sequence.
    • 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.
  • Every Firearm Is Open Bolt: Despite the series aim to realism, this is the case in every game till Vegas. Inverted in Siege, where firearms that are actually open bolt can get +1 capacity when reloaded.
  • 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, there is something you can clip your rope to and fast rope down. Ctrl+Alt+Del found it Egregious.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Generic Rainbow troopers you can use in place of teammates in the first game, and Bishop.
  • Final Death: 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. Basically, this is a game franchise where you want to be very careful when it comes to the safety of your team members.
  • Five-Token Band: Rainbow's team roster is rather improbably diverse for a NATO military unit, including soldiers from countries like Egypt, Belarus, Russia, Korea, and Israel.
  • Flashbang Grenades: Used extensively to disable terrorists without killing hostages. Just be careful, because you can blind your own team members if you are too close to the grenades when they go off.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: "Team Rainbow," a collection of the World's Biggest Badasses.
  • Genre Shift: Starting with Lockdown.
  • Good Guns, Bad Guns: Mostly averted, terrorists can show up with ANY weapons. Subverted in Vegas, very rarely you will see terrorists with AK weapons, and if you notice, the Alpha Team operatives in the first Vegas 2 mission have AK-47s.
  • 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 preempted by sudden appearance of an attack helicopter.
  • 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 - any your enemies can snipe you as soon as they see you looking at them through your scope.
  • 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.
    • Vegas 2 goes both ways - by default Bishop wears the same helmet as Logan does in Vegas 1, and s/he can also wear a US Army-style kevlar helmet, or s/he could go for something like a boonie hat or baseball cap instead.
  • 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.
  • Hot Amazon: Several members of Rainbow are women, what do you expect? Thanks to Bishop being a Virtual Paper Doll she can qualify as well.
  • 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.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It
  • 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 teams 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.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Gabriel Nowak in the "Five Years Ago" prologue mission of Rainbow Six 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. Maybe he's secretly Bishop's kid or something. In which case Bishop should have gotten the boot for the nepotism to have put Rainbow at risk with Nowak, instead of becoming deputy director of Rainbow after killing Nowak.
    • A special forces unit founder's autobiography talks of one member that had to leave the unit after his pistol accidentally 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 more so when reading Blackhawk Down, in particular where one special operations soldier shows his... distaste for gung ho, and where the mindsets of his unit compared to a "lower" unit are strongly contrasted.
  • The Mafiya: Maxim Kutkin in Rogue Spear.
  • 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.
    • 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 Redshirts with much lower stats, while injured team members had decreased stats.
    • Armor actually is fairly effective. In multi-player when there are no A Is shooting you in the head with autoaim all the time.
    • The Vegas series, while easier than the original games, is still very difficult, especially if you try to Rambo your way through. Even with heavy armor you die after taking only 2 or 3 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 Modern Warfare.
  • No Delays for the Wicked: 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.
    • In Co-Op, the second player is Knight.
  • 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.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: John Brightling. Believes human civilization is doomed to collapse within a century anyway, so he and the Phoenix Group plot to hasten its demise with a genetically-engineered Ebola outbreak.
  • One Bullet Clips: Realistically averted in the first 3 games in the series, where you carried several separate magazines and swapped between them when you reloaded. Played straight in Lockdown and Vegas, 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.
  • 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.
    • 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-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).
  • 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 Final Death, although if your squad leader is downed, the game ends.
  • POV 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: Bishop in Rainbow Six: Vegas 2. Not really an issue, as it's a First-Person Shooter, not an RPG, so there's no point in the game where it would logically make a difference anyway.
  • Rare Guns: Most notably the WA 2000 introduced in Rogue Spear, and the XM8 in Vegas.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Reverse Mole: The Informant that supplied lots of information in Rogue Spear turns out to be the man everyone thought to be the Big Bad.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Bishop can be played as female.
  • 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 shown Charlie and Delta team 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.
  • 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 Crowning Music of Awesome even if it seems out of place.
  • Soft Glass: in Vegas you can just kick your way into the window, or just break the glass window using the buttstock.
  • 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 the default ones you start the game with.
  • Stop Helping Me!: 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.
    • Calling at bad times? More like he actively leads the player into at least two ambushes during the course of the game.
  • 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 a half-dozen armed heat sources spontaneously appear, come out of hiding and fire at you.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Trial and Error Gameplay: In spades for the original trilogy.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • Updated Rerelease/Remake: Rainbow Six: Shadow Vangaurd, 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.
  • 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.
  • Walk It Off: The Rainbow Six: Vegas series had regenerating health, a far cry from the series' original One-Hit Kill tactical shooter roots.
  • 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: Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield was widely criticized for making the main villains Nazis, a couple years AFTER the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The console version went the exact opposite direction, trying to be topical in an Anvilicious way by changing the plot to involve Middle-Eastern terrorists, and making the Big Bad the President of Venezuela.
    • Gabriel Nowak.
    • Both the novel and the original game made usage of this. Both shared Spanish and French fascists, IRA, German communists, and so on and so fourth. Both had an Eco-terrorist corporation trying to unleash The End of the World as We Know It.
    • The True Patriots in Rainbow Six: Patriots.
  • 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!"
    • Firing at nothing in particular in Vegas 1 and 2 tends to result in Michael telling you to "lay off the sugar".
  1. Possible Lampshade Hanging in the Vegas games - every single assault rifle and light machine gun in use by the enemy seems to spontaneously grow a 6X rifle scope if you switch one of your weapons out for them.