We’ve not been the most complimentary when it’s come to beta access games here at Codec Moments. In many ways the ones we’ve been invited to have managed to put us off buying the full games on release, even if they were good in the end (Destiny is one that springs to mind). So it was with great trepidation that we loaded up Rainbow 6 Siege for the first time, having enjoyed the previous instalments over the years as co-op experiences, we were expecting this to be less than stellar. Were we wrong?
Given that Ubisoft have extended the beta by a week, and doled out large numbers of extra access codes, you’d be forgiven for thinking that things weren’t going to plan with load testing and matchmaking trials – and it might be true with matchmaking because it wasn’t that great at placing us in games with other humans. What we hope isn’t the case is that people just weren’t interested and have given it a wide berth because this could be the best squad shooter in years. Two game modes have been selectable, and with one relying heavily on the game’s ability to connect you with others, we stuck mainly to the one that kept us together as a tight team, and stopped us from being liabilities in an online arena – Terrorist Hunt.
The idea is simple, jump into a random map populated by AI terrorists and wipe them out using your weapons and gadgets. With infinite time on the easiest setting, you’ve the chance to recon and mark targets with a remote drone, plan your entry points, confirm RV locations, and generally feel like a proper CTU tactician. You then switch gears to think like an operative: repelling to windows, planting breach charges, and waiting for your squadmates countdown. It’s thrilling and tense right up to the point something goes wrong. Because it will. And you’ll have to improvise and try not to get ripped apart in those crucial first few seconds. You see, Rainbow 6 Siege works on the principle of giving you a small and manageable map where the environment is fixed, but none of the obstacles are. Enemy positions are randomly generated, explosives can appear anywhere, barbed wire slows your progress, and internal doors can be barricaded and reinforced. No game is ever the same twice, and the freewill of your human teammates means you’re never short of action. Check out the video for samples of the team dynamic (we’ve edited out most of our deaths!).
Add a time limit to the scenario and things are stepped up a notch, along with the AI difficulty. It becomes more frantic as you learn to clear rooms on the fly because stopping and scoping things out in advance just gets you surrounded and shot. It really is a case of keep moving to live, pausing leaves you too vulnerable. It’s not just the setup of the level that gives the variation, the ability to shoot, punch or explode most interior walls brings up more options for eliminating your opponents, or getting flanked by them. Being able to move down through a structure with destructible hatches is a lot more fun than using stairs, as is using the grappling hook to repel from any external surface. There’s a lot of freedom here too, most games would only let you ascend/descend at specific points (and something Rainbow 6 has been guilty of in the past) – now you can sling your hook anywhere and move a reasonable distance around so that you don’t have to come off and start again if you’re in the wrong position. There really is nothing quite like roping into a building headfirst, flashbangs at the ready, waiting for the “GO” command.
Rainbow 6 Siege will live and die on its facilitation of teamwork. The beta is not a guide for the breadth of content that will ultimately be in the game (there were only 2 modes on offer, and 3 maps), but it gave a glimpse at the depth. Over 5 nights Andy, Cev and myself played pretty much nothing else, only spending our time having fun storming a house, embassy or barracks to improve our skills and ranks. Progression is a standard XP earning method (or Renown as it’s known here), and you use it to open up new characters and weapon mods, all of which do benefit the approaches you can take. There’s a hefty focus on splitting your choices between attack and defense, as expected when you delve into the human vs human side of things. When the multiplayer games connect they’re nicely different from most other titles, giving attackers the chance to scout the environment using their drones, and defenders the opportunity to fortify and dig in before it all kicks off. When one side is eliminated it’s game over and time to swap roles.
From the time we’ve spent with it the gameplay is solid, the framerate smooth during matches (though the killcam is a bit jerky), and there’s real promise here for teams of friends to get together and master the skills and maps. What does concern all of us is will it be enough to keep people engaged? With a limited window for gaming time for most people and no solo campaign, there’s a chance that you won’t get the best out of the whole Rainbow 6 Siege experience unless there’s a dedicated group of you able to make it work. But then, that’s the point with squad shooters, playing as a unit rather than thinking you’re John McClane – although, we’re definitely in if there’s a Nakatomi Plaza level!
Rainbow 6 Siege releases on 1st December 2015 and will be available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.