There’s nothing quite like a Rainbow Six game. Rarely is an action-oriented first-person shooter rooted in real-world combat able to instill a genuine fear for your character’s safety and well-being. Whereas modern shooters throw you a bone with regenerating health, infinite respawns, or a checkpoint every few seconds, Rainbow Six has always managed to make dying a frightening ordeal. It’s impressive, then, that Rainbow Six Siege manages to turn up the intensity to eleven and makes staying alive in a hostile, multiplayer environment an almost horrific ordeal.
Having remained on hiatus for nearly seven years, the historied series makes its long-awaited return, welcoming old fans back and introducing its hard-hitting and unforgiving gameplay style to an entirely new generation of gamers.
Things certainly aren’t what they used to be, but that’s not a bad thing. Rainbow Six Siege shifts its focus away from squad-based terrorist hunts and instead applies the series’ well-known, slow and methodical pace to a five-versus-five multiplayer setting. That’s not to say modes like Terrorist Hunt don’t exist here in Siege. But, aside from a selection of “Situations” that serve as a thorough tutorial of the game’s new mechanics, you won’t find a story-driven campaign that spans multiple levels. What you will find, however, is a multiplayer offering that goes deeper than ever and challenges your understanding of how to play a competitive first-person shooter.
Even without a proper story mode, Siege boasts a surprising amount of variety in its multiplayer. By default, both Multiplayer and Terrorist Hunt matchmaking revolves around mixed modes. So, not only might the setting (including time of day) and mode change after every match, so too do the objectives and their locations. With a broad list of Operator combinations that can form a single fire team and a healthy collection of cleverly-designed multiplayer maps, every round is different and unpredictable, even within a seemingly limited framework.
Siege’s skill curve is through the roof. That means newcomers are going to have to suffer through a few agonizing (but very rewarding) matches before building a better understanding of how each round flows. But, like most skills, the more you put in, the more you get out, and there’s so much to get out of Siege. I feel like I could play it for months and still find something new to learn, be it a more efficient way to utilize an Operator’s skills or a new way to take advantage of the map layout. Even so, right around the time you begin to get the hang of things, Ranked Multiplayer opens up at Clearance Level 20, demanding an even higher level of knowledge and skill.
While you might feel burdened by the maddening amount of tactics and strategies to learn, the game does an exceptional job of easing you through your first steps. This is where Siege’s single-player Situations and multiplayer Terrorist Hunt modes come into play.
Situations mode, as the name implies, presents a series of ten missions with specific goals and objectives. Some are easier than others, but each one offers a small tour of a few of the different Operators’ abilities and sticks you in scenarios that aren’t all that different from the ones you might encounter in Multiplayer or Terrorist Hunt.
The best part is that by completing all of the objectives in each Situation and watching all of Siege’s tutorial videos, you should have enough Renown (Siege’s unlock currency) to scoop up a handful of Operators and weapons for your own use. It’s recommended that you spread your roster evenly between attackers and defenders so that you’re options are always open no matter what side you’re on.
Once you’re happy with your initial setup, it’s worth taking your new Operators, weapons, and weapon attachments for a spin in good ol’ Terrorist Hunt, either via private match with buddies or online through Siege’s matchmaking (no split-screen, sadly). Here, you’ll get a better idea of what it’s like to work with a team and how your Operator’s abilities might complement another’s. Since Siege’s maps are shared by all modes, you’ll also begin to learn all of the different layouts and objective locations. There are four Terrorist Hunt modes in total: Terrorist Hunt Classic (attack), Extract Hostage (attack), Protect Hostage, (defend), and Disarm Bomb (attack). It gets easier with more players involved, but the AI is still no joke, especially on higher, more lethal difficulties.
My initial goal was to unlock two Operators from each of the five factions and I was able to achieve this in two days by playing all Situations and completing all objectives, as well as through a small amount of playtime in Casual and Terrorist Hunt modes. By the looks of it, you can become fully-equipped rather quickly. With five attackers and five defenders unlocked, you’ll always have an Operator available no matter who your teammates choose to play as.
After the first push through a few unlocks, the game’s rate of progression settles to a more moderate pace, as there’s less opportunity to get easy Renown and as Operators become more expensive with each purchase in a faction. In my view, it works out rather well because you’re seeing more rewards the during the most difficult and “grind-y” period of your journey with Siege. Right when the unlocks begin to slow down, that’s when the learning curve gets its hooks into you, encouraging you to improve through experimentation and constant play with little material incentive needed.
The presentation of each Operator in Siege is handled with exceptional quality and care. Each one hails from a different nationality (Great Britain, Germany, Russia, France, or the United States) with more factions to come via post-launch releases. Upon unlocking a character, the player is treated to beautifully-crafted introduction movie and a detailed dossier of background information, giving every Operator their own distinct personality and traits.
In addition to their unique abilities, each Operator also has access to their own set of primary weapons, secondary weapons, and equipment that can be swapped around or upgraded with attachments. What Siege lacks, however, is an easy-to-access firing range or training course where one can quickly test out new gear. I could live without it if we were able to change attachments on the fly or in between rounds in a live multiplayer match, but, unfortunately, we can’t.
Taking inspiration from older Rainbow Six titles, every multiplayer match in Siege begins with a planning stage. It only lasts 30 seconds, but it can be the most important 30 seconds of the game. While the defenders set up window or door barricades, lay down traps, and plant electronic devices, attackers must infiltrate with remote-controlled drones in order to gather as much intel as possible before the Action Phase begins. There’s a lot you can do during this time to increase your chances of success, but there’s also a lot you can do wrong, which is why repetition and experimentation is key. I found it extremely important to listen to the advice of others, especially those who are more experienced than you, and to communicate your plan when possible.
Siege offers only a very basic set of tools for team play, which includes the ability to mark locations or object with the press of a button. You’ll also begin to understand the game enough to make more educated plays as you learn to read the UI better and pick up on audio and visual cues. But without a proper command rose or different gestures that can be assigned to certain buttons, it can be very hard to communicate without a mic. In a shooter where good positioning and well-co-ordinated attacks reign supreme over individual gun skill, communication is key.
Siege is best experienced with a full party of friends, but I found I was still able to get nearly the same amount of enjoyment playing solo if I remained open to using a mic. Fortunately, given Siege’s appeal to a more mature audience, I’ve had only good experiences with strangers over the PlayStation Network.
Multiplayer matches rotate between three different modes: TDM – Hostage, TDM – Secure Area, and TDM – Bomb. Each one swaps teams between the attacker and defender roles every round and is first-to-three-wins. Oh, and in case you didn’t hear or figure it out by now, you only get one life.
During every round, there’s this very special moment that takes place just after the planning stage, right as the attackers begin their approach to the building that the defending team is holed up in. As a defender, not knowing exactly which wall, window, or door the enemy team will come barging through. It’s exciting as it is haunting. Faint footsteps become the sound of windows being broken into, which becomes the sound of earth-shaking explosions that disturb the dust falling from the ceiling. Then, as they get closer, the sizzle of a breaching charge priming to explode is the last thing you hear before the action revs up to full throttle.
Similarly, as an attacker, not knowing exactly what’s waiting for you on the other side of the breach can be just as terrifying. As you approach the target, you’ll find yourself taking a deep breath before peaking through a broken barrier, praying no one has a line of sight on you while your eyes adjust to the darkness.
With one life to live, a lot of risk is involved for either team, but with good intel (or the denial of good intel), that risk can be minimized and turned into confidence. You’ll need as much of it as you can get, too, because when it rains, it pours. Fights in Siege are explosive, literally and figuratively. They’re sometimes over in the blink of an eye and good teams won’t even give you the chance to react. But I find that no matter how badly my team and I get slaughtered, there’s always something to learn from it. It’s hard to get mad at any death when the Kill Replay points out just how smart of a play my enemy made or how dumb of a mistake I made. Every death is for a good reason and it makes Siege one of the least frustrating shooters I’ve ever played.
What is frustrating, however, is Siege’s lack of polish in a number of key areas. The game can be buggy at times, which occasionally leads to an entirely undeserved death or two, and that’s lot when you only die one to three times per match. The worst I’ve seen is a player being killed because the enemy could see his or her body parts clipping through a wall. Siege’s Kill Replays also only seem work properly one third of the time and I often feel as if my aim, at least on console, is rough, as if its constantly getting stuck on something when I turn.
Other inexplainable deaths aren’t even caused by bugs, but by shaky connection issues. There’s often a discrepancy between what one player sees and another, leading to gunfights that leave you scratching your head. Matchmaking doesn’t always work as intended either, and you’ll occasionally get dropped into an immensely laggy game or two before fining a solid connection.
To my satisfaction, these are things that sound like will improve in due time. It was my hope that Ubisoft Montreal gives Siege the support it deserves during the game’s crucial first month of launch, and the game’s first major update is setting a wonderful precedence.
Visually, Siege isn’t all that pretty by today’s standards and yet it’s still a technical marvel what won’t fail to impress any gamer. It makes up for every shoddy texture and bland graphical effect by delivering a truly dynamic experience through the extraordinary use of destruction. Every surface reacts to gunfire and explosives exactly as you would expect in real life. Bullet holes match the size of their caliber, which makes some weapons more destructive than others.
I love how much creative freedom the game gives you when it comes to carving your own path to an objective. You can be as sneaky as you like, or go loud with powerful breaching techniques that create realistic dust and debris for some cover. That, and it’s always so satisfying finding the perfect use for your Operator’s unique abilities. Almost everything can be interacted with in one way or another, making Siege the ultimate sandbox shooter, despite the small sizes of its maps.
Sound also travels believably and reacts to every surface, or the lack thereof. Just as you’re able to create your own lines of sight, so too can you position yourself to better hear the enemy. Siege does a fantastic job providing you with audio cues, like when the enemy is reloading, for example, which can be crucial to your attack plan. Even debris, like broken class, can give away your enemy’s position, if they’re not careful. I’ve come to really appreciate how Siege provides all the tools necessary to become a tactical mastermind and to form your own plays without the constraints found in many of today’s modern shooters. Best of all, when those plays work, there’s nothing more satisfying.
It’s good to have Rainbow back. Siege, in particular, is as important as ever, especially for the console market that lacks true tactical first-person shooters like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. It needs support, though. It needs updates, it needs connection improvements, and it needs more content. I hope both the Rainbow Six community and the developers at Ubisoft Montreal give it the sort of attention it needs to live a long and healthy life because there’s really nothing out there quite like it. Siege is a diamond in the rough and I’d hate to lose it as quickly as some of the other non-Call of Duty shooters that have disappeared this year and last.
Given the contents of Siege’s first update, I’m confident that Ubisoft Montreal is listening to its fans. It’s got some ways to go, but with the right support, Siege will become great.
4 / 5
It’s my opinion that the men and women of Ubisoft Montreal have succeeded with their multiplayer-focused vision for the franchise and are making strides in its execution. It’s fresh and it’s exactly what the genre needed, even if it could have used a boost in its feature-set, like split-screen gameplay and more co-op scenarios.
Rainbow Six Siege will satisfy fans who’ve felt the recent absence of hardcore first-person shooter experiences in their lives and will open a lot of eyes to the wonderful world of lethal, one-life-to-live multiplayer competition.
Rainbow Six Siege was reviewed on the PlayStation 4 via a review code provided by Ubisoft.