Rain­bow Six Siege


PC, PS4, Xbox One

Soon af­ter a match starts, Rain­bow Six Siege’s lev­els are re­duced to a mess of de­bris and punc­tured walls, ex­pos­ing the naked build­ing frame­work be­neath. It makes for a spec­tac­u­lar back­drop against which to fight, but also serves as an un­for­tu­nately ac­cu­rate anal­ogy for how quickly Siege’s flimsy cladding gives way to an un­ap­peal­ing core.

Even so, the game’s head­line prom­ise of be­ing able to cre­ate your own breach points and sight lines through lev­els is un­de­ni­ably ex­hil­a­rat­ing and, for the most part, de­liv­ered. Ubisoft’s Real Blast tech of­fers a broad spread of pos­si­ble strate­gic choices as you at­tempt to ex­tract hostages, defuse bombs and kill ter­ror­ists. But while there’s gen­uine tension in plan­ning your en­try to a well-de­fended room, you’ll quickly butt up against the de­struc­tion tech’s rigid bound­aries when try­ing to cut a new path through the world.

Armed with your start­ing char­ac­ter’s ba­sic equip­ment, ex­plo­sives cut neat, squared-off holes through only the right types of ma­te­rial – wooden walls, thin con­crete and plas­ter will dis­in­te­grate, but mar­ble, brick­work and fa­mously bomb-proof air­plane fuse­lages will not – while your abil­ity to breach through the ceil­ing is lim­ited to trap doors. And if you’re rap­pelling up a wall, the win­dows are your only op­tion. This con­spic­u­ously grid-based de­struc­tion, and the ex­is­tence of un­break­able walls, is a com­bi­na­tion of tech lim­i­ta­tions and game de­sign, but it feels re­stric­tive pre­cisely be­cause of the po­ten­tial for more freeform de­ci­sion-making that Siege’s Real Blast tech teases. Ul­ti­mately that fa­mil­iar feel­ing of be­ing cur­tailed by the de­ci­sions of a de­sign team, rather than the more or­ganic logic of a co­her­ent world, be­gins to bear down.

But there’s con­sid­er­ably more flex­i­bil­ity on of­fer if you’re only try­ing to get some­thing as small as a bul­let through a gap not pre­vi­ously con­ceived by an ar­chi­tect. While you might not be able to hop down a floor in the ab­sence of a con­ve­niently placed trap­door, you can shoot out the floor­boards in most cases to cre­ate new sight lines into the room be­low. And blow­ing a hole in a con­crete wall with your shot­gun to cre­ate a makeshift sniper’s nest, or sim­ply fir­ing on the po­si­tion of an un­seen enemy from an adjacent cor­ri­dor, is a con­vinc­ing ac­quit­tal of the tech­nol­ogy, and re­lent­lessly sat­is­fy­ing. The mo­ments where you round a cor­ner to find half of the floor­boards or most of a wall miss­ing, cre­at­ing an open-plan death­trap, smartly change the way a space feels and the num­ber of threats it might yield.

And, as you progress, you’ll amass a col­lec­tion of de­struc­tive toys to play with. You do this by spend­ing Renown ( Siege’s in-game cur­rency, earned dur­ing matches) on buy­ing and out­fit­ting ad­di­tional op­er­a­tors. Split into at­tack and de­fence spe­cial­ists, and spread over five spe­cial forces, there’s a great deal of po­ten­tial for cus­tomi­sa­tion and find­ing load­outs to com­ple­ment your own play style. FBI SWAT mem­ber Ther­mite, for ex­am­ple, spikes his breach charges with the com­pound he’s named af­ter, making them ca­pa­ble of de­stroy­ing walls that have been re­in­forced by the op­pos­ing team. The SAS’s Thatcher uses EMP grenades to dis­able the op­po­si­tion’s elec­tronic gad­gets, in­clud­ing heart­beat sen­sors and anti-grenade tur­rets. And Fuze can de­ploy ter­ri­fy­ing Clus­ter Charges, which punch through walls and release a bar­rage of grenades into the room be­yond. There are four op­er­a­tors per force, making for 20 po­ten­tial choices. But since the game stip­u­lates that only one of each char­ac­ter can be in play dur­ing any given ses­sion, you’ll reg­u­larly be left with the base Re­cruit char­ac­ter early on, de­spite your in­vest­ment in more pow­er­ful al­ter­na­tives. Any of the op­er­a­tors can be opened up ear­lier by spend­ing real-world cash, but with that in mind the rel­a­tively slow pace of un­lock­ing and out­fit­ting them us­ing Renown feels a lit­tle un­der­hand in a full-priced, rather anaemic-feel­ing game.

This lack of con­trol is car­ried over into match­mak­ing ses­sions as well, as you’re un­able to se­lect which maps or mode you’d like to play and sim­ply have to sub­mit to the game’s ro­tat­ing playlist. It wouldn’t be so bad if there was more va­ri­ety on of­fer, but while the 11 mul­ti­player maps are large, and playable in both day and night vari­ants, af­ter a few ro­ta­tions you’ll have cy­cled through all of the pos­si­ble de­fen­sive and of­fen­sive lo­ca­tions, and sam­pled the full gamut of the game’s mod­est se­lec­tion of three mul­ti­player modes.

Of th­ese, Hostage Res­cue is the most suc­cess­ful. In it, teams are tasked with ei­ther ex­tract­ing or de­fend­ing a bound in­di­vid­ual who rep­re­sents a mov­ing ob­jec­tive. Once lo­cated, the male or fe­male prisoner can be led around the level as you at­tempt to es­cape the in­evitable back­lash. The es­cort­ing player can only use a hand­gun dur­ing this part, and must rely on the greater fire­power of team­mates to help re­pel any at­tempt to re­cap­ture the vic­tim. The hostage can be used as some­thing of a hu­man shield given that the de­fend­ing team au­to­mat­i­cally lose if they ac­ci­den­tally kill the as­set.

The two other modes both re­quire you to lo­cate a static de­vice, rather than a per­son. In Defuse Bomb, at­tack­ers sab­o­tage one of two bombs, which are al­ways lo­cated within a room or two of each other. One player car­ries a com­put­erised bomb-de­fus­ing kit in a brief­case, which they’ll drop if killed or in­ca­pac­i­tated. Once ac­ti­vated in range of one of the de­vices, a count­down be­gins dur­ing which the at­tack­ers must ward off any re­sis­tance. Se­cure Area, mean­while, is a sin­gle-zone twist on King Of The Hill, in which each team at­tempts to se­cure a room hold­ing a chem­i­cal weapon.

While the me­chan­i­cal dif­fer­ences be­tween th­ese three modes are ob­vi­ous on pa­per, in prac­tice things are less dis­tinct. All three modes feel sim­i­lar in play, and

You’re un­able to se­lect which maps or mode you’d like to play and sim­ply have to sub­mit to the game’s ro­tat­ing playlist

that sen­sa­tion is ex­ac­er­bated by the abil­ity to win any of the three sce­nario types by wip­ing out all five mem­bers of the op­pos­ing team. De­spite the large se­lec­tion of tools and weapons at your dis­posal, the tac­tics re­quired in each sit­u­a­tion are ex­actly the same.

There’s also a marked im­bal­ance be­tween your ex­pe­ri­ences as an at­tacker and a de­fender. Play­ing as the for­mer, ap­proach­ing a build­ing in which you can’t be sure of the po­si­tion or plans of those in­side, is en­joy­ably tense – es­pe­cially when work­ing with a com­mu­nica­tive, co­op­er­a­tive team. But de­fend­ing an ob­jec­tive amounts to bar­ri­cad­ing doors and win­dows, set­ting traps and de­fen­sive de­vices, and then wait­ing. There’s still tension as you hear the slightly muf­fled first breach charge when the at­tack­ing team en­ter the build­ing, but it’s all too easy to spend most of the match wait­ing for some­one to throw a grenade into the room you’re holed up in, and then the rest of it watch­ing ev­ery­body else play af­ter you ex­pire. And both sides will suf­fer equally from the game’s woolly hit de­tec­tion, some sticky con­trols on con­sole, and the oc­ca­sional glitch ca­pa­ble of leav­ing you trapped.

De­spite th­ese hic­cups, Siege’s matches re­main read­able, if a lit­tle clin­i­cal, thanks to an ap­proach that’s clearly look­ing to court the eS­ports scene. The trade-off is that on­line matches can feel hos­tile and un­for­giv­ing if you’re not play­ing with a well-or­gan­ised team by your side. But many of th­ese prob­lems are mit­i­gated when fac­ing less-de­ter­mined AI op­po­nents in the re­turn­ing Ter­ror­ist Hunt mode (pre­vi­ously known as Ter­roHunt). It of­fers a slightly more tra­di­tional take on Rain­bow Six game­play, pit­ting up to five play­ers against a build­ing full of anony­mous, masked ag­gres­sors, and in­cludes co-op ver­sions of Hostage Res­cue and Defuse Bomb, as well as a sim­ple breach-and-clear mode in which you must find and kill ev­ery ter­ror­ist. Like the mul­ti­player modes, you have to sit out the en­tire round if killed, but in all cases you’re still able to use CCTV and player cams to help spot and mark up enemy sol­diers. But the ar­moured, bul­let-sponge sui­cide bombers that ag­gres­sively rush you are a cheap and baf­fling in­clu­sion.

Siege’s fo­cus is on com­pet­i­tive mul­ti­player, and it’s the first game in the se­ries not to in­clude a sin­gle­player cam­paign. In­stead, a hand­ful of ‘Sit­u­a­tions’ are pro­vided, stand­alone lev­els that set par­tic­u­lar ob­jec­tives and serve as part of the game’s tu­to­rial. Frus­trat­ingly, there’s no op­tion to play through them with a friend. This un­der­mines the in­ter­play of Siege’s care­fully bal­anced se­lec­tion of tech and makes for mo­ments when you’re left de­fend­ing an ob­jec­tive against waves of en­e­mies. The Rain­bow Six se­ries’s ap­peal has al­ways been in work­ing with friends to tackle an enemy pres­ence, and the sense of em­pow­er­ment that comes from the per­fect ex­e­cu­tion of a well-thought-out plan. The Sit­u­a­tions come clos­est to evok­ing mem­o­ries of that legacy, but scup­per their po­ten­tial by en­forc­ing solo play.

Siege can feel cool and in­hos­pitable, but when the con­di­tions are right and you’re play­ing with friends, the game’s tense game­play and mea­sured pac­ing makes for a refreshing, cere­bral con­trast to the run-and-gun hy­per­ac­tiv­ity of most on­line shoot­ers. But while Ubisoft is promis­ing to add new lev­els and modes over the com­ing months, as it stands Siege feels dan­ger­ously ex­posed and un­der-equipped.

At­tack­ing is far more en­joy­able than be­ing cooped up with a hostage in a small room. You can rap­pel up any wall and en­ter through most win­dows and doors. Oddly, shut­ters are un­break­able, just like the build­ing’s ex­te­rior

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