Our introduction to Rainbow Six came with its Dreamcast release, which proved to be a brutally difficult proposition. It was so punishing in fact, we didn’t return to the franchise until we picked up Rainbow Six Vegas near the Xbox 360 launch. Things had changed by then, and while it still shaded more realistic than most shooters there was an undeniable push toward accessibility
Now, seven years after Vegas’ sequel, we’ve finally got a new entry with Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, a game that splits the difference between those two previous experiences.
For a tactical shooter, Siege does a nice job streamlining the layout: both via the in-game HUD and actual button configuration. Traditional first-person shooter standards are maintained in terms of aiming, shooting, swapping, sprinting and crouching/going prone. Everything feels crisp and responsive, putting the tools for survival at your fingertips.
There are 20 unique operators to unlock, each with different loadouts and unique abilities — such as firing charges that breach doors at range or setting traps. These are assigned to the right bumper, while the left bumper deploys your equipment (frags, non-lethal grenades, barbed wire, etc.). The d-pad is also used with all corresponding functions clearly displayed in the HUD.
It’s all very smooth, though the inability to jump keeps the game from earning full marks. Granted, we don’t want another Halo or Call of Duty in which jumping to avoid gunfire is an all-too-frequent move (especially online), but mantling is purely contextual. That means there are times when you’ll literally be stymied by a two-foot incline and forced to backtrack because the game doesn’t create the prompt to surmount it.
Thankfully, most other contextual actions work very well. They primarily come into play when preparing defenses — building barricades, fortifying walls, setting traps — but rappelling is cleanly implemented and offers a few options as to how to proceed once you’re hooked up.
Adequate is probably the best way to describe the sights of Siege. Locations are large, multi-level designs with numerous entry points, allowing for various approaches. There’s some decent detail within these spots, as well as on the character models of both operators and enemies, but it all has a certain drab quality to it. Animations are solid, and the destruction left in your wake, whether it’s dead bodies or splintered doorways, is undeniably cool.
Audio actually plays a bigger role than the graphics, as enemies will tip off their location by breaching walls, moving through barbed wire and more. Unlike most shooters, actual line of sight isn’t needed to kill an opponent; if you know where they are you can fire through the wall and drop them where they stand. It creates a heightened sense of awareness, and the game’s ability to pump that through your speakers is a big plus.
There’s no plot per se in Rainbow Six Siege. You’re given an opening cinematic that basically lets you know the world is in shambles, and now nations are coming together to combat the threat, but that’s about the extent of it. So, if you’re someone that needs a storyline or meaningful context for why things are happening, prepare to be disappointed.
As you might suspect with no story, there’s no campaign, either. Instead, there are 10 single-player scenarios to clear, each with three mission objectives. These serve as an introduction to the game’s multiplayer component, tasking you with clearing buildings, rescuing or protecting hostages and so on, while also highlighting some of the available operators and their skills. Completing them all unlocks “Article 5,” an online co-op mission.
It’s here that you’ll find Siege’s true genius: it feels completely different than other shooters we’ve seen come down the pike recently. Run and gun? No chance. Whether you’re playing competitive 5v5 or cooperative “Terrorist Hunt” missions, things like teamwork, patience and strategy are necessities.
Competitive matches pit two teams of five unique operators against each other in a best-of-five series (first to three wins) in which you’ll alternate as attackers or defenders. There’s a short setup phase before reaching the action — attackers scout the area while defenders fortify their position. It’s a tense situation in which long moments of silence are shattered by hails of gunfire. Death comes quickly, often without warning, and there are no respawns.
Terrorist Hunt teams you with four others to complete objectives against A.I. opponents on one of three difficulty settings (normal, hard, realistic). Once again you and your team will have to work together to accomplish the goal — it easily creates the most intelligent, game-oriented chatter we’ve heard since maybe SOCOM.
As much as we enjoy the core gameplay, there are some notable issues. First, the game is dependent on all five players working together, and it assumes everyone will play as intended. That’s cool most of the time, but we’ve seen matches ruined by random team killing (friendly fire is always on), or even worse, someone gunning down the hostage you’re protecting after multiple waves. It’s annoying and impossible to anticipate or avoid.
Online performance is another ongoing concern. Specifically, it’s far too common to lose connection to the game’s servers. Once you connect to a match you should be fine, but even when the servers are up, locating one can take a while.
Lastly, Rainbow Six Siege features unfortunate micro transaction undertones, in which the game dangles things like faster advancement and unique equipment in exchange for real money. And given how methodical earning renown (needed to unlock operators) can be, it’s hard to accept that those two items aren’t interconnected.
There are a number of legitimate complaints with Rainbow Six Siege. There’s no single-player campaign, its servers can be unreliable and slow advancement in conjunction with the chance to spend money to speed up progression is a bad look. For all that, though, the game is a breath of fresh air in the FPS world, catering to a tactical style of play that fits us like a glove.