It’s been a tough seven year wait for a new Rainbow Six. We’ve received only two major releases in the series over the past decade — Vegas in 2006 and Vegas 2 in 2008 — which isn’t nearly enough. The Rainbow Six series is just the kind of game the genre needs more of: slow, tactical, compelling, stressful. Edge-of-your seat stuff that is as frustrating as it is rewarding. I went into Siege sceptical of its lack of a story mode, but something tells me I need to dust off my cynicism when it comes to multiplayer-centric shooters, because Siege sometimes — but not always — offers a very special experience. It certainly needs some tweaking, and the jury is still out on whether it can maintain an audience. However, there are very sound foundations here for it to have a long life.
I’d be lying if I said the lack of a campaign wasn’t disappointing, but I’ve gone into this with the expectations that it would match the cooperative offering of its Vegas predecessors. In many ways it still does: the base experience is essentially a formulation of cooperative tactics and communication, but there’s nothing here to feed those campaign cravings. Siege tries to contextualise the experience with elaborate (and admittedly kind of cool) cutscenes to introduce each of the five Operator’s four different classes (two each for Attack and Defense), but it’s just background noise. Terrorist Hunt — which has you, as you might expect, hunt down terrorists — can be played cooperatively and solo, although Ubisoft has upped the difficulty here to a point where it’s nigh impossible on Normal when playing alone. I’m not sure if it quite makes up for the lack of a full story campaign, but I enjoy Terrorist Hunt for what it is. I think the difficulty here could be tweaked to make it slightly more doable when played alone, but it’s a cooperative outing that’s as close as you’re going to get to a campaign in Siege.
It holds up well, and with three different variations — hostage rescue, bomb defusal, and classic (essentially “kill all the terrorists”) — it’s a mode that relinquishes the rest of the game’s competitive ideals for something a little more grounded. That’s not to say it isn’t tough, because it definitely is.
There’s also Situations, eleven single-player operatives that have you tackling a variety of, erm, situations. In essence it’s essentially a tutorial, a means of improving your skills and learning (or re-familiarising yourself) with Rainbow Six basics. Situations covers everything: from the basic “kill all the terrorists”, to bomb defusal, to hostage capture. Gameplay fundamentals are put to the test here, and with three difficulties and star objectives to earn across each mission, there’s a good three to four hours of gameplay here for the perfectionist to sink their teeth into. Normal difficulty presents enough of a challenge, even for seasoned Rainbow Six players like myself (okay so I’m not that good, but I am a Vegas veteran). Situations will also give you an opportunity to earn Renown, Siege’s in-game currency, which is used to buy Operators and upgrade weaponry and resources. Because of this, I would highly recommend playing through the Situations first before tackling any of the online components, because it gives you not only the opportunity to improve your skills before heading online, but also to enhance your wares for the unpredictability of online play. You can always enter into a match as a “Recruit”, which offers base loadouts of each Operator, but this isn’t ideal. Further to this, only one player in each team can use a specific Operator, so if the classes you have unlocked are all taken, you’ll be forced to enter battle as the team’s lowly Recruit. The more Renown you have, the more Operators you’ll have access to, and choice is important if you’re going to help your team to the best of your abilities.
Ultimately, that’s what defines the core Siege experience: your capacity to play to your team’s strengths. Competitive multiplayer works much like past Rainbow Six outings: two teams compete in a battle of attack and defense, alternating between the two over a match before a team notches five wins. In a mode like Bomb, for example, the attacking team will need to raid the area and, as you might expect, defuse the bomb or kill the opposing the team. The defending team will need to board up and protect the bomb either before time runs out, or win the match by killing all enemies. Each operator has a set number of special skills and resources, and communication is key here so that your team is covered in all areas. A favourite of mine on defense was the Spetsnaz operative “Kapkan”, who could deploy trip wires on doors that would incapacitate any enemies that broke through barricades. I think it’s an important class, because you need to cover doorways away from the key objective so as to take out enemies before they get too close. Castle, an FBI operative, can deploy stronger barricades, which is great for creating a perimeter directly around the objective. There’s plenty of variety across the Operators, and it’s so important that you find a good balance to afford your team the flexibility to adapt if things go sour. In one match, none of my teammates had a door breach tool, which made it difficult for us to break through barricades as quickly and as effectively as we would have liked. Fuze, a Spetsnaz operative, can deploy a charge on breakable surfaces that unleashes grenades into the connected room. It disorientates enemies, but without even a basic deployable door charge, it was difficult to flank and take advantage of our enemy’s confusion.
In this type of scenario, Siege actually shines: where my team had failed to communicate during the pre-match lead-time, we made up for it by regrouping and coming up with a new method of breaking into the area. Fuze, with his shield, would deploy the charge. We would quickly flashbang the room with his stun, and then crash into the room from two different points. It was erratic, dangerous, and not quite as smooth as we would have liked, but the match quickly turned in our favour after an initial moment of frustration. When the match had started, we all stood around waiting for someone to place a charge. I took the role of leader and directed my teammates to hold back, split up and reposition on different entrances, because without the effectiveness of an explosive door breach, we couldn’t afford to all break into the same room. We found ourselves in a similar situation on Plane, which is probably the game’s best map. Set inside a plane (dah!), our enemies had set up shop near the cockpit. Flanking was impossible: we either had to enter via the front doors, or slowly push forward from the back of the plane, which initially seemed pointless but turned out to be useful tactic in an effort to trick the enemy. The only problem was that, unlike the earlier match, we came stacked with charges, but no one had stun grenades or even a shotgun to suit the tight combat area. One member had a long-range rifle. Once again, we regrouped. Placing a charge on one of the doors, we broke through the barricade, and from the other end of the plane, our sniper was able to pick off curious enemies trying to protect and/or barricade the now exposed door. In the midst of all the confusion, my two remaining teammates and I smashed through the opposite door, threw a grenade in, and then made an effort to slowly pick off each enemy one by one from behind Fuze’s shield.
We lost the round because the grenade took out the hostage — epic fail — but it was a lesson in tactics: we simply didn’t appreciate the challenge of the map design, or the potential placement of the enemy. We came oversized and under resourced for the environment, and ultimately ended up killing the hostage because we treated the scenario as if it were taking place in a large, open area. It was great for a laugh, seeing us lose a match like that despite outnumbering the enemy 5-1 at that moment, but it really got me thinking about the severity of each situation, and how important pre-match planning is in Siege. We’ve seen with a game like Evolve how quickly a game that is so reliant on tactical combat can lose its audience, but Rainbow Six has an element of balance that Evolve lacked. If you went into that game in a squad that was underprepared to face the monster, you were going to lose 99 percent of the time. But in Siege you still have viable alternatives to swing the match back in your favour.
That’s actually what makes Siege such an enjoyable game to watch. A few times I’ve made the stupid mistake of ignoring team tactics, instead opting to lone wolf it and run in guns blazing. Of course I’d die very early on, but I could still sit back and actually watch my teammates compete. It actually makes for enthralling viewing, and I can see massive potential here for Siege to become a great spectator game. PC gamers will get the spectator cam at launch, allowing you to watch a game as a sixth member without actually being on a team, which I think sets the game up to become a hardcore collaboration of attentive and passionate players who are always on the lookout for new tactics. Siege is a hardcore game at its roots, punishing players and teams for ignoring its cooperative philosophy. Will it hold up when players team up with randoms? I’m not sure. But I hope it does, because even without chatting, I think the community can be smart enough to react to the actions and choices of teammates, and then make a decision that’s best for the team. Evolve lacked that sort of coherency, and it completely broke down when you had randoms teaming up.
Siege certainly has the fundamentals for a tactical shooter down pat, but there are a few areas that need to be tweaked. Hit detection is discouraging, and all too often would I find myself unloading clips into an enemy player, only to have them shoot me down with a couple of bullets. I appreciate the realism on offer here, and unloading bullets into the torso isn’t anywhere near as effective as aiming for the head, but the killcam paints a different picture, showing my bullets either spraying or just not registering as a hit on the enemy. Seeing an enemy splurt blood onto the wall from your shots, only to have them kill you with one or two bullets is a little jarring. I also find it bizarre that buildings have already been partially barricaded when a match starts. This might seem like an advantage for the defenders, but I actually think it restricts their ability to protect the area. In the opening moments of a match when the attackers are collecting intel, they can cross off the rooms that don’t have enemies, and so they’ll know just to break through certain barricades. Defenders should have the ability to pick and choose which barricades to put up, and open doorways present interesting opportunities for both teams. As a defender, for example, I’d use an open doorway into a long hall to place a sharpshooter. Sure, I could just knock down this barricade and clear the line of sight, but I found that it made it easier for the Attackers to break through a building and make their way to a point of interest if they knew a barricaded area wasn’t covered by the opposing team. Finally, some UI adjustments would be welcomed. When matchmaking, I can’t mess around with my Operators, which is frustrating.
Based on the beta, the stats pages also lack the sort of depth I’d expect from a game like this, Certainly not a deal breaker, but in Ranked Play I want to really be able to dive deep into my play to see where I stand. Ranked Play ups the ante significantly here, offering a limited HUD, no grenade or enemy indicators, no reload indicator and no teammate outline. It’s a tough cookie to get involved in if you’re not one hundred percent committed to the game’s team outline, but it sets up some interesting scenarios for Siege to break out into the esports scene. I can certainly see it attracting some players from the CS crowd. I just hope matchmaking and stat UI are improved to keep players around for the long-term.
The Final Verdict
There’s a discouraging trend in this industry to force shooters down the multiplayer-only route, but something about Rainbow Six: Siege gives it an edge over the Star Wars Battlefront’s and Evolve’s of the world. Ranked Play should attract a committed crowd, but the Casual component still offers enough depth, variety and engrossing gameplay to keep the community active for a long time. I’m skeptical about Ubisoft’s DLC plans, but optional microtransactions is an encouraging alternative to divisive expansion pack plans, which have split and ruined online communities of the Battlefield 4 and Titanfall variety. On paper it seems to offer roughly the same amount of content as Star Wars Battlefront, which has been criticised for lacking much in the way of maps and absorbing modes. Siege, however, has an obsessive reliance on team and tactical play, which creates an element of unpredictability and on-the-fly changes during a match. It’s the year’s most captivating multiplayer game, and the encouraging thing is it still has a lot of room to grow.