If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.
That’s the mantra I felt like I had to keep chanting to myself while playing Rainbow Six Extraction. The latest game from Ubisoft falling under the Tom Clancy brand name, Rainbow Six Extraction is a first-person online co-op shooter set in a world overcome by an alien threat. Taking on the role of a React agent working to control the threat, it’s your job to enter dangerous environments, take down hostiles, and gather information. Except… it’s easier said than done.
Considering you’re a military agent, you’re not all that tough. Or you are, but the computer-controller aliens – known as Archæans – that you’re up against are way tougher. Take just a couple of hits, and you’re down. In fact, just one hit will kill you in some instances. You’ll quickly learn, then, that Rainbow Six Extraction is not your run-and-gun type of shooter. This is a game that very much has stealth as its core. You might have a gun, but the fewer times you have to shoot it, the better. Sneak, be quiet, and get out as quickly as possible. That’s the goal here.
I wrote last week about how punishing Rainbow Six Extraction can be. And it can; while you’re learning the ropes, this game doesn’t go easy on you. You’ve got to learn the hard way, and ultimately that’s probably going to be by dying. A lot. There are some interesting (but punishing) mechanics at play here, like the fact that if an operator dies, they’ll become ‘MIA’, and you’ll have to send out another operator on a recon mission to find and rescue them. And if an operator is gravely injured, they won’t heal automatically. You’ll have to keep playing without them and wait for them to become back in action.
Luckily, you start out with nine operators at your disposal, each one with their own special skill. Doc can give himself and others a health boost, making him the perfect support operator. Pulse, on the other hand, has a special HB-7 Heartbeat Sensor that can detect Archæan nests in the area. Or there’s Sledge, who can brute-force his way through environments with his sledgehammer. There’s no point in having just one favourite, because it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to stick to the same operator constantly. Chances are you’ll play as half a dozen, steadily upgrading them all as you progress.
There are two forms of progression in Rainbow Six Extraction: your overall level, and each operator’s level. As operators level up, they’ll gain access to new weapons and their abilities will improve. As your overall level improves, you’ll gain access to new maps, new tech and various cosmetic upgrades. There is a catch, though; if one of your operators goes MIA, all of the experience they’ve earned goes with them, which can mean your overall level can go down. Less than ideal.
Rainbow Six Extraction is split up into four main areas: New York, San Francisco, Alaska and Truth or Consequences. Each of those features three distinct maps, giving twelve sizeable areas in total. They’re not all unlocked from the outset; new maps will unlock as you gain experience, and to begin with you can only access New York’s three areas (Monolith Gardens, Liberty Island and Police Station).
Entering a map will then see it split down even further into three zones, each with one task to complete. You can extract yourself after the first task, if you wish, or you can push on to earn more XP – a nice risk versus reward mechanic. You’ll bank the XP for any completed mission, but successfully extracting yourself nets you a 90% bonus. So if you’re low on health, being cautious is often the sensible choice.
The missions you’ll complete while out in the field are randomly generated, but all fall into one of a number of types. There are Rescue missions, where you’ll need to go out and rescue a civilian trapped in a hostile area, for example. Other missions will require you to take samples from alien nests, stealth-kill a special enemy type, hunt down a target, or activate some technology. Some are more challenging than others, and you’ll undoubtedly soon have your favourites and least favourites. But whatever your mission, much of the gameplay remains the same: be stealthy.
You’ll soon learn that shooting an enemy makes noise, which then alerts other enemies in the area. Not ideal. Sneaking around, taking out enemy nests – which will continuously spawn new, full-size enemies once activated – is often the best approach to begin with. But time isn’t on your side; you have less than 15 minutes to complete your objective and either get out or move to the next area. Because skill and planning is required, Rainbow Six Extraction is a game that really needs you to be working as part of an effective team. You need to be co-operative with your teammates, covering each other’s backs and planning out your next move. Playing with strangers who you can’t communicate with just won’t cut it here.
You can tackle Rainbow Six Extraction alone, and although I appreciate you have the option, it really isn’t recommended. The difficulty does adjust depending on how many players (up to three) are in your squad, but it is still very much designed with multiple teammates in mind. It’s very easy for an enemy to sneak up behind you – and as I mentioned earlier, one hit is all it can take to put you down. Having someone watch your back is priceless. Certain tasks, too, like freeing an operator from an Archæan tree – something you have to do to rescue someone who’s MIA – are much harder without two pairs of hands. Find at least one friend who can jump into Extraction with you and you’ll have an infinitely better time.
There’s something to be said for Rainbow Six Extraction‘s environments which, at least on a current-gen system, are gorgeous to look at. Each area you find yourself in has been expertly-designed with multiple paths and various spaces to move through. One minute you might be in a tightly-enclosed laundry room, the next a huge, open lobby. What is particularly neat here is that many walls can be destroyed. Can’t find a way around? Simply break through the wall. Just be aware of the noise you’re making. It’s a double-edged sword, though; you might have locked all of the doors to the area that you’re in, but there’s nothing stopping your enemies busting their way through walls either. Essentially, you can never feel safe – and that’s terrifying, but rather exciting.
While some of Rainbow Six Extraction‘s systems do feel a little unfair at times, there’s one hell of a thrilling experience to be found if you can get into the groove. I’m not usually a fan of stealth, but sneaking around the game’s excellently-designed environments trying to get the upper hand on a bunch of freaky-as-hell aliens is exhilarating. You’re constantly on-edge, not knowing what waits around the next corner, poised to attack if you need to. Add to that a solid progression system that keeps you wanting to jump back in, and you’ve got one of Ubisoft’s best multiplayer experiences yet.
Rainbow Six Extraction Review – GameSpew’s Score