In many ways, Rainbow Six Siege feels like the smallest AAA game you can buy right now. Of course, this shouldn’t be taken as a slur but rather as an indicator that the game is laser focused in its vocation; eschewing the broader, more global terrorism scenarios that previous games have so readily embraced in favour of something much more streamlined and concentrated. Put simply, if you’re looking for Rainbow Six Siege to simply be the next Rainbow Six Vegas, you’re going to be disappointed.
From the get-go, Rainbow Six Siege makes it pretty clear that it wants you to spend the bulk of your time in multiplayer. Indeed, the scant single-player offering largely serves as a setup for the online multiplayer shenanigans that will invariably follow. Take the Situations mode for example – in the absence of a proper narratively driven single-player campaign, we instead get isolated missions whose sole purpose is to tutor the player in the nuances of the game itself, rather than providing anything else truly substantial. Relatedly, actress Angela Bassett (she of American Horror Story fame, among other things) also crops up in this mode but largely her star power is wasted as she’s shoehorned into a thankless narrator role that could have been filled by just about anyone else.
For lone wolves, the only other single-player mode that Siege has is the returning Terrorist Hunt, where players are tasked with, you guessed it, hunting down and eliminating a set number of terrorists on a given level. While it’s a nice game mode to have – the thrill of stalking about and knocking off bad guys is one that doesn’t dull quickly, it simply won’t be enough for players who are looking for a long-term single-player fix.
Elsewhere, a premium currency called R6 Credits exists within the game and can be purchased with real-life money; though thankfully it can only be used to purchase purely cosmetic upgrades and doesn’t affect the gameplay in any capacity. This is good. In addition to R6 Credits, Siege also boasts an in-game currency called Renown which comes into play early and often.
Ah yes, Renown. You see, Renown is the in-game currency that Siege uses to enable players to purchase operators and weapon skins and can be accrued by doing just about anything in the game. From doing undertaking Situations and completing bonus objectives within them to taking part in multiplayer matches and even spectating, there is no shortage of ways to build up a nice amount of Renown. Indeed, it’s entirely possible to unlock Operators and weapon skins at a rate of one or more every hour or so later in the game, so grinding isn’t quite the chore that you might imagine it to be.
Speaking of the Operators, these individuals form the backbone of Rainbow Six Siege’s attack and defender dynamic. Taken from a number of real-life counter-terrorism outfits such as the FBI, GIGN and SAS, these folks possess a number of unique weapons and specialisms which make them excel within their role. Smoke, for example, as per his name, has remotely triggerable lethal gas canisters which can, if used correctly, murder an entire room of hostiles, while Ash possesses a grenade launcher attachment which allows her to punch through all but the most sturdy of barriers.
As has already been alluded to, Rainbow Six Siege embraces an asymmetrical structure of attackers and defenders entering into conflict, with the game assigning five players to each side wherever the numbers make it possible to do so. Before each match, players must pick from the Operators that they have unlocked in order to plan the mission at hand. As such, players can widely strategise a number of different approaches depending on the Operators that have compose their team.
One little wrinkle that’s worth noting here is that each Operator which is chosen by a player cannot be picked by another, admirably forcing folks down unfamiliar avenues with Operators that they don’t typically use and thus broadens their experience of the game. A worst case scenario where all the Operators have been scooped up by other players is also assauged, since a generic ‘Recruit Operator’ is perpetually available and can use all the other gear that the main roster can but lacks the specialisations; thus ensuring that they can actually fit into any strategy quite neatly as a direct result.
Once into the game proper, whether you’re attacking or defending, attempting to liberate hostages or defuse a bomb, Rainbow Six Siege proves to be immensely difficult to the point of frustration early on. Hopping online and getting stuck into casual matches with other players (ranked matches are unlocked when you hit level 20), soon reveals the depths of your incompetence, as your Call of Duty/Battlefield honed twitch-reflexes betray you time and time again to a quick death.
Didn’t check a corner? You could be shot in the head. Didn’t realise that the wall in front of you could be penetrated by a certain caliber of round? You could be shot in the head. Using a climbing hook to ascend a building exterior but you didn’t spot the hole in the window? You could be shot in the head. Simply put, Rainbow Six Siege demands that you take your time with every movement, shot fired and action taken. There hasn’t been a tactical shooter that makes you consider, question your actions and reign in emotion quite like this in sometime and it’s all the more great for being as unforgivingly raw as it is. With that in mind however, it’s easy to see why Siege’s brutal mechanics, where failure can be dictated by such narrow margins, could put off folks who are used to more forgiving and accessible shooters.
Ubisoft have also succeeded in making both attacker and defender roles feel blissfully entertaining to play too. Attackers typically have to find routes into the building, overcoming the traps and defenses of the defenders in the process, while the latter must erect barricades, lay barbed wire and guard choke points in order to mount a successful defense to ward off the encroaching invaders. Regardless of which side you’re on, the creative latitude for tactical play is wonderfully substantial and it’s this which provides the crux of Siege’s gargantuan longevity.
Elsewhere, the maps themselves have been fashioned with maximum regard for allowing a variety of different approaches too. From destructible walls and floors through to tight nooks and crannies that can be leveraged for deft defensive and offensive play, the default of maps that the game ships with prove to be easily up to the task of enabling Rainbow Six Siege’s brilliantly conceived emergent tactical shooter stories.
There are a number of other nice touches in play too. Sound for example, is just as much a weapon as the guns and grenades are, with boots treading on shards of broken glass and the rush of dashing bodies on the floors above and beneath you all proving to be useful indicators as to the location of your enemies. Furthermore, your character feels magnificently weighty too; the heft of all that protective clothing and gear audible marking your traversal across the game’s maps in the sort of satisfying fashion that it really makes you feel like you’re controlling a proper flesh and blood character, rather than a disembodied avatar.
The next in the long line of multiplayer-focused shooters, trailblazed by the likes of Titanfall and Evolve, Rainbow Six Siege is a cracking multiplayer blaster that requires considerable dedication and patience to unlock its most heady thrills. Make no mistake though, this is a shooter with legs for years and if you’ve got the stomach for its punishingly unforgiving nature and can look past the sheer Ubisoftery of it all, you’ll find yourself hopelessly immersed in one of the best tactical shooters of recent years.
A digital copy of the game for PS4 was kindly supplied by Ubisoft for the purposes of this review.
You can purchase Rainbow Six Siege here.