RAINBOW SIX: SIEGE Review
It’s been more than a little while since we’ve had a Rainbow Six release. Ubisoft’s liberal use of the Tom Clancy IP has given us a lot of hard military titles this decade, but it’s counterterrorism branch has finally reared its head again with RAINBOW SIX: SIEGE. Over seven years have passed since the excellent RAINBOW SIX: VEGAS 2 hit store shelves, and the landmark tactical shooter is finally getting a deserved facelift. With SIEGE, Ubisoft seeks to reinvent the wheel in a way, eschewing traditional series elements while resurrecting others. It feels notably different from any previous installment, which, at the very least, is more than can be said for anything else coming from the publisher. But is that all it takes to “siege” the day?
Before going any further, it’s probably best to address the elephant in the room: SIEGE is a multiplayer exclusive title. This is yet another example in a disturbing trend of triple A studios shipping full price games without a singleplayer component, though it’s hardly the most egregious. For sixty bucks, you get several competitive PVP and cooperative PVE modes on 11 maps. Ever since the original VEGAS, multiplayer has become the focal point of the series, but even then, the lack of a campaign, let alone split screen, is still upsetting. SIEGE is admittedly a niche title, as its hardcore nature will likely turn away just as many casual players as its price tag. As a silver lining, Ubisoft has announced that all upcoming DLC maps and operators will be free, a respectable move in a generation where expansion packs are constantly fragmenting player bases. It’s this caveat alone that justifies SIEGE’s retail cost.
Much like special forces themselves, you know what you’re getting into when you sign up
SIEGE is familiar in concept to both COUNTER STRIKE and older Rainbow Six titles, like RAVEN SHIELD and LOCKDOWN. Teams of five operators take turns attacking and defending a structure, with game modes being split between bomb defusal and hostage rescue. Matches are quick and fraught with tension, as most characters will die from a single burst of shots, be they from friend or foe, and respawns are non-existent. Despite the incredibly fulfilling shootouts, SIEGE is not a mindless shooter. Teamwork and communication are key, and a microphone is practically a requirement to truly enjoy the game.
These similarities end when gameplay begins. Players choose between 20 operators across five counter terrorism units at the start of the match, each with a unique loadout and gadget (yes, both teams assume the role of the authorities; don’t ask me why SWAT is setting up dirty bombs inside suburban homes). During a brief setup period, defenders fortify their position while the attackers try to locate and identify their objective with RC drones. The attacking team then only has a few minutes to complete their mission.
You can always just hope that the other team doesn’t find you within the three minute round
Unlike COUNTER STRIKE, victory is much more reliant on careful coordination than twitch gunplay. Each operator more or less handles the same in combat, but it’s their specific abilities that set them apart. Defense comes with kits that allow them to seal off areas of the map, be it through barriers or booby traps. Assault characters have tools that let them bypass or destroy said fortifications. It’s a carefully balanced struggle of countermeasures upon countermeasures, and the team with the most tricks up its sleeve is typically the winner. It’s an unrivaled feeling of gratification when a perfectly hatched plan pays off.
Of course, cool toys aren’t the only deciding factor in matches. Smart use of terrain is just as important. Prone and lean functions offer a greater amount of flexibility than the third person cover system of yore. Rappelling is back from VEGAS, allowing the attacking team to quickly change floors and literally get the drop on unsuspecting foes. Even more impressive, however, is the new, highly touted environmental destruction system. While many games these days go for grandiose, Michael Bay-inspired explosions, SIEGE focuses on the smaller things. Players can take out whole wall and floor sections with breaching charges, creating entrances for their team, or instead choose to knock out tiny fireports with their knife and snipe enemies in adjacent rooms from out of sight. It’s this degree of precision that sets SIEGE above the superficial spectacles of its shooter rivals. This malleability of the surroundings ensures that no two matches are the same, lending further life to the starting map roster.
“Hang loose” clearly holds a different meeting for Team Rainbow
If my analysis of SIEGE sounds rather tame, it’s only because there is so little about it that rates criticism. Plenty of comparisons will be drawn between SIEGE and EA’s BATTLEFRONT, not only for being the huge multiplayer reboots of this year, but for launching with skeletal frameworks. But while EA’s brand-fueled exhibition is a shallow experience that wears out its welcome in a matter of hours, SIEGE manages to be a highly replayable and nuanced experience that consistently fails to disappoint. Rarely does the adage “less is more” hold up in the gaming industry, but this title is the epitome of those words. The newest Rainbow Six holds no pretentions about itself. If you’re serious about your shooters, and you enjoy teamwork in a genre that is gradually turning its back on the concept, then SIEGE is a title you can ill afford to ignore.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4, also available on Xbox One and PC