Rainbow Six Siege Review
There are shooters that can easily fall into the standard “FPS” category. Then there are those rare games that qualify as first-person shooters but in fact are much more than that; this is where you enter the realm of the tactical shooter. The epitome of that category is the recently released Rainbow Six Siege, a multiplayer-centric game that places a premium on strategy and planning as opposed to fast-twitch reflexes. While you’ll still have to execute with timely precision and those unfamiliar with the standard FPS structure will be at a disadvantage, it’s nice to play something that requires solid teamwork and considerations that involve things beside spawn points.
Graphically, this title will impress in short bursts. As the experience tends to thrive on those intense moments of confrontation, often experienced in cramped quarters filled with impact effects, Siege unsurprisingly shines when the action is at its zenith. During the downtimes, you might notice a few inconsistencies and less remarkable elements, and I’m not going to say every map features great design. The good news is that because you’re always so laser-focused on the task at hand, and the game tends to run very well (frame rate remained mostly stable during my time), you’re not going to find much to complain about. And I especially like some of the character models and a few of the realistic explosion effects, both of which are highlights in my opinion.
The audio goes hand-in-hand with the graphics, as it so often does in such games. When the objective is close at hand and each team is struggling to reach the finish line, the screen almost seems to vibrate with great tactical effects. The authentic sound emphasizes the urgency of your situation and the soundtrack, while not especially prominent, is appropriately effective. Once again, with strategy and teamwork at the core of the gameplay, you’re not over-analyzing every little audio or graphical effect. All you know is that the technical elements work exceedingly well when blended together, and you’re never frowning at the screen (my reaction to obvious technical issues that hamper one’s enjoyment). It’s just a nicely polished albeit not exactly gorgeous presentation.
If you want run ‘n gun, go play Call of Duty: Black Ops III or Star Wars: Battlefront. If you’d rather buckle down with a group of like-minded tacticians and participate in diverse modes where the slightest misstep can mean disaster, you need to try Rainbow Six Siege. Granted, long-time fans of the franchise might not recognize this new style and structure, as the single-player experience is somewhat disappointing and the multiplayer is distinctly different. Yet it still feels more dynamic and involving than ever before. This is due to a fantastically immersive environment with the likes of destructible walls, booby traps, and pitched battles between the attackers and the defenders. The result is a game that demands your attention; relax for a split second and it could all be over.
Asymmetrical PvP is the focal point and the adrenaline-laden missions will keep you coming back for more. But before I praise the almost unrivaled tension of these team-based missions, let me reiterate: It’s not for the uninitiated or the impatient or the faint of heart. There are no respawns, your health doesn’t magically regenerate (remember the days in shooters when this wasn’t an option?), and the wise take advantage of every gadget, gizmo and tool at their immediate disposal. Got a drone that lets you see what’s around the corner, or better yet, several corners? Are there any security cameras in the vicinity that might let you get the drop on your opponents? What about your teammates? What are their strengths and weaknesses? And what about you? What do you offer?
These are questions one must ask himself before stepping into battle. The developers really tried to impart a life-and-death feel by eliminating the traditional respawn concept, and it works. When you die, you die. Mission over. That may sound overwhelming or even brutal but that’s only because most modern shooters coddle the player; they’re designed for casual gamers who care little about caution and strategy. Siege reminds us that in fact, there are still games out there that prize the thoughtful approach and reward the patient and crafty. Yes, you still need to be able to handle a gun but those skills alone will never win the day. You must combine action with tactics on a consistent basis if you wish to win out, and the unpredictable challenge of each match enhances one’s vulnerability.
Of course, without a true campaign, the game immediately feels a little empty to me. Call me old-fashioned if you like but it’s annoying; all the more annoying because this is exactly the sort of experience that would benefit greatly from a fantastic single-player adventure. It’s just begging for a Splinter Cell-like narrative, or at least one of the halfway decent storylines found in old Rainbow Six entries. The possibilities would be almost endless, as the game is designed to be fluid and highly adaptive, and your strategic freedom would let you tackle mission objectives however you wish. Perhaps it simply requires too much in the way of resources, or maybe nobody cares about solo action these days. But either way, I don’t have to like it simply because it’s the way things are.
Now, we do get 11 single-player Situations that are actually well worth checking out. They’re useful as training missions and because each offers different difficulty options and three optional objectives, they allow the newcomer to sample a variety of…well, situations. You’ll get checked out on objectives like bomb defusing and you’ll bone up on your tactical abilities, which in turn will get you ready for more challenging PvP action. Unfortunately, this feels like nothing more than training and can’t really be called a “campaign.” There’s really no story or character involvement, nor does one feel emotionally attached to any objective in any of the situations. In fact, it’s quite the opposite— a detached yet enjoyable set of tutorials that will prepare you for future combat. Still a far cry from a campaign.
That being said, you can try certain modes – like Terrorist Hunt – on your own, even if just about everything is better played with friends. And speaking of cooperative play, there’s no doubt that co-op entertainment is the undeniable jewel in the crown, the single biggest reason to pay for the game. There is plenty of competitive fun to be had as well but with such huge skill gaps between players, the competitive side might seem intimidating and frustrating to lots of people. Besides, it's just that much more fulfilling when striking out with a team, especially when you’ve got the right players on your side. For those seeking a co-op blast and a half, it’s right here, and the depth is prominent. There are a few lingering flaws, however, such as the speed at which you gain XP. Tooooo slow.
On the flip side, with 20 different Operators – the combination of which greatly amps up the game’s longevity – and the ever-present drive to earn more Renown (in-game currency), you’ll never feel as if you’re too restricted. Yes, I think we deserve more XP for certain completed tasks and competitive play can often feel like a whirlwind of futility depending on the teams, but unlocking and experimenting with Operators feels just about right. You don’t get all those Operators at the outset; you have to earn them and when you settle on an Operator that perfectly suits your play style, you’re happy. That’s when you finally start to establish a connection with a player, even if there’s no narrative amid a sea of faceless elite military dudes.
One last minor but noticeable flaw: For whatever reason, the fantastic strategic depth of the game doesn’t quite reach the customization. Sometimes it feels like the upgrades you unlock for your Operators were an afterthought; they don’t have a huge impact on gameplay and there aren’t many options, anyway. It clashes with the clear and appreciated tactical depth found in every other facet of the presentation, so it just seems weird. Aside from that, though, you should be pleased with the scope of the game as an online-only multiplayer experience, because it really rewards the thoughtful and diligent, and the dozen or so maps and very distinct modes means the package doesn’t feel light or unworthy of the $60 price tag. The bang for the buck isn’t bad at all.
Rainbow Six Siege offers a very different FPS experience. It doesn’t rely on bombastic set pieces and ceaseless, mindless action where players respawn immediately and everyone has Wolverine-like regenerating health. Instead, this is the cerebral shooter, the one that asks you to view the map layout, determine the best plan of attack, and execute with pinpoint precision. It demands teamwork and therefore stresses cooperative goodness (the undisputed highlight), it gives you unique and engaging objectives, and the tough yet rewarding PvP action is second-to-none. It suffers from a lack of any real campaign, the rate at which you gain experience is too slow, and some of the maps aren’t especially well designed. And I still say competitive play can be overbearing. But the game is definitely worth a try if you’re seeking a rich, immersive co-op experience with plenty of tactical appeal.
The Good: Solid technical elements, including good visuals and excellent audio effects. Great control. Plenty of gameplay options throughout. Distinct Operators enhance variety and encourage experimentation. Emphasizes brain over brawn. Co-op play is a strategic highlight.
The Bad: Some mediocre maps. XP delivered at a snail’s pace. Competitive multiplayer can feel intimidating. No true narrative or campaign. A little light on customization.
The Ugly: “Having only one life makes me think too hard…damnit.”
12/12/2015 Ben Dutka