Ubisoft’s recent pivot towards servicing their games post-launch has been one of the publisher’s smartest moves to date. It’s allowed them to keep key franchises in the spotlight long after their initial launch, maintaining and even growing a dedicated fan base with a steady trickle of live events and new content.
Rainbow Six Siege was the first to follow this trend. Back in December 2015, things weren’t looking so great for the multiplayer tactical Tom Clancy shooter. Compared to previous entries in the series, namely Vegas and Vegas 2, it felt like a different beast, shunning a dedicated single player campaign with a overwhelming focus on competitive play. This perceived “lack of content” coupled with a slew of bugs, made it a bitter pill to swallow. Instead of going back to the drawing board with another series reboot, Ubisoft continued to make refinements to Siege, sculpting it into what is now one of the best multiplayer games in circulation that’s going from strength to strength as its started its third year of content.
Not long ago, when an online game launched, it’d have a several-month window of activity before eventually folding down in preparation for a publisher’s next big hit. The invention of the season pass helped to extend this window but, at the same time, reinforced the idea that even popular, AAA multiplayer hits all had an expiry date.
This looked to be the case with Siege too, until Ubisoft announced “Year 2” shortly before the game’s first anniversary. Giving players a second year of paid and premium content – looking back it seems like such a simple idea though one that would change the trajectory of Rainbow Six, not to mention Ubisoft’s entire business model. Following its huge success (2017 saw plenty of landmarks for Siege landmarks), Year 3 was all but inevitable.
In a nutshell, the £24.99 pass will bag you all 8 of the playable operators as they are phased into the game over the next twelve months, without having to grind in game. While not as complex as a character from your favourite fighting game or a new Overwatch hero, they each bring something new to the table. Take Siege’s two newest operators, Finka and Lion, one of which able to give a temporary health boost to teammates while the other can periodically scan enemy movements, wherever they are on the map.
Those who pony up for the pass will also get a minor boost to the renown they earn in-game while giving them a slightly higher chance of winning “Alpha Packs” – Siege’s own spin on loot boxes.
It’s important to remember that non-paying players benefit too. They get free access to any new maps, modes, and features added to the game without paying an additional fee, and if you’re prepared to grind for them, you can use the Renown you build up through play to unlock the new operators as well. That’s pretty awesome, especially when you consider that most online marketplaces stock Rainbow Six Siege for around £15.
Having traversed some initial hurdles, Rainbow Six Siege is now in a strong position, managing to hold its own against the likes of Battlefield and Call of Duty as well as new kids on the block, PUBG and Fortnite. Its highly tactical brand of online play has allowed it to carve a comfortable niche within the FPS genre, though Ubisoft hasn’t been completely resting on its laurels. 2017 saw some major improvements made to the core game as part of “Operation Health”, a season-long period of technical improvements.
For those who have been paying attention, Siege’s most recent operation, Chimera, even added a new, alien-themed, co-op mode dubbed Outbreak as a time-limited event. Complete with its own CG opening and a surprising amount of backstory, it proved that Ubisoft is still willing to experiment, even with a safe, year-long plan already in place.
When asked about a potential sequel back in February Brand Director, Alexandre Remy, stated that the publisher had no plans, adding that Siege could be supported for as long as a decade after launch. That’s surely an exaggeration – or we at least hope it is.
In terms of gameplay and visuals Siege isn’t in desperate need of an update though, in the next year or so, its minor imperfections will steadily become more apparent, especially with new games releasing left, right, and centre. At present, I still have a hard time with the co-op Terrorist Hunt mode where the framerate is much worse than the core multiplayer component, and while a fun diversion, Outbreak feels just as clunky.
Without major improvements to the engine, it feels like Ubisoft will find itself limited when it comes to expanding Siege beyond its core 5 v 5 set-up. Potentially being held back at this point by the base PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, these technical limitations are no doubt the reason why we haven’t seen any bigger, more dynamic game modes added over the years. One aspect that they are looking at is returning to older maps and either tweaking them or completely overhauling them, as shown in the concept of a revised Hereford Base map.
Rainbow Six Siege has enjoyed a better run than most current-gen shooters, but as good and popular as it is right now, we hope that Ubisoft are looking to the future. Despite their statements to the contrary, its hard to imagine Ubisoft stretching it out much further once Year 3 has wrapped. That said, if you’ve yet to jump on the bandwagon then there’s honestly no better time than now. Siege continues to prove itself as one of the most interesting and nuanced shooters doing the rounds.