Before Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, and The Division, Tom Clancy’s gaming presence began with Rainbow Six. Way back in 1998, the series first appeared on PC and was hailed as a unique and promising title by fans. At a time when the FPS was little more than a mindless shooter, Rainbow Six introduced slow-paced, methodical, and highly tactical play where a single bullet could kill, and failure waited around every corner should you become complacent and let your guard down. It featured a full pre-mission planning section where you meticulously planned your attack, and directed your AI team. The original games hit their peak with the excellent Rogue Spear, which I and many hardcore fans still consider the best in the series.
Over the years, the game saw several expansions and sequels, with the move to console eventually ditching the pre-mission tactical planning section. It became more action-focused, but still retained the slower-paced tactical approach, with the last game, Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 arriving in 2008 (not counting 2011’s portable game, Shadow Vanguard).
Some eight years later, we have Rainbow Six Siege, the end result of a lot of delays and changes, as the previous game, Patriots, was scrapped. Siege still places tactical play at the forefront of the game, but this is a very different Rainbow Six, one that long-time fans will be divided over.
There’s No “I” in Team
Before I even talk about the game itself, I need to make one thing clear – this is not a single player game at all.
If you’re a Rainbow Six fan who wants more of the same tactical missions as previous games, walk away now. Aside from a few simple tutorial missions that are always the same with no enemy variation, this in an online-only game. Even the game’s advertised single-player option, Terrorist Hunt needs an active Internet connection.
Siege is all about attacking and defending, and in each match two teams take on the role of law enforcement and terrorists, with defenders having to hold their ground, and the attackers needing to achieve mission objectives by storming a location. Defenders can use barriers, razor wire, traps, and other tactics to secure their location, while attackers can utilize breach charges, sledge hammers, signal jammers, and other gadgets to give them the edge.
The environments are also fairly destructible, and even walls and floors can be smashed or blown open to create entrances, which makes for a very unique and dynamic tactical experience. Think of the SWAT games mixed with Red Faction, and you’re part way there.
Rounds pit teams of five against each other, and when you’re dead, you’re out until the next round. This encourages careful and methodical play, and to succeed you really do need good teamwork and cooperation. Playing as a lone wolf, or without a mic is simply pointless here. There’s no room for Rambo.
There aren’t a great deal of mission types and only a handful of maps. Mission types include Terrorist hunt, where the goal is to simply eliminate the opposing team. Hostage Rescue sees attackers breach a location to rescue hostages and get them to safety. Bomb defusing misions are pretty self explanatory.
There’s not a great deal of variety either, but to be honest, that’s not all that important. The main focus here is on the co-operative play, and Siege has this in spades. In fact, I’d say this is some of them most absorbing and team-bonding play I’ve enjoyed this year, and this is for many reasons, and is as much due to the excellent sound design as it is the tactical gameplay.
Carefully approaching a location and sneaking around it, using remote cameras to scout the area for foes, and deciding what the best breach point may be is gripping. Add to this the ability to hear footsteps coming from around you, or other noises that give away enemy positions and you’ve got a truly tense stand-off, one that could turn into an all out bullet-fest at any moment. Flash-bangs are your best friend, and if you don’t carefully check corners, you’re a dead man.
It’s just as tense hurriedly setting up barriers and traps to hold off attackers, and waiting in position, listening to the suspicious noises elsewhere in the location. Your heart beats faster, and adrenaline pumps as you know you’re getting closer to having to fight. Of course, that’s if you even see or hear it coming, as the ceiling explodes and enemies abseil in and jump through windows, leaving you shocked and truly awed. It’s great, and it’s genuinely unique, and an original take on multiplayer shooters.
Destructible environments are just destructible enough to not unbalance the game, and the various different operators, whom can be unlocked as you earn standing, all have their own unique abilities. These operators are split between attack and defence, and have abilities, such as drones that can electrocute foes and deactivate traps, the ability to see heartbeats through walls, use thermite to bring down barriers, create bullet-resistant barriers, and much more. Again, these abilities are fairly balanced, and no one character seems overpowered, at least, not this early in the game’s release.
It all comes together to form a great online experience, that is, if the planets align and everything falls into place, which will depend on how long and active your friends list is.
Bring Your Friends
Given the game’s very heavy focus on co-operation and tactics, this isn’t a game where you can jump into any old group and play with randoms. Although it’s possible if you’re lucky, we all know the lottery you play when you do this. If you don’t get a good, focused team, the game devolves into a mess, and the whole carefully planned and designed co-op play is ruined, something many already saw during the beta.
To get the most out of Siege, you’re going to have to play with a group of friends, that’s about all there is to it, and it’s here where Siege starts to fail. Often, not all of your friends may be online, at least not enough who want to play Siege, so you’ll have no choice but to play with others. This can drastically affect the game. While you can have great games with other random players in games like Call of Duty, here that’s not so. It’s so dependant on teamwork at its core, you’re best not even bothering. That’s a problem.
What’s more, the lack of any form of decent single player mode is, for me, a major issue, and one that greatly reduces the game’s appeal, and there’s just no grounds for this omission. Games like Battlefront and Battlefield, which were always multiplayer-focused, aren’t as problematic. We expect the online-only nature of titles like these in the modern era of developers being too lazy to code AI bots. They also play well enough with strangers.
However, Rainbow Six has always had a solo campaign, with competent AI team mates. It’s a staple feature of the license. Rainbow Six Siege hasn’t, and this is simply down to lazy development, and a total lack of effort on the developer and publisher’s part. There’s simply no credible reason for the lack of single player.
The list of short missions you can play force you to take on terrorists alone, with no backup, meaning you have no practice at all at teamplay, and the Terrorist Hunt mode, which does allow for solo play, needs an online connection, as I mentioned earlier. Even then, it’s a simple one versus many mission that just doesn’t play well, as it misses the whole point of the tactical, team-based Rainbow Six experience.
No matter how enjoyable the online game may be, and with the right team, it certainly is, I can’t forgive the lack of a decent campaign or solo AI options, and that lack of forgiveness doesn’t even take into account the microtransactions…
Everyone knows the score here, and I’m not going to dwell on this save to say publishers, please stop this. We’ve paid full price for a game, don’t nickel and dime us for something as trivial as weapon skins. Show some respect, and don’t treat us like fools.
That said, future DLC maps will be free, which is very good, so things could be much worse.
I was really looking forward to the revival of one of my favorite series, and although the online play is superb if you manage to get a group of friends together, it’s all too fragile with anyone else, and the amount of content for a full-price game is sorely lacking. The absence of solo play is a major no-no, and for that reason, I can only recommend this to those who can always get together with friends online.