– Aaron Birch
Bringing a classic franchise back to life for both existing and new audiences is never going to be an easy challenge, especially one that’s as unique and revolutionary as Rainbow 6. First released on PC back in 1998, Rainbow Six has always been about tactical realism. A single bullet can kill, and one wrong move can lead to mission failure. The series has also thrust co-operative team play into a genre that once focused solely on one man armies toppling regimes single handily. Now, eight years after the last major release, Rainbow 6: Vegas 2, the series is back with Rainbow Six: Siege.
At its core, Rainbow 6: Siege is an asymmetrical co-operative team game that pits attackers versus defenders in various mission types. Terrorist hunt see attackers killing the defending team, hostage rescue tasks the attackers with breaching a location to find and rescue a hostage (surprise, surprise), and bomb defusal, well… you get the idea.
It’s not exactly revolutionary in terms of mission variety, but it’s in the execution where the game stands out. This isn’t simply another Counter-Strike rip-off. It sticks to the slower-paced, tactical play Rainbow 6 games are known for, and adds in environmental destruction and even more focus on tight-knit team play.
All locations in the game are filled with tactical opportunities, and attackers, using a range of special tools and armaments, can storm them in all manner of ways, including breaching doors and walls with charges, abseiling in through rooftops and windows, using remote control cameras to sneakily scout the area, or simply use ballistic shields and go in through the front door.
Many surfaces can be blown up with explosives, bullets, or even smashed with melee attacks, and each of the included maps has a wealth of options, making for endless replayability. That’s just the attackers. Defenders have to think on the flip-side, placing barriers on doors and windows, shoring up weak walls with reinforcements, and placing razor wire at chock points. All possibilities have to be considered, lest you miss a key area, leaving it wide open for the attackers.
The maps are also well balanced, ensuring both sides have an equal chance, with success coming down to skill and planning. There’s just the right amount of destructible areas to create options, but not so much the game degenerates into chaos.
This aspect of the game makes full use of the title’s focus on online multiplayer, and it strongly encourages team play and good communications. A team that doesn’t take the time to use the planning phase to prepare and get everybody on the same page is a team that’ll probably end up losing. This isn’t CoD, and there’s no room for lone wolves here. Running around trying to take on everyone will simply get you, and your team killed. It’s all about patience, planning, and execution of plans. As the tactics of each team and their use of the environment can change with each round, you and your team need to constantly change up tactics, so even if you win one round, you still need to be on the ball and ready to change your approach in the next.
Indeed, I’m happy to say I found the online play some of the best I’ve seen for a very long time, for a number of reasons. The obvious team-focused approach really makes the game, and working as a close unit creates a genuinely different feel than other shooters. Destiny, for example, has great team play, especially in raids, but it pales in comparison to the co-operation and communication you need here. There’s just so much more to take in, and so many more possibilities. This is only enhanced by the one-shot kill nature. Die, and you’re out of the game until the next round, so death means something.
Then there’s the sound design, which I think is fantastic. Hearing distant footsteps and gunfire whilst you’re sat patiently waiting to defend against an incoming assault really does get your pulse racing, and being the last person alive, jumping at every noise as you carefully move around trying to get the drop on foes is something to behold. Tense isn’t the word.
Add to this the various unlockable specialists, each with their own unique special abilities, and you’ve got a surprisingly flexible and varied game, despite a small number of maps and game modes. It’s a great example the room for uniqueness in the online shooter genre. Sadly, it’s also the game’s main downfall.
As good as the game can be online, this experience hinges on the company you keep. If you can always get together with friends, and have good, co-operative matches, you’ll find Siege to be one of the best online games of the year, no doubt. However, if your friends aren’t always available, or you just don’t have enough with the game, you’ll be at the mercy of the matchmaking gods.
We all know how this can turn out, and unless you’re very lucky, and you’re matched with a group of like-minded gamers who want to play the game properly, you’ll quickly find that Siege is only as good as its community. Whereas you can still have fun with randoms in games like CoD, Destiny, and Warframe, Rainbow 6: Siege is so heavily reliant on close team-play, this isn’t really the case. If you’re matched with unsavoury players, or those who play the game as if it’s just another online shooter, Siege can be a woeful experience. There’s a reason Bungie doesn’t allow matchmaking for raids in Destiny, and Siege is a perfect example of why.
To be fair, this isn’t the fault of the developer. After all, this is an online game, and it doesn’t control the player base, but it’s a problem nonetheless. Of course, if you don’t have friends online, you can play against and with AI, can’t you? It’s Rainbow Six, after all. Even the 1998 original had AI team mates and a long and challenging campaign, so there’s that, isn’t there? Erm… No. No there isn’t.
Despite the series always having a decent campaign, and always sporting AI team mates, Siege has none of this whatsoever. There’s no allied AI, no campaign, and in truth, no reason for solo players to even consider buying it. It’s that sparse.
Yes, there are some rudimentary training scenarios, but these put you all alone against a team of enemies in situations that never change, or vary. Every time you try a mission, enemies are in the same place, and the same tactics work every time.
Ubisoft did confirm a solo game mode in the form of Terrorist Hunt, and this is true, except it also needs an online connection for some odd reason. It also puts you up against foes on your own again, and the end result is just dull. With no AI team to command or plan out an attack with, it’s just not Rainbow 6, it’s any other shooter with a slower pace, and misses the point of the series entirely.
There’s also the expected invasion of money-grabbing microtransacitons. Yes, it’s another triple A release that wants to get even more money out of you at every turn, and it’s just as repulsive as ever. It has been announced that future DLC maps will all be free, though, so it’s better than most releases lately. I’d still like to see paying for weapon skins and other meaningless guff axed. It just cheapens the game, and the industry.
In the end, what we’re left with is a game that’s purely for the online gamer with enough friends to always get a decent game going. If you’re not this player, or worse, you simply want a good, tactical solo experience, as offered by previous games in the series, don’t bother, you won’t find it here.
If you’re the former, though, Rainbow 6: Siege is surely one of the best online games of the year. It’s challenging, unique, and brings people together in a way no other shooter I’ve played does. Winning here is a major achievement, especially if your carefully laid out plans net you that win. To quote a certain mercenary operating in the Los Angeles underground, I love it when a plan comes together.
Pros: Good strategy. Sounds great. Fun with friends.
Cons: Lack of solo play. Multiplayer can be hard without friends. Microtransactions.