When talking about either singleplayer or multiplayer, the mainstream side of the FPS genre has been in the unimaginative dumpster for quite a while. Stuck in the modern warfare era, forced to circle around the same unlocks and following the same game mechanics every one or two years. If a shooter could properly change at least one of these things for the better, it would bring the hope of salvation from this looping feeling and this is where Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege jumps in.
For the hardcore fans the Rainbow Six franchise is probably dead. With the release of Vegas, the gameplay got streamlined and riddled with arcade elements to accommodate it for a wider audience, many of the tactical elements that made the first Rainbow Six unique weren’t there anymore. The financial success of Vegas 1 & 2 was going to set the series even further away from its roots with Patriots. Rainbow Six Patriots was announced in 2011 and the one gameplay trailer that we got to see before it got cancelled three years later featured similar gameplay elements as Vegas, but with the dramatic storytelling of the latest Call of Duty games.
The tragic passing of Tom Clancy didn’t bring an end to the commercial use of his name by Ubisoft and in 2015, seven years after the last game in the series, Rainbow Six Siege was released.
Usually, I start the reviews by talking about the story, but there isn’t any story in Rainbow Six Siege or a singleplayer campaign of any kind. This gets a lot of people upset, especially when I’m talking about a game that launched with a price tag of $60. But I’ve always thought that a good online game doesn’t have to justify its price through some explosive hollywoodian campaign which would redirect resources from more important matters. However, Rainbow Six Siege comes with some sort of a singleplayer experience in the form of Situations.
The Situations are singleplayer missions which have the purpose of familiarizing the players with the gameplay mechanics, maps and other aspects of the game, while also providing a reasoning behind the resurrection of the Rainbow Six program. This is a rather neat approach on training the players without having to spend hours on campaigns that do nothing that hasn’t been done before.
The Situations do more than just training the newcomers into the art of Siege. Based on the tasks completed, the Situations reward a considerable amount of Renown which is the in-game currency to be sunk in the not too complex but varied enough unlocks system. So, the next natural step that comes after completing the Situations is to spend these points.
|Don't skip on this...|
In an era of shooters with gating through overly developed progression systems designed to serve as a carrot on a stick incentive to play, Rainbow Six Siege does things in a more elegant fashion. The account progression is disconnected from the unlocks, allowing players to freely choose exactly what they want to unlock as long as they have the required Renown. This way the players don’t have to go through an extended grind just to reach the right equipment for them. Renown can be earned by playing any kind of game mode until the end, the reward varies based on performance and can be increased by completing daily and weekly challenges.
The unlocking starts with picking up some Operators, which are Siege’s version of heroes. There are currently twenty-six Operators available from some of the most known Counter-Terrorist Units from all over the globe, designed to fit specific roles, each equipped with a unique ability and customizable through a variety of weapons and gadgets that don’t have to be unlocked. The Operators are characters from some of the most known Counter-Terrorist Units from all over the globe, designed to fit specific roles, each equipped with a unique ability and customizable through a variety of weapons and gadgets that don’t have to be unlocked. Tied to each Operator are the weapon unlocks, which are pretty straight forward. These unlocks include sights with popular choices like ACOG or Reflex, under-barrel grips, suppressors and the customary laser. There is nothing too fancy, because these unlocks serve as tactical tools to enhance each player’s style.
The last type of unlocks are the always present skins, boosters and other vanity enhancements, courtesy of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s huge success with its cash shop. Skins and charms can decorate weapons like a Christmas tree and different headgear for the Operators can make them fancy looking. None of these unlocks have a real impact on the gameplay so it makes no difference that a good portion of them are purchasable only through real money.
While not necessary to follow this order, going through the Situations and then browsing through the unlocks kind of gets you ready for what Rainbow Six Siege is all about, the multiplayer.
|Black suits her!|
The multiplayer is divided in two distinct branches: Terrorist Hunt and Competitive Multiplayer, both similar in style, but designed for different audiences.
The Terrorist Hunt concept is borrowed from Rainbow Six Vegas and follows some of the same principles, a lone wolf or a team of up to (Rainbow) five players go against AI terrorists while trying to complete a set objective. The objectives and maps are shared throughout the entire game. The AI difficulty level is adjustable for a more challenging experience, but those adjustments just make the enemy’s aim deadlier without spicing things up by adding any changes to their actual behavior (AI development has been stagnating for years).
The main problem with Terrorist Hunt stems from the fact that is a PvE mode in a game that is clearly designed to be PvP competitive. The small enemy variety and their fixed strategies diminish the challenge and there are rarely any surprises from one match to another, leading into a repetitive state that make this mode feel shallow. It’s quite clear that Terrorist Hunt hasn’t received much attention in the development process and its existence might be just Ubisoft’s reaction to the number of complaints that Siege doesn’t include a campaign.
With all its shortcomings, Terrorist Hunt can serve as an extension of the tutorial, a good playground to test and understand the game’s mechanics and learn the maps before taking a bite of the meatier and tastier content.
Going through all the steps that lead up to this point or being hardened by other online shooters and Rainbow Six Siege PvP might still take you by surprise. The PvP multiplayer has a Casual and a Ranked mode with very few differences between the two. The Ranked mode comes with a few extra features including a ranking system and a ranking based matchmaking and the possibility to choose objective placement and spawn positions.
An online match of Siege has two teams of 5 players facing one another in an attack-defense scenario where each team has to attack or defend every other round. Each team goes through a preparation phase before each round which consists in a tactical mini-game of hide and seek that is the first decisive step in the match. In this phase, the attackers send some small but agile drones to find the objective and gather as much information about the enemies and the defensives they have in place. The defenders job is to counter these drones from scouting while building a maze of traps through gadgets and the Operator’s abilities and setting up the attackers on the wanted path by reinforcing walls, doors and windows.
This short phase slows the match speed quite a bit but it’s crucial in how each new round plays out. Information is key and the mind games, while small, can make all the difference. When the preparation phase is over, the actual round starts which is a classic 5v5 battle with the attacking team having the better firepower and the defenders the advantage of position. The victory is decided either by completing the objective or by eliminating the enemy team. It sounds a bit common, but there are some gameplay twists that make all the difference.
Looking from afar, Rainbow Six Siege doesn’t differentiate itself that much from any other close quarters combat team oriented shooter out there. But what makes this game innovative and special is the gameplay.
Siege’s gameplay is a combination of tactics, teamwork and pure skill with a dose of realism. From the get-go it’s noticeable that this is not your day to day run and gun experience full of arcade elements for fast and casual entertainment. The movement is sluggish with slower than usual animations, the shooting is losing precision exponentially with each additional second the finger lingers on the mouse button and everything that hits you is quite lethal.
The Operators play a big role in shaping the gameplay. The rock-paper-scissors balancing system between their abilities does open up a wide variety of tactical options while the abilities themselves add a few extra layers of strategic value. Scanners that can see heart beats through walls, booby traps, EMP grenades, jammers, anti-grenade devices and many more, are the slightly unrealistic abilities, yet delicious addition to the gameplay complexity. Combos are created that can provoke devastating chain reactions or require chain reactions to deal with, prompting players into thinking twice before acting. The ability is part of each Operator’s personality which ties into the full biography and the CGI presentation video, but what defines the Operators in battle is entirety of their loadout. Operators of the same CTU do share some of the same weapons, but the combination between the chosen gadget, armor capacity and movement speed, topped by the unique ability can turn each Operator into a role of its own. This variety leads to a thin and not so straight line of balance which makes some Operators more useful than others and it’s ok. After all, in Siege no round plays the same. It’s a game about situations and that’s bound to cause such issues, but this doesn’t stop any Operator from being interesting on its own and even remarkable when used right.
Strategies are formed around setups of Operators. Breaching into an objective or defending one successfully depends on the synergy of Operators and coordination between players. Hiding behind a shield while advancing or making a wall of smoke to hinder visibility are just a small portion of the multitude of tactical choices that come through the good usage of the Operators and their loadouts.
|I can see you!|
It’s rarely a problem anymore with games coming from AAA developers, but it’s worth mentioning that the shooting is pretty well done and its complexity makes the learning curve steeper. It’s a lot about fast and proper aiming and a good control of the gun’s recoil which does differ from one weapon to another, but there is also about a good knowledge of the environment. A lot of the action is about waiting and aiming at the right place from where the enemies are supposed to come. An extended knowledge of the maps is mandatory to get good in this game and that comes after a ton of practice.
|That won't work.|
There are currently thirteen maps in the game, ten were available at launch and the extra three were added through free content updates, together with some more spendy Operators. Some of these maps are extremely detailed, combining small and large rooms over multiple floors, mixing claustrophobic insecurity with the ever present fear of ambush. But the key feature that defines Siege and shapes these maps into hazardous environment that demands an excessive attention to everything is the physics.
|Away from the windows.|
I’ve always been a fan of this technological advancement and I’ve always thought physics will reshape how shooters play and here it is, in Siege, the more innovative and fantastic feature of the game.
The physics are so detailed and allow for such surgical destruction that the number of genital jokes I’ve seen in this game is off the charts. The physics are part of everything, environmental objects, windows, floors and especially walls, in such a way that what you knew as a safe place might turn into your tombstone in a few shots or with a well placed explosion. The players can make holes in many of the buildings’ walls allowing them to create kill holes small enough for a defender’s SMG to sneak by and cut down everyone in the way or walls can be destroyed to create new paths for tactical maneuvers and flanking. The options are limitless and even after so many months of playing this game, my mind is still boggled by some of the physics exploits that some players pull off.
Despite being so amazing, the physics have two edges. The latest map has proven that they have to be handled carefully or the tactical elements induced through destruction can transform into chaos.
|I bet they won't expect this!|
|No strategy involved, I'm just having fun...|
Controlling the physics is part of the game’s learning process and to deal with the unpredictability that arises from such a volatile environment both teams have been equipped with contextual gear. Attackers can rappel on the buildings wall in order to open new pathways and avoid many of the dangers that could wait for them inside. The defenders can re-shape the map the way they want through reinforcements and destruction.
|There is always a window.|
Rainbow Six Siege is an amalgam of features and mechanics, some more innovative than others, which, when glued together make up for something truly amazing. It’s clearly not something for everyone’s taste, but it’s a satisfactory change for those who had enough of the reheated stews we have been getting lately.
At its core, Siege is a competitive game and a potential e-sport (Ubisoft is trying) and that could send the wrong message for some players, but playing it reveals so much more. There is a certain orientation towards realism supported through technical features which give the game a different spin than the competition, but without diminishing its competitive play potential. The recipe at hand still needs some seasoning, but I like the taste of it and I can’t get enough. I’ve been playing games competitively for almost 20 years, yet some of the most glorious moments in my gaming life are coming from this one, moments that made me mad that I’m not creating video content.
As for Siege’s future, the game is in a continuous evolution. Balance changes occur quite often including reworks to make some Operators more efficient and even map changes to get rid of some of the more uglier exploits. The content is also flowing. Three new maps and six extra Operators with specific abilities and gear have been added freely through a Season Pass that is so unnatural in style for the current market. For the first time in years, there is no division between players in an online game that comes from an AAA developer and that gives me some sort of hope for the future. Rainbow Six Siege is a wall-opening game which might have enough power to set the way for a new trend, but it doesn’t do it without many compromises.
|The advantage of synchronized attacks through communication.|
If you read up to this point you would have noticed the positive spin of this article, so you might wonder what took me so long to write a review about a game I’ve spent over 300 hours playing. Aside of my incapability of respecting my own deadlines, I always felt that it is unfair to review this game shortly after its launch and this time period continued to extend up to this point. Why? Because Rainbow Six Siege is a deeply flawed game and I felt it deserves more than lashing out my frustrations with it. So does that mean the game is in such a good technical shape now? No, but it sure has gotten a lot better than it was this spring.
The main problems Siege had and continues to have to a certain degree can be pinpointed even by the most casual players out there: netcode, matchmaking and cheaters. The netcode has been a mess since before the game’s launch. The Closed Beta Tests prompted endless discussions about the game not having dedicated servers because of weird netcode related problems which included dying behind walls or shooting players without any effects. These problems persisted through release and are present even today, to be fair, at a slightly lower rate but a nuisance nevertheless. Severe peekers advantage, weird deaths and no hit registration are the top problems that are currently ruining the Siege experience. Like this wasn’t enough, Ubisoft’s servers don’t manage to stay stable all the time causing matchmaking problems more often than one might think. Countless minutes are sometimes spent trying to find one or two missing players without positive results.
Despite the above mentioned problems being extremely serious, they didn’t drive the player base away. What could have killed Siege was the plague of cheaters.
Until recently cheaters have been running rampant in Ranked matches, killing the joy of competitive gameplay. I’ve been witness to actual duels between cheaters in which the innocents involved could do nothing else than spectate and measure the effectiveness of the cheating programs. Over the last decades I’ve been playing online shooters whenever I had the chance and since Battlefield Bad Company 2 I haven’t had such a problem with the underbelly of online gaming. But at long last justice has been served (!!!). With the latest patch BattlEye has been deployed banning close to four thousand cheaters in the first days of activity (I can’t stop grinning).
The list of bugs has been getting smaller and smaller with each patch and some of the problems that kept the Siege experience grounded have been annihilated. There are still some questionable design choices born from the conflict between competitive and realism and when melting together with the unreliable netcode they can send you into episodes of tourettes. One-shot headshots with any weapon in the game have been the nightmare of any skilled player and the blessing of every beginner. This might be an unfitting mechanic for a game that’s not really a simulator as in many cases tends to reward luck over skill (spraying and praying is a real thing). There is also the camera placement at the neck level which is misleading the players into thinking their heads are safe, but this is just me nitpicking, right?
In the end, Siege is here to stay and call me naive if you want but I am starting to believe that. After a slow start, a stormy evolution and three launched DLCs, the player base is higher than ever and the latest content update has brought a ton of new and more than welcomed improvements. It’s not yet at the quality that it deserves, but I take it as it is, because there is no other shooter like it out there.
I’m getting closer to the end of this review and it’s time to talk a little more about the visual part of the game. I’ve mentioned above that the physics of Siege are of the highest quality, but what about the graphics?
Rainbow Six Siege’s graphics look pretty good on the highest settings and they aren’t the most demanding, but can put pressure even on good rigs when playing on the latest and more detailed maps. The Ultra HD textures available on PC do make the landscape a little shinier, however, the graphics are far from the quality expected from a game marketed as a AAA. There are many moments when the production value clearly doesn’t justify the game’s launch price, visual bugs are common and models glitching through walls have been a problem of life and death. A general lack of outdoors physics is also upsetting, showing much the developers have skipped on. The lighting isn’t the greatest either, with day and night causing visibility problems that put the members of a team in a serious disadvantage. There are enough issues and the destructive beauty of the physics engine can’t hide them all, but Siege is still a nice game to look at and it can withstand the test of time for more years to come.
|This view almost makes me forget how chaotic this map is.|
On the audio side things are a little more complicated. On one hand, the sound design is pretty good with weapons having unique sounds, reverberation is felt in in-doors shootouts and an overall quality can be noticed. But the technical part is more than unstable. In a game where every sound heard can make all the difference and having a headset should be mandatory it’s rather ironic that the direction of sound is quite messed up. I’ve been experiencing some serious issues in locating the direction of a sound source and many players have complaint about this. Much of the time sound is unreliable as you might hear an enemy on the same floor with you just to find out that he’s actually above or below. This leads to extremely awkward moments and unnecessary deaths.
The last come the music and voice acting, which aren’t so important but present and pleasing. Even if it is nothing memorable, the music is in tone with the game. The few moments that are voice acted are at the high quality standards of today’s games and the voice acting itself builds on the personality of each of the Operators.
|Only in Siege!|
|They seem fake.|
|No surprise there...|
I'm not going to lie, Siege is not exactly a Rainbow Six game, but in all fairness what was the last real Rainbow Six game? For the old timers the name might seem nothing more than a marketing scheme, yet I believe that Siege is the best interpretation of what a competitive Rainbow Six game could be and whether you accept that or not is up to you. It's the first AAA online shooters in years that goes outside of the known pattern and tries something different and for all the taken risks the game succeeds in its task to be something else. It might not be a huge financial success like CS: GO or Battlefield, but it does extremely well considering its closeness to a niche gameplay and it makes me wonder if maybe the gamers had enough.
The high launch price and the multitude of problems managed to overshadow the game’s greatness for quite some time and it’s a shame. But things have been getting on the right track and for all the exercise in frustration that this game has been for me this whole time, I really love it for its innovative and tactically engaging gameplay, in spite of its many problems. This might categorize me as a masochist or maybe the core game is so good that it is worth the pain.
For the longest time Rainbow Six Siege wasn’t a rough diamond around the ages, but one hidden inside a crust of impurities. The crust is starting to crack open.
+ Above the average graphics and good performance
+ Detailed destruction physics that open up an immense amount of possibilities
+ Addictive and competitive gameplay which combines tactics, teamwork and skill
+ The Operators
+ Good tutorials
+ At least one year of free content
+ Custom matches
- A ton of annoying bugs at release, some persisting even today
- Netcode issues
- Matchmaking failures
- Models clipping through walls
- Misleading sound effects
- Terrorist Hunt is underdeveloped
- Until recently it was plagued with cheaters