There have been several games to date as well as the upcoming HEI$T, which is supposedly set for a September 2009 release, that have featured being part of a group of criminals that perform different thefts. Honestly though, I’ve always felt that the best robbery-type gameplay has been the bank robbery missions from Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Grand Theft Auto IV. To create a really solid game that is completely centered around pulling heists, you have to go to Red Storm Entertainment and Ubisoft for their experience with the Rainbow Six franchise.
I don’t speak from experience, but I would have to imagine that in order to pull off a major robbery like taking down a bank or an armored car or some other major financial installation, you have to be incredibly tactical. You have to devise a plan that covers every possible contingency. You have to do a lot of research, you have to pick the right people for the job, but most of all your execution has to be flawless and it’s in these aspects that I feel the Rainbow Six series is the perfect foundation for building this type of game off of. Now having said that, the Vegas games and even going back to Lockdown just don’t cut it. When I say Rainbow Six, I’m talking about the early days like Rogue Spear. That was a time when you could really customize different squads for each mission, what weapons and equipment they carry, what objectives they’re responsible for completing and so forth. All those options and all that preparation would work so well for a game of this caliber.
In terms of a story or career mode, your objective is to knock over bigger targets in order to make more money and raise your notoriety. You’ll start with a smalltime crew and only two or three options, and based on your success you’ll unlock more lucrative scores and really start to make a name for yourself. Let’s say out of the first few choices, you decide to go after something like a small branch bank. There’s money in there, but it’s relatively very little when you compare it to what’s still to come. Once you’ve made your selection, you’ll have several stages of planning to go through. The first stage is recruitment. This is where you’ll select your crew members. At first you’ll have maybe 3 or 4 people already with you, but do to the nature of a job like this, you might need to go out and find another person or two who fill in the gaps a little. Let’s say your basic crew is fine for crowd control and that sort of thing, but for a job like this you might need to go out and find a safebreaker or an explosives expert, etc. By finding an expert in that field, they will drastically cut down the time it takes to get in the vault and steal the money whereas someone without that particular skill will take a lot longer.
Once you’ve selected your crew, your next step will be observing the layout. There will be blue prints and city maps for you to better plan your job. Initially though, these are going to be very basic and they won’t show you more than intersections, walls, doors, and so forth. To ensure successful, you’ll have to go out and actually perform some reconnaissance. Recon will actually load you up into the city about a block or two away from your target. The objective here is to gather as much information as possible. Walking through the streets will help familiarize yourself with the alleyways and corridors that might come in handy during an escape. It will also help in figuring out the best extraction point as well as backup extraction points. When you’re done with the surrounding neighborhoods, you can actually go inside the back. Again this is something that will help in familiarizing yourself with the building layout, but it will also help in planning for the little things. When you return to the planning screen, you’ll have all sorts of little things scribbled into the maps and blueprints like where specifically is the money, where’s the bank manager’s office, where are the guards posted, what’s there rotation like, what are they armed with, etc. The more time you spend conducting recon, the more information you’ll collect. The more information you collect, the better prepared you’ll be for all the different eventualities.
From here you’ll revisit your team. This time though, it’s all about arming them and assigning jobs. In terms of weaponry, there will be all sorts of options like pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles, and shotguns. There is of course a tradeoff when it comes to weapons. If you plan on carrying some of the flashier and more powerful weapons, you’ll attract a lot more attention going in and out of the bank. With smaller weapons, they’re easier to conceal so it’s easier to blend into the crowds on your way out. Basically it would all come down to your style of play. Some of the bigger weapons will be more intimidating, but you’ll probably have to shoot your way to the getaway car, and then some. The other side of the coin is using the less conspicuous firearms won’t be as good in a shootout, but they’re easier to hide so there’s far less of a chance that you’ll be needing them. How you choose to utilize your weapons also reflects your notoriety level. Being involved in a lot of shootouts or even taking the lives of hostages will have you labeled as a “Butcher” and thus you’ll be noticed a lot quicker when you try to pull a job. On the other hand, if you’re more subtle in your methods you’ll be labeled a “Professional” and of course that would reflect your efficiency and your ability to take down a score like a pro. There would be probably a half dozen other labels which will represent your play style.
Once you’ve armed and armored your team, the next step would be to delegate objectives. To pull a job, everyone has to do their part. Every member of the team should be responsible for something and it’s up to you to manage them effectively. As I mentioned before, when you’re putting together a crew it’s important to find the people who possess specific skills that will benefit you like being able to break into a safe, or being a skilled getaway driver, and so forth. These types of roles are easy to set because you basically just have to set them up to complete one job and that’s it. The rest of your crew is going to be used for more general, but nonetheless important, tasks like crowd control. Where you place them and how you instruct them to act is crucial. If you spread them out properly and have them watching over the appropriate areas then should go as planned. However if you group them too closely together or you leave a particular area unguarded then you run the risk of having a teller secretly pull an alarm or a handful of the people in the bank try to be heroes and attack you. The way you deploy and instruct your crew can go a long way to determining how smooth or how rough the job is going to go.
Beyond the single player experience, I think it goes without saying that there needs to be both online and offline multiplayer modes. Co-op is probably the first thing that jumps to people’s minds and why shouldn’t it? A game like this is probably just as tailor-made for cooperative multiplayer as Resident Evil 5. As far as a competitive multiplayer mode, I think it would be cool to have a literal representation of “Cops and Robbers”. This would be similar to the “Cops n’ Crooks” multiplayer game of Grand Theft Auto IV where players are divided into 2 teams with Cops being responsible for bringing down the Robbers as they escape through the city streets with their score on the way to an extraction point. An interesting twist would be to have a variation where 1 guy is carrying the money and the rest of the team has to keep him alive.
I think it’s ironic that a game engine that was the foundation to an excellent counter-terrorism based video game would work so well to create a game where you are essentially playing the opposite end of the spectrum. Regardless, a game centered around planning and pulling heists would so be so perfect if it were built using Red Storm’s ideas from the first couple of Rainbow Six games. I love the depth that was there in terms of planning each operation and I think the same values would carry over. Taking down a score requires planning to the smallest degree and to pull a job successfully would bring back the feelings that were there when I first played Rogue Spear.