Never have I felt that a game hates me quite as much as Rainbow Six Extraction.
The latest game from Ubisoft, Rainbow Six Extraction released this week on PC and consoles and, in a surprise move, on Xbox Game Pass day one for subscribers. With an instant player base, then, it’s likely to be rather popular. And it probably should be; the few hours I’ve spent with the game so far have been fun. But boy, they’ve been cruel. My poor operators have seen more deaths and injuries than I’ve had hot dinners.
This is a team-based multiplayer game that puts you and up to two other operators against an enemy threat. Set in a world overrun by aliens, you take on the role of React operators, tasked with exterminating particular creatures and gathering intel. Sounds easy, right? Not quite.
Rainbow Six Extraction sets itself apart from other online multiplayer games by being heavily stealth-based. Now, I’ve written before about how I loathe stealth, so I’m already on a losing foot here. When I’m playing a game, I’m loud, I’m stompy. I like to run around without a care in the world, and I like using big, noisy guns that do lots of damage. That sort of behaviour gets you killed faster than you can say “don’t hurt me, alien dude” in Rainbow Six Extraction.
It’s fine. I’m a grown-up, I can be stealthy when I need to be. And in fact, sneaking around Rainbow Six Extraction‘s gorgeously-realised environments can be thrilling. Not knowing what waits for you around the next corner is incredibly tense, and seeing a dark, lanky figure lurking behind the door you’re wanting to walk through is scary stuff. I’ve only tackled Extraction‘s New York-based levels so far, but later missions will see me head to San Francisco and Alaska. In New York, I’ve spent time wandering around a destroyed Ellis Island and a once-prestigious skyscraper. Hunting down exploding aliens in a luxury bathroom is an experience.
Yes, exploding aliens. Of course a PvE game needs an exploding enemy type. These ones are the worst, particularly if they manage to sneak up on you unaware. They deal huge amounts of damage, especially the poisonous variety, which leave behind a cloud that continues to damage you for a few seconds after you’ve killed them. Get caught by one of these, and you’ve massively reduced your chances of being successful in the rest of your mission.
But what’s the big deal, you might be thinking. Surely you can just heal? Well, that would be handy, wouldn’t it? But being able to quickly heal would be too easy, and Rainbow Six Extraction doesn’t want to be easy. Yes, you can find medkits dotted around each environment – although sparsely – but they don’t permanently heal you. They simply boost your health, which slowly trickles back down over time.
What’s worse is that even once you’ve successfully extracted from a mission, your operator doesn’t recover. Their health remains at the level it was at, slowly healing as you earn XP by playing with other operators. If their health level is too low, they’ll be unavailable, and you’ll have to wait – a painstakingly long time, if you’re only completing one mission at a time – for them to heal.
But that’s not even the worst of it. If your operator dies during a mission – which, let’s not beat around the bush here, they will, numerous times – they become missing in action. And to play as that operator again, you first need to rescue them. That’s fine, it adds a bit of realism – if you can call a game about a weird alien invasion ‘realistic’ – to the proceedings, and also ups the stakes. You really will try to be as stealthy as possible when you know your operator’s life is literally at risk. But it likely won’t stop you getting caught out; your health is so fragile that one or two hits from an enemy and you’re going to be downed.
The rescue missions can be a force to be reckoned with, particularly early on when you’re not sure what to expect. You’ll find your MIA operator rooted to some freaky-as-heck alien tree, where you need to pull them free. Beware of the hordes of enemies that will come at you as you try, though. You’ll want to make sure you destroy all alien spawn pods in the area before you attempt to free them. As you’re pulling, another member of your team needs to shoot at the tendril-like roots that sprout across the room, stopping them before they can send pulses of energy/goop/deadly balls of fire back to your endangered operator.
The hardest bit of these rescue missions can sometimes be simply getting back to the extraction point. You’ll need to carry the operator, meaning your movement is limited, and you can only shoot with your sidearm. Let’s hope you did a good enough job of clearing out enemies beforehand, because if you get swarmed, it’s safe to say you’re probably going to die.
Oh, and did I mention that whenever an operator is MIA, all of your experience earned with that operator is held up in some sort of limbo-hostage situation? So if you kill off your favourite operator, one you’ve earned a lot of XP with, it’s going to affect your overall experience level until you get them back. That’s just one final, very low, kick from an already tough-as-nails game.
Rainbow Six Extraction, then, isn’t the sort of thing you can expect to breeze through. It’s meant to challenge you, push you to become familiar with its areas, its enemies, its mission types. Everything requires practice, precision and patience. Stealth is key, but so is persistence. I’m very much enjoying my time with the game, even if I do feel like it hates me. It’s the type of experience that you want to excel at, and by god, I’ll keep pushing on until those alien fiends are quaking in their slimy alien boots.
Rainbow Six Extraction is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC. We’ll have a full review of the game soon.