The late Tom Clancy’s universe of spies, terrorists and counter-terrorists has been the inspiration for many quality titles over the years. Great Tom Clancy series like Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon have both seen well-received instalments in the last few years, however the popular Rainbow Six squad has been on a bit of a hiatus. In fact, the last game (Rainbow Six: Vegas 2) was released way back in 2008. After the disappointing cancellation of Ranbow Six: Patriots, folks were understandably excited when Rainbow Six: Siege was announced, and the pressure was on Ubisoft to continue the Rainbow Six tradition of providing deep, clever, strategic gameplay. In this regard, R6:S manages to do a lot of things right and delivers a very unique gameplay experience that does a great job of catering towards the thoughtful tacticians rather than the 360 no-scopers. However, a lack of single-player campaign and some barebones mode selection may or may not be the death knell for this tactical FPS, and only time will tell whether there is enough content here to hold the attention of the fickle gaming masses.
Kill terrorists and look good doing it
The game opens with a cinematic that very briefly details the reassembling of the elite Rainbow Six squad in response to the emergence of an advanced terrorist threat. A murderous organisation known only as The White Masks is identified as being behind recent spates of indiscriminate chaos on US soil, and while their ultimate motives are unclear, they are well-trained, well-armed and merciless. It’s a fairly standard setup that disappointingly is never expanded nor capitalised on; we never learn what The White Masks are actually seeking to achieve, nor do we get much in the way of meaningful background behind the Operators that make up the new Rainbow Six squad. The closest the game comes to a single-player story (and this is pushing the definition of story to its limits) is through a mode called Situations, a series of eleven stages with varying objectives that are designed to introduce you to some of the mechanics of R6:S. The first ten of these can only be played solo and the mode culminates in a final mission that you have to complete with a whole squad. Like the rest of the game, Situations revolves around resolving a series of siege situations in which tangos are holed up in various locales such as banks and mountain chalets as they attempt to enact their nefarious plans. You’ll only ever have a couple of objectives like extracting a hostage, defusing a bomb or simply neutralising all hostiles in a given area and the whole thing feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity. The objectives are fine, but you’re given precious little context as to why you’re doing what you’re doing and as a result Situations feels a little pointless. Being forced to play them solo is also a fairly nonsensical design choice seeing as Rainbow Six has always been about squad-based strategic gameplay. This mode would have greatly benefited from having a full squad that you could give orders to in order to achieve your objectives as well as some semblance of narrative to make you care about a random house with bombs in it. Furthermore, tactical play is largely neutered by the way the objectives are designed, with many situations descending into hectic gunfights. For instance, when you nab a hostage from terrorist clutches many more will suddenly spawn and bear down on you, and you’ll have to shoot your way through a sea of them to get to the extraction point. While these moments can be tense, the execution still comes off as a little inelegant.
This is about as deep as the story gets
Rainbow Six: Siege manages to do a lot of things right and delivers a very unique gameplay experience that does a great job of catering towards the thoughtful tacticians rather than the 360 no-scopers
Getting high before the Op turned out to be a bad idea
If you got to choose in what fashion you died this probably wouldn’t be it
Overall, Situations really only constitutes a minor part of the R6:S experience and thankfully the other two modes are much more robust and enjoyable. The main event is the online Multiplayer mode, a 5 vs 5 situation which sees you playing as an attacker or defender. As the good guy Rainbow Six squad, attackers are tasked with entering a premises and completing objectives that largely mirror those in the Situations mode. Taking on the role of the terrorists, defenders must set up traps and defences to repel and eliminate the attackers at any cost. While the setup is simple, the way you go about completing your objective is far from it. Encounters can be quite thrilling, paranoia-inducing affairs, with multiple points of entry making it necessary to rigorously monitor all parts of a situation. All surfaces have a degree of destructibility too so just because a wall looks solid doesn’t mean you won’t receive a bullet coming from the other side of it. Some walls and floor sections may be completely destroyed with breaching charges by the attackers, or partially destroyed with gunfire to create new lines of sight. The best attackers will approach an objective from multiple angles simultaneously to disorient the defenders while the best defenders will intelligently barricade and booby trap the objective to funnel the attackers through a well-guarded entrance. The level design is fantastic, with a great level of visual detail across thoughtfully designed and varied settings containing multiple strategic avenues for your approach. A highlight is the tubular assault which takes place in a massive aeroplane with lots of tight spaces making for frantic and claustrophobic exchanges.
The real flavour of the Multiplayer mode comes in the form of the specialist Operators that you assume the role of. There are 20 in total (10 attackers and 10 defenders), each with a unique special ability and weapon and gadget loadouts. Experiment with a few of these Operators and you’re bound to find a few that gel with your playstyle. When I felt like going in hot I chose Thermite, an Operator who is armed with powerful breaching charges capable of vapourising barricaded surfaces. Couple this with teammates playing the ballistic shield-bearing Operators like Montagne or Blitz and you’ve got all the elements for a violent frontal assault straight to the objective. As for the defenders you’ve got Kapkan, who can place explosive trip wires on doors and windows and Tachanka, who can place a powerful LMG and completely shutdown an area. Despite the strength of their diverse abilities, the level of balance across the
Operators is impressive. People who played against the ballistic shields in the beta will be pleased to know that these Operators have had their hip-fire accuracy substantially reduced when their shield is raised. In order to get a shot off with their pistols they have to aim down sights, which exposes them to enemy fire and makes them less of a weaponised bulldozer without compromising their role as frontal assault specialisers. No single Operator feels like they are overpowered and indeed the greatest strength of a team lies in their ability to combine their abilities and strengths in creative ways.
The terrorists took the idea of explosive diarrhea quite literally
Being a tactical multiplayer game, communication is paramount to success; the game is extremely unforgiving and you’ll have to call out enemy positions and coordinate strategies if you hope to emerge victorious against a good team. I got into several great lobbies where the majority of people were mic’d up and talking, and when you manage to systematically dismantle the opposing team a real sense of camaraderie is forged. At the end of the match it’s not necessarily about who has the highest kill/death ratio but rather who contributed to victory by watching their teammates’ backs and playing smart. Unfortunately, as with many games that benefit from advanced teamwork there are far too many players who simply can’t grasp the concept of good communication and choose radio silence over coordinated tactics. Playing with these people is an exercise in frustration and I frequently backed out of lobbies that didn’t have the majority of players talking to one another.
The best part of any Op was always showering fully-clothed afterwards
Terrorist Hunt is the only other mode and features largely the same objectives as the Situation mode. Matches can be completed lone-wolf style, however it is infinitely more enjoyable with a communicative squad of five Operators. There are variable difficulties to tackle with Hard being a tough but fair challenge. Realistic difficulty is only for the truly masochistic as the enemies have an uncanny level of laser-like precision and bullets hurt a lot more. While a fun addition, Terrorist Hunt feels like a distraction compared to the main Multiplayer mode and gets repetitive quite quickly, however it is the best place to quickly grind out some experience points and gain some in-game currency called Renown. Using Renown allows you unlock more Operators and customise their loadouts, but when the dust settles the customisation ends up being relatively shallow. Weapons only have a few attachments like sights, suppressors and recoil stabilisers that are all quite cheap and it really doesn’t take long to obtain everything. The most expensive items are weapon skins, which by their nature have zero tangible impact on gameplay and seem somewhat at odds with the spirit of Rainbow Six. Although Ubisoft has tried to imbue the Operators with a modicum of personality and attitude, I’m pretty sure any self-respecting terrorist or counter-terrorist isn’t too concerned with having a bright green and red Christmas decal on their weapon. This shallow customisation might harm the longevity of the game, as once you’ve unlocked all the Operators and customised their weapons there’s actually surprisingly little to strive for. The gameplay is certainly addictive, but once the spell wears off and the honeymoon period is over you might find yourself wondering what you’re fighting for. The meta of the game for most hardcore players is going to be climbing the divisions in the Multiplayer mode’s Ranked matches, but casual players might find there’s not quite enough to keep them playing match after match.
The learning curve is sharp and as with all Rainbow Six games, the emphasis is on providing a certain amount of brutal realism to the proceedings. Guns have recoil, headshots are fatal and the time to kill is short.
R6:S features some tough gameplay elements and is certainly not a game for the faint of heart. The learning curve is sharp and as with all Rainbow Six games, the emphasis is on providing a certain amount of brutal realism to the proceedings. Guns have recoil, headshots are fatal and the time to kill is short. I loved the fact that guns were so varied in how they felt, what ranges they were effective at and how good they were at punching through surfaces. Each operator only has access to two different weapons so you have to be mindful as to the weapons’ strengths and weaknesses and how they will best serve you in a given situation. They also have a menacingly loud and powerful sound to them that gives them a real sense of presence; if one is going off near to you you’re going to know about it. The sound design in general is superb and I definitely recommend playing with a good sound system or surround sound headphones to maximise the experience. This will also aid in situational awareness, as knowing where an enemy is breaching from or listening to footsteps though an adjacent wall or the floor above is critical to pinpointing their position and planning your defence/attack accordingly.
World’s deadliest glory hole
R6:S is a compelling squad-based FPS that rewards clever tactics. While gun skills will certainly help, the winning teams are going to be those that coordinate their strikes and mix up their strategies. There really is nothing out there like it at the moment and Ubisoft should be commended for taking the risk of introducing a shooter that caters to an entirely different crowd to that of some of the titans of the FPS genre. While the gameplay itself is fun and polished, the lack of campaign, paucity of modes and relatively shallow level of customisation might make it difficult for the game to develop and maintain a strong following. Will R6:S manage to find its feet or will it suffer the same unenviable fate as other multiplayer-centric shooters like Evolve and Titanfall? The proof as always is in the pudding.
Reviewed on PS4