When a beta launches for a game, I try not to let the initial quality of the beta influence my overall or final impressions of the game in question. After all, a beta exists so a developer can examine and gather feedback about how their game works when it’s out in the wild being played by thousands. Developers even stress that the beta is not indicative of the final product, and that it should be assumed that any issues that do rear their ugly head will be squashed prior to launch. As much as I try to keep all of this in perspective, it was difficult not to be alarmed like I was when Rainbow Six: Siege entered a second beta (the first one a few months earlier was unimpressive) less than a week before its official launch, and there were still connectivity issues plaguing the game. Well, now that I’ve finally gotten my hands on the final product and spent some meaningful time with the next entry in the beloved Rainbow Six franchise, I can officially confirm that, despite a plethora of technical issues, Ubisoft Montreal has crafted a taut, tactical shooter.
We Have A Dangerous Situation Here
Immediately upon firing up Rainbow Six: Siege, you’re greeted with a cut-scene — narrated by the always captivating, Academy Award-nominated actress, Angela Bassett — that introduces you to a variety of operators, the game’s de facto class system . Sadly, Bassett’s role here is reduced to that of your superior, briefing you before and after your mission, and that’s it. These missions, by the way, are called Situations, and there are 11 of them in total (the eleventh is unlocked once you complete the initial ten). These act as tutorials which introduce you to some of the game’s operators, modes, and maps, while also doubling as a campaign of sorts. While this is a disappointment considering how much I enjoyed the campaigns of Rainbow Six: Vegas 1 & 2 – more so for their tactical gameplay than their narrative prowess – this doesn’t mean that the Situations in Rainbow Six: Siege are without merit.
Situations do a great job at introducing you to the slow, tactical gameplay that the Rainbow Six franchise prides itself on; Call of Duty this is not. Instead of charging in guns blazing, it would behoove the player to take their time with each mission. Tactics such as flanking and checking corners before entering a room will keep you alive longer. Each operator (there are 20 of them altogether) has a special ability unique to them, such as the Montagne with his full body shield that is perfect for initial entry and drawing enemy fire, or the Thermite operative whose explosive thermite breach-charge is able to blast through reinforced walls. Learning how to use your operator early on will determine how well you do in Terrorist Hunt and the game’s suite of PvP modes. It’s also a great way to familiarize yourself with the shooting elements of Siege, because the guns in this game pack some serious recoil, even with a grip and compensator muzzle attached. If you’re not big on firing in controlled bursts, you’ll want to find another game, because going full-auto here is a quick way to expend all of your ammo while doing little-to-no damage to your enemy.
As a bonus, there are three challenges per Situation for you to complete, each of them worth 200 renown (the in-game currency used to unlock operators and weapon attachments), which isn’t explained very well when you first jump into the game. If you were to complete all of the challenges and Situations, you’d have just north of 6000 renown, which is enough to unlock seven or eight operators before you jump into the multiplayer modes. I highly recommend doing so, because the default “Recruit” class is all but useless in multiplayer as you don’t have any sort of special ability that is beneficial to your team. All-in-all, Situations, while relatively short, still serve an integral purpose, especially to series newcomers.
Working As One Unit To Defeat A Common Enemy
The fan-favorite cooperative mode Terrorist Hunt returns in Rainbow Six: Siege, allowing you and four others (via party or matchmaking) to carry out one of several different modes against a plethora of AI controlled terrorists. While Classic Terrorist Hunt is the traditional sweep-and-clear mode which requires you to simply eliminate 20+ terrorists, it’s the other modes — Bomb and Hostage — that I found to be a little more entertaining as they add another layer of strategy to the proceedings. In Bomb, players are tasked with locating two explosive devices hidden around the map and diffusing them. Because these maps are multi-level with multiple rooms, I highly recommend sending in drones to get the lay of the land beforehand. There’s nothing worse than a team of five wandering aimlessly all over the place looking for two explosives, especially on the larger maps. Hostage is self-explanatory; you locate a hostage and get them to the extraction zone alive. Like any cooperative experience, your level of enjoyment with Terrorst Hunt (and PvP for that matter) will depend greatly on whether or not friends – or other online players – use mics to communicate. I still can’t figure out for the life of me why people buy these tactical shooters and refuse to use a mic to communicate; don’t they know it’s a much more enjoyable experience when you work together as a unit? Anyways, that’s a whole other article altogether.
I enjoyed Terrorist Hunt because it allows you to get that much more prepared for the competitive multiplayer battles that await you. Learning which operators are best suited in certain scenarios allows your squad to better plan out an effective attack strategy. When played on “Realistic” difficulty, Terrorist Hunt provides players with the ultimate challenge as the enemy AI is relentless and the terrorists are the exact opposite of Stormtroopers when it comes to weapon efficiency. If you make a mistake on Realistic, you and your whole team are dead in the water. If there’s one issue that irritates the hell out of me in Terroist Hunt — and it was the same issue I had with the mode back in the Vegas installments — it’s the enemy spawning system. For example, some friends and I were playing Classic Terrorist Hunt on the map “House.” During our first attempt, after we breached the garage door entrance, multiple enemies flanked us outside by busting through the front and back doors, and we were eliminated quickly. So, in an effort to neutralize the more aggressive AI characters, we all split-up to cover every entrance as we once again blew the garage door. Once we blew that door, and after a small firefight that broke out near the garage, nobody exited the house from the other entrances. Instead, enemies began spawning outside behind us and once again we were overwhelmed. This felt cheap and was frustrating because we had a pretty good plan in place to keep the enemy locked in. Hopefully, this is something that can be addressed in a future update because, other than that, Terrorist Hunt is a very fun cooperative experience. It’s also worth noting that it appeared that the framerate wasn’t the same silky-smooth 60 frames per second that exists in the multiplayer. I’m not sure why, but fortunately it didn’t impact the gameplay whatsoever.
Who Did Your Networking, Slant Six?
There are some really perplexing design decisions when it comes to Rainbow Six: Siege’s PvP setup. The party system is so poorly executed that I wondered if they redid the damn thing during the 48 hours between the last beta and launch. You can’t join a friend’s party in-game, you have to jump out to the PSN friends list and join them from there. And if you’re the host and you back out of a game, it doesn’t bring your party with you. You have to go through the whole process of inviting everyone back each time you back out. Granted, I don’t EVER want a Rainbow Six game to play anything like Call of Duty, but I’d have no issue if they decided to copy-and-paste the simplicity of Call of Duty’s party system. This is something that needs to be updated at some point because it’s currently a mess. There were also a few games where I was kicked out, sat on an endless loading screen, or simply couldn’t join a match. I understand there’s going to be issues when a game launches, but dammit Ubisoft Montreal, you had TWO Betas, how are these issues not ironed out yet? They didn’t happen often enough to make me regret buying the game, but I encountered them enough to where it became extremely frustrating.
I know what you’re thinking, “Geez, this sounds bad! He’s going to trash the PvP component of an online-only game!” The issues above are so upsetting because when I am in a game playing with friends, Rainbow Six: Siege delivers a tactical experience that has been long overdue on next-gen consoles. When you’re in a match, knowing there is no heath-regen and you only have one life, the stakes are increased dramatically, and it creates a tension that few shooters are capable of delivering. The maps featured in Rainbow Six: Siege feature some of the best map designs I’ve ever seen in a game, even if the visuals as a whole are sub-par by next-gen standards. There are several entry points on any given map, from the sewers below to repelling down from the top of a building and crashing through a second story window just after breaching it. The thrill of clearing out a room, not knowing what lurks just around the corner, is bolstered by awesome sound design that will keep you on your toes. Low-bass explosions by breach devices in the distance alert you that the enemy has entered and it’s time to buckle down. Hearing an enemy defender shuffling beneath you in the belly of a plane as you make your way through the cabin can give you an idea of their location. Toss in the fact that there is no in-game music, just ambient sound, and you’re left with a heart-pounding experience that any tactical shooter fan will thrive on.
All of the operators are unique in their own way, and none of them feel overpowered, even though I’m still trying to figure out ways to make use the less-popular ones. Only one of each operator can be chosen for each side, so it’s best to go in with at least three or four operators unlocked so that you aren’t stuck with the useless Recruit class. It’s sort of like musical chairs when it comes time to choose your operator, so make sure you’re paying attention when the screen prompts you to do so. There are a lot of things I dislike about Rainbow Six: Siege’s PvP party system and spotty-networking, but all of that is almost (I say ALMOST) forgotten once you’re in a game with friends because it’s one of the most intense games of cat-and-mouse you’ll experience this year. I adore tactical shooters, and I’m excited to see how this game evolves (and improves) as a platform over the next year.
Get On My Six And Let’s Roll
I don’t know if it was the horrible matchmaking issues, playing with people without mics, or the ugly technical bugs that kept me from enjoying Rainbow Six: Siege during its beta phase. Though some of these issues may never be fixed (stop playing these games if you don’t use a mic, damnit!), the tactical gameplay and white-knuckle battles that ensue help Rainbow Six: Siege soar. Not having a proper campaign is a disappointment, not only because the Vegas games were so fun, but because Rainbow Six: Patriots sounded extremely promising when it was announced several years ago. Thankfully, Situations are still beneficial in their own way and are worth playing through. The biggest obstacle that Rainbow Six: Siege will need to get around is itself. Can it win gamers over despite its underwhelming betas and yet-to-be resolved technical issues? Can it provide enough content to keep its community engaged and addicted over the weeks and months ahead? When played correctly and with friends, this game provides an online experience only Rainbow Six: Siege can offer. If Ubisoft Montreal is able to address the lingering matchmaking issues, improve the party system functionality, and keep delivering expertly designed maps and objective-focused game modes in the future, Rainbow Six: Siege could be just the game tactical purists keep coming back to over and over again.
- Immersive audio
- Great variety of maps
- Terrorist hunt mode
- Taut, tactical gameplay
- Technical and network issues
- Weak visuals
- No proper campaign