Born out of the ashes of Rainbow Six: Patriots, Rainbow Six: Siege is the first entry in the series since 2008’s Vegas 2, and the first entry in the series to feature no single player campaign. Featuring intense team-based combat, has Ubisoft Montreal managed to resurrect Rainbow Six in an explosive action, or does it crumble under its own weight?
In a series praised for its realistic, unforgiving approach to combat, it’s immediately evident that Ubisoft has taken care to preserve the dread surrounding combat, while still introducing fantastic new mechanics alongside it. The end result is a fresh take on the multiplayer shooter, similar in regards to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, though it’s hard to say whether or not the game can last as long as Ubisoft hopes it will.
In place of a single player campaign, it’s refreshing to see that Ubisoft has put considerable work into the multiplayer aspect. Players are split up into two teams of five, one attacking, and one defending. The objectives and maps may change, but players always select an “operator” from a pool of defenders and attackers, each with their own special ability and unique weapons. These operators come from a variety of anti-terrorism task forces around the world, from the German GSG-9 to the French GIGN, all toting appropriate weapons in-game.
Each task force has two defenders and two attackers, with some of the special abilities being a cluster bomb deployable, a device that can see electronics through walls, bulletproof barricades, or electronic jamming devices. Certain operators directly counter others, but none feel over or underpowered, save for a few outliers.
The game features twelve maps, each featuring a number of rooms that the round may take place in. Whether the defending team must protect a pair of bombs, a hostage, or a biohazard container, the variety of locations ensures that every new round presents a new challenge for both teams, and keeps matches interesting. Siege doesn’t hesitate to be stingy with information either. The attacking team starts off each round in small dual-wheeled drones, zipping around the map, attempting to locate the objective, and scout out any defenses being placed. These drones can be destroyed, so if the other team is proactive, they can eliminate any eyes before they are sure of an objective’s location.
On the flip side, the defending team usually sticks close to their objective, but they can take control of stationary fisheye cameras, which can be knocked out by attackers. In either case, players can spot opposing team members, revealing which operator it is and their position at that moment, but not for long. With the information on both teams limited by design, communication and a good pair of eyes and ears are necessary.
Regardless, every round boils down to agonizing minutes of silence punctuated by tense gunfire. The defending team knows their opponents are going to come bursting through the walls, doors and windows before long, but there’s no guarantee on where. Ubisoft intentionally made it impossible to fortify every wall and barricade everything, and the result is sacrifices and mistakes that will hopefully build into a learning experience in every round.
Terrorist Hunt, the co-operative mode separate from player versus player rounds, also makes an appearance. Teams can be assigned to defense or offense, much like the PvP, and the objectives are functionally similar to the competitive game modes, though now you’re facing off against two dozen AI combatants. There are three difficulty settings, Normal, Hard and Realistic, though generally matches on Realistic end in a player loss, as the AI are too smart and outnumber you by too much to make the rounds winnable. Regardless, it’s a good way to learn the maps and practice the game mechanics.
Speaking of walls and windows, much talk has been made of the destructible everything system, and it’s as good, if not better than was reported earlier. Grenades and breaching charges shower plaster and shrapnel across the room; bullet slowly chip away at walls, giving players vantage points; and the end of every round leaves one team bruised and bleeding, covered in dust. Every round is a struggle for survival, and victory almost never comes easily.
Surprisingly, the game also runs exceedingly well for being an Ubisoft game. Much hullabaloo has been (rightly) made about the shoddy quality of their games on PC as of late, but even with a three-year-old GPU, I was able to sustain 70 FPS across all maps, with almost all of the settings being at max. Clearly, the Montreal team has put in a considerable amount of work to ensure that the game runs and looks great, and it definitely shows.
Some may take offense to the system in place for operators, and weapon customization. Following every match, win or lose, players earn “Renown,” which is used to buy weapon attachments, cosmetic skins, or unlock new operators. I’ve been earning about 150 Renown for a loss, and 350+ for a win, which is enough to unlock a new operator every few matches or so. You can also, if you like, buy boosters to increase your Renown gain, and certain skins can only be acquired using a currency bought with real money, but these are optional, nonetheless.
Ubisoft has also taken an interesting route with their Season Pass, by making it free to all players. Sure, players are given the option to purchase the pass, which nets you a pack of weapon skins, a permanent Renown booster, and one week early access to the actual content of the season pass itself, which is eight new operators and four new maps. Clearly Ubisoft is banking on the other microtransactions to support the development of the Season Pass, but not having to purchase more content after release is a nice change.
That being said, the fact that microtransactions are in a full-priced game at all does represent a worrying trend. Ubisoft is no stranger to including microtransactions in their full releases, as they appeared in previous Assassin’s Creed titles, but on a game lacking much in the way of offline content, and with rumors that microtransactions will be appearing in one form or another in The Division, Ubisoft seems to show no sign of pulling back from such in-game purchases.
Unfortunately for Ubisoft however, they are still struggling with intermittent server issues, even after a few beta periods and some time after release. Curiously, players cannot do solo missions of Terrorist Hunt if the Siege servers are down, and I can only hope that this will be fixed in the future.
The game is also lacking on content for the 60 USD price tag, especially since previous entries had a single player campaign. It’s clear that there was some sort of story mode planned, as there’s an intro video, and a clear enemy for the training missions, but somewhere in development, it appears to have been scrapped. At the very least, Siege is going to be supplanted by its Season Pass, and I’m even further grateful that it’s been made free to all.
Hopefully Ubisoft Montreal is able to iron out these networking issues in the future, because they’ve built such a fantastic and surprisingly fun foundation for themselves. It’s impossible to tell whether or not this game will survive in the coming months, but regardless the experiences stand head and shoulders above any other shooter released lately, and Ubisoft Montreal should be commended for its work on reviving the series in a way no other shooter is doing today.
A Frenzied Battlefield: Combat is intense and satisfying.
Tumbling Down: Destruction is realistic and tactical.
Evolutionary Warfare: Unique and frenzied gameplay.
A Spray of Color: Community is torn about the “cartoonish” blood and player models.
Are You There?: Terrorist Hunt cannot be played offline, but servers are stable otherwise.
Game Within a Game: Microtransactions exist, but optional.
Rainbow Six Siege is a bit of an oddity, coming from Ubisoft. This isn’t an open-world action game with crafting, acid-induced dreams and tower-climbing. No, Siege is a multiplayer-only, hardcore first person shooter that focuses on five-on-five tactical combat comparable with the likes of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. It does have a cooperative “Terrorist Hunt” mode, but this serves as little more than an extended tutorial. The real meat and potatoes of the game is found in the multiplayer. But if we have Counter-Strike, what’s the point with this then? A cheap knock-off that you have to pay $60 for? Luckily, Siege has a lot more to offer than just that. A typical round of Siege plays out a little differently from a round in CS. There’s a preparation phase first, where the defenders get to set up barricades and reinforce their positions, set out booby-traps and get ready for the incoming assault. The attackers spend this phase driving around their remotely controlled drones, trying to find their objective and spotting for defensive players’ positions. Once the preparation phase is over, the actual game begins, and attackers storm the location from all sides; rappelling up walls, smashing in windows and so on. One big thing that separates the two games, is Siege’s destructible environments. Windows and door barricades can obviously be torn down, but attackers are also provided the tools to breach through dry walls and floor hatches. Not everything can be destroyed, and there’s usually a pretty strong sense of balance in every map. If you come across a wooden wall, you should be able to blow a nice hole in it with a breaching charge. If it’s steel or concrete, you’re probably better off finding an alternative route. It’s not only a helpful asset to the attackers though; the defenders too can poke holes in these walls to ambush unsuspecting invaders. The game currently sports eleven maps with the most recent (free) DLC, and three more are set to release later this year. But even if you play these maps over and over for dozens of hours, the intricate design of the maps and the high destructibility means that you’ll rarely see two matches played out exactly the same way.
The final major distinguishing aspect of Siege is the fact that it has player classes; Operators. There’s a decent chunk of different operators to choose from for both the attackers and defenders, and they all come with different weapons, armor and speed ratings, and most important of all; their unique gadgets. For example, the defenders can all get two reinforcement-kits to place on weak walls of their choosing, the only way to breach these is to use the attackers’ Thermite operator, who has an exothermic charge capable of breaching through these. To counter this, the defenders have two operators who can set up modified car batteries and signal jammers. But this in turn can be countered by one of the attackers’’ EMP grenade. Finding the best combination of operators to bring on the mission is up to you and your squad mates.
When it works, Siege is fantastic fun. I’ve logged 60 hours of the competitive multiplayer so far, and I have no intention of stopping yet. It’s my go-to multiplayer shooter right now. But the problem is that Siege so often does not work. At launch, the game was a bit of a disaster, and though many of the biggest issues – like server instability, client crashes and various game breaking bugs – have been patched up by now, a lot of problems remain to ruin your day. Things like the at times unbearable delay between client and server, causing some players to be able to spot others and kill them long before the victim even gets a glimpse at his assailant. Ranked matches are also haunted by rage quitters, as a result of the game’s lack of severe punishment for doing leaving mid-match. If you do quit a match early, you’ll get an 8-minute ban from playing ranked matches – you can take a toilet break, come back and you’re ready to go again. The four remaining players are left to fend for themselves against a team that has a one man advantage and probably a whole lot better morale too. It’s not very fun. And it was only recently that a Report-function was added, so players could let Ubisoft know of fishy-looking players that you suspect might be cheating. And there is a good bit of cheating, too. But it needs to be mentioned that Ubisoft are patching the game regularly, always with a bunch of solid fixes that improve the game significantly every time. But if they intend to compete with the likes of Counter-Strike: GO, then they still have a long way to go.