The nighttime view of the Las Vegas strip, lighted by neon and glitzy excess, is a breathtaking sight to behold. But never have I taken in the view hanging upside down while rappelling along the side of a skyscraping hotel on the strip.

Sightseeing isn't my goal this time. I'm in search of terrorists holding hostages inside the hotel. After identifying the bad guys, my team bursts in – crashing through windows and blowing open doors – and takes the bad guys down in a quick surgical strike.

“Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas” delivers on its promise to offer a tactical shooter that is as much about planning and reconnaissance as gunplay and explosions. Along the lines of the other rock-solid Tom Clancy Xbox 360 title, “Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter,” “Vegas” offers a mix of first- and third-person shooting with real-life weapons and gritty, realistic environments.

More than ever, gamers can interact with this virtual Vegas in a host of different ways. In addition to rappelling down buildings, would-be special operatives can peek under doors with snake cameras or hide behind cover for calculated attacks.

The main story, which can be played either solo (you control your two squad mates with voice or manual commands) or with your friends in your living room or online over Xbox Live, takes you through the streets of Vegas. When you take “Vegas” online to battle with or against friends, the warfare gets even more exhilarating.

Once online, you're prompted to create your own character outfitted to suit your fighting style. You can give your creation a digitized version of your face using the Xbox Live Vision camera, and you can even customize your weapons to your liking.

The firefights over Xbox Live – the game's shining jewel – are incredibly fun and insanely flexible. With compelling, deep game play and a gorgeous visual assault on your senses, “Rainbow Six: Vegas” is a safe bet for any Xbox 360 gamer.

Grade: A