It’s been well over a year since Rainbow Six: Siege was revealed, with a fresh twist on the familiar team-based tactical shooter in the form of wide-ranging level destruction, as the two sides struggle to gain the upper hand. Of course, all of the stage demos shown by Ubisoft have been slick, polished and featured teams of players who know the maps and know how to work together. It’s hardly surprising that my foray into the unknown wasn’t quite so refined.
Playing on the Hereford Base map, the two teams of five operatives face off on an appropriately bland complex, designed to look like a military training facility. Outside, there’s shipping containers, school buses and warehouse-like buildings, but the centrepiece building feels the most like a training level, with destructible walls made out of plywood, random and makeshift objects in the rooms, and so on. Certainly, there’s scope for more interesting environments in other levels, but this lets the gameplay and the level itself take centre stage.
The Secure Area game mode sees the two teams take turns to try and attack or defend a biohazard container – of course, rounds will very often end with one team wiping the other out – with a match the best of three rounds. The action is preceded by a short preparation phase, in which the defenders can set up their barricades, block doors and windows, place traps and reinforce walls, while the attackers send in their little camera drones to try and snoop on them, or at least discover where they are in the building. The defenders, meanwhile, can peek through the building’s CCTV system.
It’s all too easy to overextend yourself and be caught out, and so there’s always the tension of the unknown. You might have holed up in a room and think you have everything covered, only for the attackers to get you in an unexpected fashion, while a particularly cunning defender could split off and hide in a corner or blast a small hole through one of the many destructible walls and objects, to catch overconfident attackers unawares. When you can really only take a single bullet before you’re downed, there’s little room for error.
A lot of the game relies on communicating effectively with your team mates, but that’s incredibly difficult to do early on with the game, especially with people and disembodied voices that you don’t know. With a heavy duty shield in hand, it was my job to head into the building first, for example, but when I spotted a guy lying on his back and shooting out from a corner of the room, my shouts and attempts to explain where he was fell on deaf ears, as my team ran to their doom before I – admittedly grappling with what I could and couldn’t do with a shield, at this time – managed to shoot him.
Such folly allowed me to engage in some last man heroics and all the euphoria that comes with it, as I almost single handedly was able to overcome the opposition on that particular occasion. Of course, it’s a bitter pill to swallow when you’re on the receiving end of a single player going on the rampage, with communication, teamwork and knowledge of the map failing us once more.
Learning all the particular routes, the potential destruction and spotting the various avenues of attack – and being able to explain them properly – will be key to success, as will making the most of your various tools and abilities, which depend on the character that you pick. The two characters with shields will naturally go first down a dangerous corridor, with fellow counter-terrorists peeking round the side, but others will have thermite charges, smoke grenades, barbed wire, and on and on.
If one thing’s clear about Rainbow Six, it’s that this isn’t a game that will appeal to the broadest market possible. The casual player who will gleefully dive into Call of Duty or Destiny, heedlessly run around and rely most on their reflexes will have little joy here, where a single bullet will take you down. To that end, Ubisoft have been looking for other ways to share the tense and tactical battles of online play with a wider audience.
As such, the PC version will feature support for a nascent spectator-cam beta at launch – coming to console some time in 2016 – with an eye to appealing to the eSports market and the streaming services which broadcast games to the world. It goes beyond simply letting you view different player feeds, by letting the spectator tap into the drone cams and security feeds, thanks to the clever twists of giving you an augmented reality outline to all players on the map, as well as a particularly flexible looking top-down tactical view.
Of course, it all comes back to the central gameplay, and that fraught battle of wits between two teams. Even though it’s fun and tense when playing with other novices, it’s also easy to see the depth and nuance that can be exposed over time, and with a beta test on the way, I can’t wait to assemble a team and play some more.