When it all comes together, Rainbow Six Siege is an incredible game. It asks for clear tactical thinking, tightly knit team play, and it very rarely forgives your lapses in concentration and mistakes. Yet those peculiarities that make it great also make it a very specialised shooter.
The Black Ice DLC doesn’t really change that, making this still a niche game that really demands that you play with friends and work as a team. Adding two new characters to the mix does’t really alter that core dynamic, but can present you with fresh opportunities and dangers to beware of.
Both hailing from the Canadian JTF2, Buck is perhaps the most conventional and seemingly uninteresting operative since the last time you accidentally selected the standard Recruit. His perk is to have an underslung shotgun on either an assault rifle or a marksman rifle, and while that doesn’t sound fun compared to a breaching hammer or a shield with a huge camera flash array, it makes him one of the most flexible characters.
His assault rifle is fine at medium range, while his marksman, upgraded with a sight or scope, can equal Glas’ ability to take on long range encounters and the few opportunities to snipe. Except that with the underslung shotgun, he’s also great for close quarters work and breaching. He’s utilitarian, but a flexible all rounder.
Frost, meanwhile, is just a bundle of fun to play as. With a shotgun or a side clip SMG in hand, she’s a closer ranged defensive player, but her unique twist comes from the high tech bear-trap like Welcome Mat gadgets. Literally a flat black mat that will clamp onto and down an attacker that stands on them, they’re excellent for catching people out as the come through windows, reach a stairs landing or round a corner while thinking more of defenders and not their traps.
It’s a lot of fun right now especially, as people have yet to wise up to her tricks, but the mat is difficult to spot in the right situation compared to Kapkan’s laser trip mines or electrified barbed wire, and gives a very satisfying thunk as it snares an opponent.
That will only last so long though, as more and more people get their hands on them. Season Pass holders have had these two characters since last week, but they can now be bought or earnt separately. I say earnt because, while you can purchase each for 600 R6 Credits – which costs £3.99 – they’re also available for 25,000 Renown points each. To put that into perspective, it costs 20,000 Renown to unlock all of the main game’s characters. It does raise questions over the value of the season pass, which can be viewed as a glorified time saver pack, but this is a serious outlay of time and for the frugal and seriously long term players, it’s a nice option to have.
Alongside these two new operatives comes the free Yacht map, which makes for a major departure to the kinds of locations seen in the main game. In terms of style and layout, it sits somewhere between one of the several large buildings and the tubular assault of the plane map, with three distinct layers and the ability for attackers to pick from a larger number of entry points.
What makes it stand out is that this yacht is so thoroughly trapped in ice and snow, having crashed and beached itself in an iceberg, with that wintery chill adding a light frosting throughout the interior. It’s not the most obvious location for a terrorist attack – who cares if they blow it up or release nerve gas in the middle of nowhere? – but it’s a gorgeous setting nonetheless.
So it’s a crying shame that, across several hours of playing with the new characters in both multiplayer and terrorist hunt, the map only appeared once, and then only for a single round as I was inserted into the match halfway through. The map is available to all players of the game for free, but despite being the shiny new toy for people to play with, it wasn’t emphasised in the regular map rotation until Ubisoft tweaked this in a server-side fix yesterday afternoon – after the time of writing this article.
In the end, I resorted to searching for custom matches to try out the map, with some excellent moments despite the unbalanced teams. I also took the opportunity to test out the spectator camera, which has been added to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game. It has a laser focus on enabling a very particular style of streaming – as a kind of microcosm of the game itself – it works really well, and provides a genuinely interesting and valuable way to view matches that would otherwise be impossible.
Though an option, you’ll rarely be viewing the world through a player’s eyes, but rather looking down on the world from the sky, zooming in and out and tilting your view point to capture the action you want. It almost feels like you’re watching a tactical twin stick shooter at times.
Unfortunately, though it has an extensive list of changes, the latest patch hasn’t fixed some of the game’s imperfections. The menus can still judder, matchmaking can still take an age, stall mid-search or simply throw up an error message, I had to restart the game to get spectator mode to work, and so on. There’s even a couple of new issues following this patch, with Kapkan’s traps now having a bug and exploit that can turn it almost completely invisible, and where players can end up with a shadowy humanoid form in a T pose attached to them – both issues spotted too late to fix prior to the approval process, lest the patch and DLC be delayed on console.
Ubisoft have an active list of known bugs and when they plan to fix them, with these newer issues highlighted for a mid-February 2.1 update, so it’s positive to see them remaining very proactive in patching that game’s problems.
It’s a shame that there’s still this slightly off putting lack of fit and finish that prevents it from meeting its potential, but even through the quirks, bugs and playing with silent randoms, it can still shine. Get a team of friends together and this can be one of the best shooters around.