Rainbow Six is a counterterrorism (CT) first-person shooter game based on the Tom Clancy novel of the same name. You play an entire elite squad of up to eight operatives during missions involving hostage rescue, assassinations, bomb defusal, assault on terrorist enclaves and intelligence gathering missions. First published in 1998 for the PC platform by Redstorm Entertainment, it has since been ported to the Macintosh platform as well as most console systems. Rainbow Six expanded to several expansion packs (Eagle Watch) and a sequel (Rogue Spear) which also had expansion packs (Black Thorn and Urban Operations) and an encyclopedia/game package called Covert Operations that consisted of both more missions and the nitty-gritty insider research and details that are part of Clancy's novels.

The plot line of the game is introduced by the opening video of the game, which explains the year is 1999. Due to the collapse of one of the two major superpowers of the world (the Soviet Union), the world has destabilized and numerous factions have arisen. Hence, incidents of terrorism have skyrocketed. World leaders, convinced that a specialized unit consisting of hand-picked operatives that transcends international boundaries is needed. They form RAINBOW, whose existence is known to only a few high level government officials. Whenever RAINBOW performs missions, the results are either carefully hidden or attributed to well known organizations such as the SAS or the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team. In fact, RAINBOW trains with the SAS at Hereford to prevent suspicion. Despite the appearance that RAINBOW has been formed to combat isolated incidents, it soon becomes apparent that a sinister eco-terrorism plot is in the works. Readers of the book will recognize many of the locations and incidents from the book, as well as several characters.

Playing the game consists of three distinct phases. First, the player is briefed on everything that is known about the situation, including important advisors to the mission, historical backgrounds of locations, terrorists and hostages as well as news relating to the world of global terrorism. The player is also informed of the objectives of the mission and the relative level of importance of each objective. Next, the player selects up to eight team members with different specialties such as assault, recon, demolitions and electronics. Each member must be outfitted with proper and realistic weapons for his or her mission, as well as with specialized gear and uniforms for the mission (including a level IV biohazard suit!). Then the player plans the assault using blueprints and 3D mockups of the target and assigns the operatives to up to four fireteams and chooses which one they will command initially (as the player may switch between the team leaders for each fireteam). Finally, the execute command is given, and the team is inserted. This is where the fun begins as the game's focus shifts from strategy to action shoot-em up.

Similar games include Delta Force, SWAT 3, and Ghost Recon. The Rainbow Six stable is not expected to continue as Redstorm has decided to devote full energy to Ghost Recon which features a less anachronistic storyline and an updated graphics engine. Nonetheless, Rainbow Six remains one of my favorite games as it was not enough to simply have an itchy trigger finger or crafty strategic foresight. The plotline was genuinely scary, and playing the game late at night with my bedroom lights off, and the subwoofer at full blast will remain one of the highlights of my gaming career. The realistic weapons sound effects combined with the cries of my team of "Tango down!" or "Man down! Man down! I need some backup... NOW!" still resonate in my dreams today. If nothing else, Rainbow Six is as close as most of us will get to the high-speed world of Counterterrorism, and it really gives you an appreciation for what these men and women train for everyday.