Tom Clancy. It’s a name that is synonymous with spies, espionage, political thrillers, and tactical-focused video games. It’s also a name that is tied to Ubisoft, and is often branding their stable of tactical first and third-person shooters. These games aren’t about running and gunning. They aren’t about kill/death ratios (KDR). They are about close-quarters combat, objective-based missions, and tactics. Franchises like Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon are the chess version of online shooters; trying to stay one step of ahead of the enemy and figure out how they will counter your team’s next three moves is everything. The Call of Duty and Battlefield games of the world will always lead the way in sales thanks to their accessibility, but Tom Clancy games are the thinking-man’s shooters, and it’s time Ubisoft starts holding these games to the same high standard that their respective communities do.
My online gaming career was spawned from SOCOM 2, and I’ve always found the Tom Clancy games, especially the Rainbow Six titles, to be a very reliable alternative to that style of game. There’s just something special about communicating with your squad – whether it be friends or strangers online –and working as one to defeat another group of equally motivated players. I’ve accepted that Call of Duty birthed the most annoying type of online-player: the “lone-wolf.” He or she is going to do their own thing — however they want — and all they care about is their KDR. I don’t have a problem with Call of Duty, either; I buy it every year for the campaign and for the dumb fun online with friends. But that’s just it, it’s “dumb fun,” and for a lot of people that’s all they really have time for in their busy lives. However, there is a sizable group of gamers that don’t mind taking their gaming a little more serious, and that enjoy raising the stakes by accepting settings like no health-regen, no mini-map, and no respawn. It may not be the most appealing, and I’m fine with that. There’s nothing worse than playing a tactical game with that one person (or a whole squad) who neglects to use a mic and tries to implement their Call of Duty style of play in a strategic setting. There’s no place for it, and it will ruin the experience for others — and likely themselves as well — to be honest. I’ve heard it many times before, one of these John Rambos die and the first thing they say is, “This game sucks, I’m going back to Black Ops 3!” And to that I say, “Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out! Good riddance!”
Now, back to Ubisoft. To say the Rainbow Six franchise has experienced some turbulence over the past few years would be a massive understatement. Rainbow Six: Patriots was originally announced way back in November of 2011, and it was supposed to usher the series into “an exciting new narrative direction” according to then-Ubisoft Creative Director David Sears (who was responsible for SOCOM 2 of all games). It sounded promising, as it was supposed to include “innovative” co-op and multiplayer components. I don’t know about you, but just the thought of a David Sears-led Rainbow Six game had me excited beyond words. It was due to arrive on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and I assume PC was in the mix as well. However, because next-gen hardware was right around the corner, Ubisoft decided they wanted a next-gen experience. Only then could they use their new destruction technology, which as we know is a very strategic part of Rainbow Six: Siege. Sometime after that decision, David Sears left the project and Patriots seemed all but lost. Jump ahead three years, Ubisoft announces Rainbow Six: Siege at E3 2014 and the rest is history.
I understand that this probably hampered the development of Rainbow Six: Siege, and that’s unfortunate. I don’t have a clue as to what transpires behind the scenes when it comes to developing a game, but I have to believe Ubisoft Montreal must’ve been under a great deal of pressure to get the game out after years and years of working on it. We had a delay from October to December, as well as two betas, one of which took place less than a week before launch which was strange to me. How much can you really fix in the final 48 hours before launch? Well, after spending over 30 hours with Siege, I can confidently say that they weren’t able squash all the bugs. This is where I have a problem with Ubisoft — a publisher I actually admire quite a bit and have supported and enjoyed many of their games — because they’ve once again managed to release a game that is plagued with technical issues, this time on the networking side of things, though a few have been improved since a recent update. Assassin’s Creed is arguably their biggest tent-pole franchise, and even that didn’t get the TLC it deserved when Unity launched last year. It was a bug-ridden mess that was heavily criticized at launch. The reason the networking situation with Rainbow Six: Siege irritates me even more than the Unity conundrum (remember, I’m being biased here) is because I really, really want games like Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon to do well and re-introduce the concept and importance of team-play this console generation. Leading the way in kills in a round of Team Deathmatch in Call of Duty is thrilling, but for me, winning as a team and the celebration over the mics that ensues will always be a bigger high. I know there are others that feel that way too, and games like Siege offer that those moments of jubilation better than most.
Come here, Ubisoft. Sit down. We need to have a talk. It’s hard as hell to recommend a game like Siege to my friends or other gamers — especially if they are like myself and have a job, kids, school, or all of the above — when it’s in the condition that it’s in currently. They don’t have time to sit in a lobby for five minutes waiting for the game to launch, before then needing to back out and try another search. They don’t want to have to go through a cumbersome party process involving trying to join a friend’s game from the PS4 friends list as opposed to using a simple “join friend” option in-game. There isn’t one good feature or quality about the party system you currently have in place, and that’s absurd. This is an online-only game, and this is the only aspect you had to worry about. How can this be the final design? How can your matchmaking systems be so inconsistent after two betas and a two-month delay? I should be able to partner up with my party in-game, select a game mode, and be launched into a game. How can your servers not handle this game at launch? With all of the bugs and issues that people experienced in both of the game’s pre-launch betas, we all know your servers aren’t overloaded, so please spare us with the “We didn’t anticipate this many people online at launch” line, because that won’t fly here. This isn’t your first rodeo when it comes to online multiplayer. You’re not completely new to this. You’re one of the biggest publishers in the world with a stable of talented developers.
Tom Clancy is a respected name in multiple entertainment mediums, and that’s just part of the reason I’m so damn annoyed with you. The main thing that pisses me off? When I am able to get into a game, with my friends or others that use mics, and nobody gets booted…this is the best multiplayer experience this gen in my opinion. Yes, I said it (again, I’m biased towards tactical shooters), and I’ll stand by it. I don’t care if people want to argue that point — I welcome it actually — because I’ve talked to many people while playing Siege and MOST of them agree that when it’s working, it’s the best tactical shooter on console right now, and those are the people that get the whole idea behind working as a team. Just because strategic franchises like Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon may not have the same cache as the Call of Duty and Battlefields of the world, doesn’t mean they don’t have the potential to do well financially and critically. When your average shooter fan hears someone say “hardcore” (a trendy word that makes a gamer feel bad-ass) and “online works great” (to justify the $60 pricetag), they will more than likely dabble in your game at some point. If they hear your online-only game’s “beta was a dumpster fire,” they won’t even consider your game if it sits in a $9.99 bargain bin.
I don’t want anyone to think I’m trying to make enemies with Ubisoft here, because I’m not. I love Ubisoft. I love that they are proud to publish games with the Tom Clancy name on it. I love their Assassin’s Creed and Rayman franchises as well. I’m just trying to get through to whoever gives a damn about these franchises, and tell them that they can do better than this. They HAVE to do better than this. They are sitting on a gold mine here. There are a ton of gamers out there that LOVE tactical shooters. Rainbow Six: Siege has the potential to rejuvenate a genre of games and offer an experience that can’t be found anywhere else. Ghost Recon: Wildlands has a ton of potential (Ghost Recon: Future Solider was really good too, in my opinion), and I look forward to its eventual release, but Siege is the one right now that I want to do so well. Underneath the technical issues, there is a very engaging experience that deserves a better reputation than it has right now, and that’s what pisses me of the most. It’s time to take these franchises to the next level, Ubisoft. It’s time to deliver the product that tactical shooter fans want, need, and deserve.