The Tom Clancy franchise has been around for decades and even though the man behind the name has long since passed on, his legacy lives still in all the video games and movies released under his brand. The recent film, Jack Ryan, was a bit of a bust, but his games have always been known for quality and that continues to this day.
Another thing they have been known for, something the games take from his many written works, is their unforgiving realism. From the very beginning of the Rainbow Six series, death has come swiftly to those used to the standard run and gun shooters. Getting shot even once drops your health half way. If it’s in the head, one shot is all it takes and you’re down for the count. Life is precious, and every moment you spend playing the game will have you on the edge of your seat with the sound up, tip toeing through any of the 11 maps listening and watching for any sign of the enemy. Your heart will beat fast, your breathing will stop. You’ll whisper to the people in the party where you think the enemy might be hiding. With a variety of ways to tackle each map and destructable environments that make every game feel unique, on top of everything already talked about above, Rainbow Six Siege feels like it might have been the best competitive shooter released in a year with Call of Duty, Halo, and Battlefront.
The first thing you should understand is that Rainbow Six Siege is a multiplayer shooter. That’s not so much in the Call of Duty vein of doing a bit of everything. Rainbow Six Siege is closer to a smaller more personal Battlefield or, as other reviews have pointed out, Counter Strike. That is to say that there is no real campaign to speak of. What there are, is a list of eleven single player Situations that they suggest you complete to prepare you for the mechanics of multiplayer. And they do their job fairly well, but don’t expect an in depth narrative. Also it was disappointing they weren’t playable in splitscreen ALA Battlefront. The situations also introduce you to each of the eleven maps, with more promised for free. Beware that the Season Pass grants you no exclusive maps, and only really gets you immediate access to potential future operatives that they might release, operatives that will have to be unlocked the normal way for everyone else. Giving all the maps for free was Ubisoft’s way of not splintering the multiplayer community.
If you buy into this game you’ll be spending a majority of your time playing the game’s two main game modes (Terrorist Hunt and Multiplayer) to earn credits you can use to unlock more of the twenty different operatives. Each operative is a unique class you can pick from to play as each round and only one of each operator is allowed at a time so it’s nice to have a number to choose from. You can also buy upgrades like the usual sights and lasers for your guns, and it’s all enough to keep your attention for sometime. It’s not until you’ve unlocked half the operatives and begin searching for more depth in this game that it opens up rank play, which adds admittedly little to what is already a winning formula.
Multiplayer starts with the Defenders given thirty seconds to scramble around the map reinforcing walls and building barricades. They usually have a hostage to defend, or a bomb the Attackers will want to disarm. While they’re doing that, the Attackers pilot little remote controlled drones in search of the objective, making note of enemy locations and defenses. Once the shooting starts the game becomes a tense round of hide and seek. The maps are dense with places to hide, and every step or weapon switch can be picked up by an attentive player. If you’re hiding below the enemy you can sometimes even see the dust from the footfalls on the rafters above you.
And you can shoot through that roof at him taking him by surprise. Or through the walls. Almost all the environments are destructible, and that’s not just where it tells you you can blow stuff up. You can set C4 that explodes windows, or blasts a hole in the floor. And it’s not just C4. You can melee these same obstacles and watch as the wood splinters realistically. Make just a little sight for yourself you can watch out of. Headshot the enemy when he’ll never see it coming. No one will accuse you of camping in this game. On defense it’s the name of the game. On offense it will get you nowhere.
This is a game meant to test your nerves. In that way this game is very much unlike any other shooter. Running and gunning is almost strictly forbidden. You’ll be on the edge of your seat the whole time or you aren’t playing right and you’re likely to die. Once that happens your stuck watching the cameras and calling out enemy locations for your living buddies. If the stress of multiplayer gets too much for you, you can always slow things down with a fun round of terrorist hunt. Don’t expect the AI to go easy on you though, on the harder difficulties you’re still likely to jump at the first sound of a bomber, the charging brutes bringing death as swiftly as you’ll find in pvp.
A lot of this game feels exceptional, but the same cannot necessarily be said for the visuals. While the game doesn’t look strikingly bad, it does pale in comparison to the recently reviewed Witcher 3 and Star Wars Battlefront. You have to look really closely to find bad textures, but that doesn’t stop the whole game from looking bland. Also it’s interesting to point out that most other games this generation have large living environments with moving parts and people; the maps here all feel a little empty, just a kill box filled with things to kill.
That said, I know I’m being too critical. In many ways the graphics do their best to support the game without distracting from what’s important. It’s fairly easy to spot traps, and peering through a hole in the wall to shoot someone in another room works surprisingly well. Also the animation of the destruction is very top notch, and it’s understandable that all that destruction would be taxing on the resources, taxing enough perhaps to forgive the game’s lack of high fidelity. All that said, there’s nothing about this game that looks like it couldn’t have been pulled off on the last generation.
The audio was exceptional in Star Wars Battlefront, and saying that it’s better here would be a point potentially contestable. What can be said with little doubt is that the audio in this game is infinitely more important, and more integral to the gameplay experience than Battlefront or any other shooter on the market. This comes from the intensity of the combat, and the hide and seek nature of the game. You’ll want to turn up your surround sound system, and you’ll sit there perfectly still, careful not to make any exaggerated movement that might tip other players off. Listening to the rustle outside that window and knowing to duck down just in the nick of time. The audio is so important to the game that there is absolutely no music during a match. Nothing to distract you from your surrounding soundscape, even on terrorist hunt you’ll want to pay attention to every slight breathing or beeping as a warning that something explosive is near by. The directional soundscape is so good, that you can literally aim your shot through a wall with your eyes closed using just the audio. And maybe a bit of the Force.
For only launching with eleven multiplayer maps Rainbow Six Siege does a great job of keeping your attention for a long time. In the beginning you’ll play to learn the mechanics. Once that’s done you’ll likely start probing the online modes, teaming up with people for terrorist hunt, and once your comfortable enough even take it online. By the time you’ve earned enough credits to unlock all the operators you want, you’ll start to feel you’ve peaked with the game. By that point it feels like you’ve had your value and maybe, like Battlefront, it’s time to move on. But it’s then that the game unlocks its ranked multiplayer playlist. The rank seems meaningless and there’s not much to encourage you to improve it, but the increased challenge at that point in the game is likely welcome. The ranked playlist is just a little more competitive, with players using more advanced tactics. The winning conditions ensures that hard fought battles can go on for a while, and it’s integral at this point that you use a headset to communicate with your teammates. Meeting people online and working as a team is paramount to success in nearly every mode of play.
It’s certainly possible to play this game early on without talking to anyone, but you wont get any enjoyment out of the game unless you interact with your teammates. It helps that there is a great community waiting to be found online, where many people I met were friendly and enthusiastic to be helpful. This is nothing like the Call of Duty community, instead a more sophisticated grown up thing. I only met one kid the entire time and he was uncharacteristically respectful.
Even if you’re terrible at the game, it’s not hard to have fun. Your teammates will be quick to forgive someone who isn’t skilled as long as they are friendly through the mic. Someone who talks is exponentially more welcome than someone who can get all the kills. It’s a game that will encourage you to play smarter and play better, and take what you learn to other shooters. It’ll make you a better player, and it is for these reasons as well as all the reasons listed above that Rainbow Six Siege is a serious contender for best competitive multiplayer shooter of the year.