Over the last few years, Rainbow Six has only become more notable for its absence from Ubisoft’s roster, as fans constantly cried out for news of a new game. Rainbow Six Patriots briefly broke cover, but quickly disappeared from public view once more, only to be cancelled. In its place, Ubisoft started afresh for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, with Rainbow Six: Siege looking to kickstart the franchise when it arrives some time next year.
What this entails, as we saw from the initial – albeit heavily staged and scripted – E3 reveal, is a fresh focus on multiplayer gameplay that tries to take the essence of the Rainbow Six series and then expand upon it. That core idea, of the Rainbows fighting against terrorists that can be behind any wall, blossoms into something quite fascinating and unique feeling as a consequence.
The hostage rescue scenario manifests itself as a match made up of multiple rounds, with the two teams of five taking it in turns to attack and defend the building. Interestingly, the decision has been made so that you and your team always appear to yourselves as being the Rainbows, with your enemies always the terrorists.
As each round starts, the five players of the attacking team spawn as five little drones that can skitter around on the floor and clamber up and down steps by way of their rimless wheels to try and infiltrate the building and gather intelligence. As this is going on, the defenders are hastily setting up their defences and preparing for the coming attack, maybe opportunistically taking out the spying drones as they try to control and choose the battlefield.
Putting up barricades on windows and doorways can slow the attackers as they try to make their way through the building, while barbed wire will slow those walking through it and other traps can also block paths. However, it’s the ability to reinforce certain walls so that they’re impervious to breaching charges which could be a pivotal ability, given the game’s impressive degree of destruction.
With the planning phase complete, it’s time for the attacking Rainbows to pick their point of entry, get into the house and rescue the hostage. Breaching charges seem to be quite plentiful, to bust through blocked windows and walls seemingly at will, but the level destruction and deformation is much more granular than that, so that you can shoot a hole through a barricade or a thin wall.
In some ways it can appear like a mere visual effect, showing off the collateral damage that the gunfire causes to the environment, but it can actually play a much more important role in the battle. Defenders can quickly shoot a small hole into a wall, through which they can peak and potentially get the drop on the attackers, or as a way for either side to have a small amount of cover.
Curiously, even in the midst of an assault, both teams are able to keep tabs on one another. The defenders had access to CCTV on this particular map, which allowed them to briefly check in and see what direction the attackers were coming from, but this was countered by the attackers’ ability to check on any remaining drones, which can be tactically hidden away in a key area, so as not to be spotted and destroyed.
As the round progresses, comrades will almost inevitably fall, thanks to just a bullet or two being able to down a player and the game design’s natural proclivity for ambushes. A round is won either by managing to rescue the hostage or by killing all of the opponents, so the ability to revive a fallen teammate for a short time after they are downed could become a vital pivot point for a battle, though potentially quite an unlikely one given the nature of the battles and small margin for error.
It’s still quite early days for this game’s development, though, and briefly talking to a member on the team to clarify a few points, it was interesting to see how some of the finer details were still up in the air.
At this point, a match is made up of three rounds, with the teams alternating between attacking and defending, but this seems quite likely to change so that it’s more even handed to both sides. Beyond that, this is just a single game mode in a single house, and there will surely be several variations that take the core ideas and turn them to differing objectives.
While this new project is also keen to focus on the multiplayer side of things initially, as this will naturally be a key focal point for the community for a long time after launch, there will also be a single player campaign, though this is likely something we won’t hear much about for a while to come.
Despite the disappointing news that the ambitious sounding Rainbow Six: Patriots was cancelled, Siege’s reveal comes as quite a breath of fresh air. The small scale, tactical battles and the way that level destruction has been so deeply ingrained in the gameplay makes for an invigorating new take on a classic franchise.