Regardless of the fact that I’m fairly useless at playing them, I’ve always loved the idea of tactical shooters. Sure, blasting through waves upon waves of generic soldiers is entertaining, but the satisfaction of meticulously planning and executing a stealthy plan without being detected just scratches a different itch. As I’ve said though, I’m not exactly a strategic genius, so when I threw my hat in the ring with Rainbow Six Siege, I was quickly taken apart by players far more skilled than myself. So, when Rainbow Six Extraction was announced to be a three-player co-op experience, I knew that it was going to be more my speed. Trading enemy Operators for aliens and competitive combat for cooperation, does this Siege offshoot make it out of the hot zone alive or is this soldier left behind?
With up to two other players, you take the role of REACT Operators, tasked with facing off against extraterrestrial parasites known as Archaean that have appeared throughout the US. Missions take the form of incursions into territories that the formidable Archaeans have taken over. There are 12 levels to be found set across four distinct biomes; New York, San Francisco, Alaska and the oddly named Truth and Consequences (read: desert locations).
Each incursion is split into three sub-zones, all of which have their own objective for your squad to complete before either moving on or extracting. There are 13 mission objectives that are randomly assigned at the beginning of the round, resulting in each incursion being slightly different to the last. Most of the objectives are engaging and require communication and preparation to complete, while others feel like they could do with balancing or, in certain cases, a complete rework as one or two feel straight up wonky in terms of challenge.
Even infested with an alien parasite this barn will sell for a bomb in the current market
Objectives will have you pursuing and eliminating an elite target in Hunt, holding off waves of enemies at a particular point in Serial Scan, retrieving survivors in Rescue, and stealth killing certain enemy types in Biopsy. There’s enough variety on offer to have you discovering something new for a few hours before you begin to devise strategies for particular objectives in the hours following that, but missions do eventually get a bit repetitive. Four difficulty options and a number of random modifiers do help mix things up nicely, but don’t expect to be hit with surprises 20-hours deep. That isn’t necessarily an out and out negative though, as I can absolutely see Extraction being a title that I come back to for an hour or two here and there, which is a quality that a lot of multiplayer games struggle to achieve.
Undeniably more enjoyable with friends, it’s important to note that if you find yourself playing alone, you’ll still have a good time. Difficulty scales to the number of Operators and the objectives themselves will change to cater for a lone player. It’s not how the game wants you to play, sure, but I can see myself jumping in for an incursion or two on the odd occasion.
Certain Objective combinations will have you sighing in relief while others will have you sweating bullets
Working through three sub-zones may seem simple enough, but there’s an added twist that ramps up the tension and forces you to make decisions on the fly. If at any time your Operator gets killed during a round and your teammates fail to get you to an extraction pod, they’ll go MIA in that area and will be unplayable until you go back in there and rescue them. Worse still is that the XP that you earned during that incursion stays with the MIA Operator until they’re rescued. They do return to your roster if you try and fail to extract them, but all of that sweet XP will be gone forever, so take care.
Not only that, but your health doesn’t automatically replenish, leaving you to find medkits that will appear within the level. The amount of health you extract with is also the starting health for that Operator in the next mission. This adds a spectacular risk versus reward element to moment-to-moment gameplay that elevates every encounter into a literal life or death scenario. It’ll be up to you as to whether you want to push on and secure the extra experience that the next sub-zone promises, or extract with your favourite Operator so that you can continue to use them. You won’t always make the right call, but that just raises the stakes for the next time you start an incursion.
Those familiar with the Siege Operators will feel right at home, as the 18 available to play as in Extraction have been handpicked from that roster, with varying degrees of success. Operators like Alibi, who can throw down a hologram to distract the enemy, or Rook, who can provide the team with armour, are exceptionally useful from the outset, whereas the recon class options like Pulse and IQ are more often than not left in the lobby as their ability to see objects through walls is almost completely redundant. Each Operator has their own progression bar that, when filled, improves their overall stats and gear, but this too can be lost if you fall in a mission.
Sorry Pulse, but my girl Alibi is everything that you’re not
Each Operator has access to four primary weapons, from SMGs and assault rifles to LMGs and shotguns. Being a spin-off of Siege, you won’t be surprised to hear that the gunplay is quality, with every weapon having its own recoil, spread and damage output. You’ll also have access to a number of REACT tech gadgets that will, in most cases, help you complete missions. Your standard drones, claymores, grenades and ammo satchels are all present, alongside the slightly more creative glue grenade and field wall, but I can’t help but think that some more out-there inclusions would’ve been fun. Nevertheless, packing the right gear is important, so be sure to coordinate with your team and bring the goods you need for the task ahead.
Despite there being a few misses in the roster, the majority of the Operators offer a fun way to approach objectives and help in mixing up gameplay. Though it may annoy some, I enjoy the MIA mechanic and the approach that Extraction takes to health, as it more or less forces you to experiment rather than ‘main’ a class. That won’t be to everyone’s taste, but seeing as though you can knock out a full mission within 20 minutes, I think it’s a welcome way to keep things fresh.
The levels themselves are well constructed, with each hallway and room feeling deliberately made to force you into tough situations, but they do very much feel like large Siege maps. Not to say that’s necessarily a bad thing, but they do lack a bit of character. The destructible environment also makes its way over from Siege, though it’s not implemented quite as well. You’re able to shoot through certain walls in order to kill Archaeans, with the help of a UV torch that outlines the parasitic bastards, but that’s just about where the tactical advantages end. If anything, the Archaeans are able to utilise this feature more, bursting through walls like the Kool-Aid Man to ruin any plans you had.
The Archaeans are enough to have Lord Tachanka shaking
I need to make this clear, Extraction is hard, really hard. The Archaeans are aggressive and sneaky and your squad can quickly become overwhelmed if you don’t prepare. There are 13 different enemy types, ranging from the standard melee-based Grunts, the ranged Spikers and the exploding Bloaters, to the hulking Smashers, teleporting Tormentors and nightmare-inducing Apexes. Each different Archaean has its own set of abilities and behaviours and when a number of them are combined it can become frantic and stressful in a good way. Stealth should always be your go-to approach, as you can sneak up behind most enemies and instantly kill them with a takedown, but if you’re discovered, the enemy that spotted you will let out a shriek that alerts all surrounding foes. You’ve got a brief window to take them out before this happens thankfully, but once the fight kicks off you best be prepared for war.
The design of the Archaeans themselves is top-tier as well, with each different type having a distinct look and set of off-putting noises that they will use liberally. During the early stages of the game, I found myself having mild panic attacks every time I came across a new Archaean, partly because I had no idea what the threat was and partly because they’re so damn intimidating. Less active threats are also about, such as the Sprawl, which is a gooey substance that spreads across surfaces and slows you down if you walk through it. There are also Spores that attach to you when you walk past them, exploding after a short time and blinding you for a few seconds. The enemy variety is excellent and fighting the Archaeans is tense and a whole lot of fun thanks to that.
The enemy on the left is called a Rooter. That is all.
Once you’ve hit levels 13 and 16, you’ll unlock Assignments and the Maelstrom Protocol respectively. These two modes act as Extraction’s end-game content, providing players that have mastered the gameplay a brutal challenge and a reason to stick around. Assignments are more or less weekly challenges that raise the difficulty and add a twist to the incursion. Whether it be that Archaeans grow stronger the longer the round goes on or that the extraction point needs to be unlocked at terminals before it can be entered, the modifiers added to assignments might be enough to draw certain players back in regularly, but they didn’t do all that much to change the formula for me.
The Maelstrom Protocol, however, does offer an intriguing challenge. Pushing out the length of incursions dramatically, this long-form mission has the threat change between sub-zones, with the difficulty getting more severe in each zone. Similar to Assignments, the specific map will rotate and so will the available Operators, with a designated set to choose from with each incursion. You’re still in control of when to extract, but the number of sub-zones is greater and so too are the rewards, so your choices are far more difficult to make. The Maelstrom Protocol is absolutely a test of skill for those who put the time in, but I still don’t know if it’s enough to hold a player base long-term.
Multiplayer games are more often than not a huge time commitment, and for some, that’s just not viable. Extraction sits on the other side of the spectrum, offering a tense, difficult and rewarding tactical co-op experience that can be enjoyed in a short burst alone or with friends. With a gameplay loop that does become repetitive, it may not have long-term staying power, but its systems that hinge on a balance between risk and reward provide great moments nonetheless. You may only find yourself playing Extraction for a few weekends, but that fleeting time will be enjoyable all the same.
Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher
- Ubisoft Montreal
- PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / PC
- January 20, 2022