The Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six games have gone through quite some changes since they were introduced back in 1998.
Starting out as hardcore sim-like experiences where patience and teamwork were required to complete objectives, it provided deep, tactical gameplay, in which one or two bullets were enough to take down a team member and ruin your day.
As the series’ popularity grew, it inevitably became more “dumbed down” as some might say, with releases such as Rainbow Six New Vegas planting their feet firmly in the Michael Bay blockbuster territory as you gun down an entire army of terrorists on your way to preventing a catastrophic attack. Despite this shift in focus however, they were still good games, but that hasn’t deterred Ubisoft from once again changing the mould for the newest entry in the series; Rainbow Six Siege.
After scrapping work on the familiar looking Rainbow 6 Patriots, Ubisoft decided to do away with a single player campaign for their next effort, and so the multiplayer-focused Rainbow Six Siege was born. I say multiplayer-focused, as whilst Rainbow Six Siege doesn’t have a single player campaign, it does have single player content; it’s just that it plays second fiddle to its two main game modes that are obviously designed with multiplayer in mind. Whichever mode you choose to play however, the gameplay generally boils down to the same premise: kill the opposing force before they kill you.
When you boot up Rainbow Six Siege for the first time, you’ll likely find yourself stumbling into the single player “Situations” mode by accident, which is a good thing as it teaches you much about the basics of the game. Briefed by the amazingly recreated Angela Bassett, each of the 10 levels featured in Situations mode challenges you to overcome the odds and complete an objective by yourself, whether it’s to locate and extract a hostage or simply wipe out a terrorist cell. Each level also has three further challenges to be completed if you feel up to it, such as completing the objective within a set amount of time, killing a set number of terrorists with a selected weapon or maintaining at least 50% of your health. Starting fairly easy but drastically increasing in difficulty as you progress through them, the levels provided in Situations mode are actually really engaging and fun to play, but most people purchasing Rainbow Six Siege will be doing it for one reason; the multiplayer. It’s a good job too, as you could very well be done with Situations mode’s content in just a few hours depending on your skill level.
When it comes to playing online, Rainbow Six Siege offers both PvP and PvE options. Its PvP mode, simply called “Multiplayer”, has two teams of five (which is strange considering the game is called Rainbow Six) taking it in turns to be attackers and defenders, with the first team to win a set number of rounds hailed as the victors. It’s a fun mode full of tense firefights and emergent strategies, but unfortunately it just doesn’t work out the way I imagine Ubisoft intended. Why? Because the objective-based gameplay goes out the window when wiping out the other team results in an instant win. Teams rarely actually try to save the hostage in dire need of rescue or diffuse the bomb sitting in the lobby of a backstreet dive, as simply hunting down and eliminating all opposing forces whether you’re the attacker or defender is just more effective. Regardless of whether your team actually tries to complete the objectives or not however, one thing is clear: communication and teamwork is key, which means an organised squad will tower over groups of randoms in pretty much all situations.
The highlight of Rainbow Six Siege in my opinion is its PvE offering, “Terrorist Hunt”, which tasks teams of up to five players to complete an objective whilst faced with computer controlled terrorists. Essentially there are four objectives available; hostage rescue, hostage defence, bomb disposal and terrorist hunt, but unlike their multiplayer counterparts, here the objectives actually have to be met to secure success. Faced with large numbers of enemies, the fact that you’ve got to complete the objective in these missions means that you have to approach the task patiently and strategically, rewarding effective teamwork and communication, although they are by no means necessary. In fact, you can even play Terrorist Hunt as a lone wolf if you so choose.
Completing missions and challenges in all modes rewards you with renown, which can be used to purchase 20 Operators from a range of five Special Forces. Basically Rainbow Six Siege’s equivalent of character classes, each operator has their own unique piece of equipment that gives them their own usefulness when completing certain objectives, making your gameplay experience slightly different depending on which ones you’ve unlocked for use. For example, Sledge carries a sledgehammer that is useful for destroying barricades in one hit when on the attack, whilst Tachanka is able to deploy a mounted LMG which makes short work of terrorists and Special Forces alike in defensive situations. Each operator also has fairly unique loadout options, which can be further customised by buying new upgrades and skins with renown. Of course, it’s the year 2015 so you can also pay to unlock all the goodies if you so choose, but it’s not necessary. On average you can expect to receive around 100–250 renown per mission, depending on your performance, and with operators costing between 500 and 2000 renown you can unlock a new one fairly regularly. In fact, the most costly items appear to be skins, and seen as they don’t affect the gameplay whatsoever, I didn’t find the presence of micro-transactions to be an issue.
Playing on PlayStation 4, my time online with Rainbow Six Siege has been flawless, with no server issues or discernible lag rearing their ugly heads to hamper the experience. It’s also nice to be able to say that I have encountered no technical issues or noticeable framerate drops whatsoever whilst playing, which is commendable given the chaos that often ensues. Rainbow Six Siege may not be the best looking game ever, but it’s still very pleasing on the eyes, and with its highly destructible environments there are often moments of panicked spectacle that truly feel next-gen. The audio also deserves a special mention, with guns and explosives exhibiting great presence, whilst the sounds of distant footsteps serve as an eerie prelude to an upcoming violent exchange of bullets.
Rainbow Six Siege is a success thanks to its tense firefights, broad range of equipment on offer, and the sheer destructibility of its environments. When you’re on the attack, the apprehensive and methodical approach to breaching and clearing rooms is exciting and engaging. When you’re on the defence, building fortifications and traps gives way to a stressful wait for your enemies to approach, unsure as to whether they’ll attack from the windows, doors, walls or even ceiling. Also, by straddling the line between the realism of the original Rainbow Six games and their Michael Bay offshoots, players can take a few bullets but there’s no regenerating health, meaning death comes quickly for those that aren’t patient or fully aware of their surroundings.
Whilst many gamers will scoff at Rainbow Six Siege’s multiplayer focused offerings – put forth at the same price as more feature rich packages such as Halo 5 – the fact is, it’s great fun to play. The 11 maps provided at launch all offer varied and memorable experiences, despite some being unquestionably better than others, and with multiple objective types as well as a difficulty setting for Terrorist Hunt mode, there’s plenty here to keep players occupied. To sweeten the deal, more maps will be coming throughout the next year for free, which should keep the experience feeling fresh and the player base buoyant.
All in all, whilst the absence of a campaign means that Rainbow Six Siege is understandably not the game that many fans wanted, it is however, one of the best multiplayer shooters currently available. If you’re a Rainbow Six stalwart that’s still not taken the plunge, or simply a fan of military shooters, you should definitely give Rainbow Six Siege a try before dismissing it outright. There really is a lot to like.