Impressions: Rainbow Six: Siege Closed Alpha

Pip and Graham have breached the barricades of Rainbow Six: Siege‘s [official site] closed beta and gathered in the rubble discuss whether the dust they’re breathing is asbestos or the-best-os.

Graham: I might have shared this before, but I think Peter Gabriel wrote a song about my favourite thing in Rainbow Six: Siege.

Is there a song about your favourite thing in Rainbow Six: Siege, Pip?

Pip: I couldn’t think of one but now I have Ariana Grande’s Break Free in my head but you don’t get to play as the hostage so that’s useless. A great tune, though. Are we discussing Ariana Grande?

Graham: Not today. We’re discussing Tom Clancy’s latest. How familiar are you with the Rainbow Six series specifically? Do you want a potted history? Does anyone?

Pip: A potted history would be good – I always forget which bits of the Clancyverse go where. Is this the one with the seeing-through walls or is this the one with the snake cam or what?

Graham: I think they all have those things. Rainbow Six was the original Tom Clancy action game, and I’d wager most people’s first experience with it was with the first iteration co-developed with Ubisoft, Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear. It was unusual at the time for having realistic settings, bullets that killed in a single hit, squad-based tactics where you could give your team orders in a pre-game planning screen, and assume direct control of any of the members of your squad upon death. The series then made a number of attempts at grabbing mainstream success by betraying parts of what made it initially interesting, hitting bottom with Rainbow Six: Lockdown (which felt like a cheap attempt at Counter-Strike) and last being seen (with the excellent though overlooked) Rainbow Six: Vegas 2. There was also a brief previous attempt at a revival with a game called Rainbow Six: Patriots, but that was mercifully cancelled after only a single hateful ‘target render’ trailer was released.

Rainbow Six: Siege, then, is a multiplayer-focused attempt at reviving the series, and it feels like it’s still trying to find a middle-ground between realism (bullets are lethal, it relies on teamwork) and giddy fantasy (you can grapple up walls, rounds are quick, planning is carried out via remote control car).

[Post script: reading this afterwards, I realised I should explain the planning phase better. There is currently no top-down map view or pre-game talk. Instead, while the defenders have time to fortify their position, the counter-terrorists can scoot around in remote control car cameras. The hostage takers can shoot these if they spot them, and if the CTs manage to find the hostage during this pre-game phase, the position is then marked on their HUD during the game proper. It’s an interesting mechanic and keeps the game moving and varied round-to-round.]

It also has one new technological gimmick in its destructive levels, which is sort of where the realistic tactics and giddy fantasy meet. Which I suppose is a good place to start. How do you find the destruction?

Pip: I’ve picked the character with the sledgehammer when I’ve been on the attacking side a few times now because I rather enjoyed caving in door and window barricades with it. It’s pretty slow as you might expect but there’s a pleasing crunch when you’re hammering away. On the defence side of things there was a round the other day when I was crouching behind a desk trying to shoot an attacker in the shoes as they faffed around trying to destroy one of our fortifications. I’ve not done much that’s been expertly tactical with it yet, though. You?

Graham: I too am far from expertly tactical. I’ve placed a few wall-charges, inaccurately sprayed bullets through a few wooden walls and, as Peter Gabriel can attest to, smashed down my fair share of barricades with the sledgehammer. The latter is my favourite since, as you say, there’s a pleasing crunch.

For all my inept attempts at tactics so far, it at least feels like a game where tactics are going to play a significant role, and in a much more overt way than Counter-Strike or Call of Duty, which are obviously an influence. For example, there’s abilities in there such as one class that’s able to see enemies through certain walls. That’s obviously only useful to the team if that player is on voice comms calling out to his friends. The current closed alpha has no system for connecting to servers with friends, but what’s your experience been like playing with strangers? So far I’ve only encountered silence, despite microphones being always-on by default.

Pip: Really? I’ve had incredibly chatty teammates every single time. As soon as I hit the loading screen someone’s chittering in my headphones. That said, it’s mostly been in German and French so far. My German stretches to a nursery rhyme about a witch, the numbers one to five, and “Do you speak German?” In French I could direct them to the salle de bain and tell them about my hobbies as a fifteen-year-old. For that reason I do wish they had the facility to let you play with people you know, simply so I could start working out the synergies of the different operators.

There’s another reason, though. I hate voicecomms with strangers. As soon as Rainbow Six: Siege dropped me in the game and voicechat was on and clearly necessary and expected I felt really panicked. I hate having to “reveal” I’m a girl when I’m playing games, especially when I’m just learning them. And that’s what it still feels like even after doing it for years: “revealing” yourself.

Graham: I’m torn halfway between being glad that Ubisoft are comfortable making a game that seems to demand greater investment from its players than most of its rivals, and being sad that this is a game that’s understandably going to exclude a lot of people as a result. Obviously I don’t have the same problem as you, but voicecomms is often impractical for me based on where my computer is in the house.

But yeah, right now just silence. The only time anyone spoke in the games I’ve played was me, and it was just yelling “Sorry! Sorry!” after I panic-threw a grenade at an injured and prone teammate who needed healing. They just stared back at me, before the explosion finished them off.

Which I guess is the flipside of it feeling like a tactical, high-investment sort of game: despite being totes rubbish and clueless at it, I’m still having fun. There’s enough that’s satisfying and empowering to use moment-to-moment that I enjoy myself even if I don’t accomplish anything. Heck, just spraying bullets and seeing them actual make holes in scenery is satisfying.

Pip: My favourite thing that isn’t sledgehammering is barricading things. But I was a bit too enthusiastic one round and I accidentally barricaded myself and a fellow player into the dining room. The hostage was not in the dining room and ended up being rescued rather quickly.

Graham, maybe my song should be this:

Graham: Always.

I think this is why the destruction tech feels more than just gimmick. Normally in asymmetric first-person shooters of this sort, the defending team has an advantage because they can take up entrenched positions and simply watch the chokepoints. Being able to shoot through walls makes that moot, though. If anything I’ve found the game harder as a defender so far, and even if I manage to barricade myself in with the hostage, I often feel more trapped than protected.

There’s two levels in the closed beta, one set in and around a suburban home and one on a parked passenger plane. Do you have a preference yet? I think I prefer the house, mainly for the ability to grapple up the outer walls and breach through second storey windows. I have had good times launching surprise-attacks on the hostage room that way.

Pip: I think this is where I fall victim to random chance – I’ve never been given the plane level yet. It’s always been the house, which reminds me of a few maps in CS: GO. I’d really like to check out the plane though – what’s different about it?

Graham: The plane one is set on a plane, which is like a house with wings.

Beyond that, the narrow corridor of a plane functions almost like a single, continuous chokepoint, which the level designers get around by making it a two-storey plane with copious areas to breach through floor and ceiling. This oddly makes it a more vertical map than the house, where you can do the same but have less incentive because the layout is more open and breaching wall is more commonly useful.

But the reason I like it less, I think, is mostly just that parts of planes are metal and you can’t breach through those with a sledgehammer. There’s still plenty that’s destructible, but it’s no longer all about that sledge, ’bout that sledge, sledgehammer.

Pip: They don’t let you take sledgehammers onto planes nowadays anyway. Also I had no idea about this two-storey plane concept. I’ve googled pictures of them right now – what a time to be alive.

Graham: This is just a two-map closed alpha, but let’s be DEFINITIVE in some way. What’s your favourite: breaches or barricades?

Pip: Breaches. NO WAIT. Barricades. No! Breaches. I like being the snakecam thing and investigating the house PLUS sledgehammer. Breaches.

Graham: I’m going to go with breaches also. I like explosions and rubble much more than pocket walls. Bestest Best Breaches Of The Year. Breaches/10.

23 Comments

  1. Cross says:

    I sincerely hope Ubisoft has the balls to go whole hog and drop the hitmarkers, up the recoil and such. If we’re going for a hardcore game, i hope they’ll be uncompromising in doing so. If they do, it could be wonderful. If they don’t, things will get messy.

    • Luringen says:

      Also, the “see through walls”-camera has to go.
      -It’s boring for the opponents because it makes sneaking impossible when the other team is actively using it.
      -It’s removes a lot of the tension of the game for the team that is using it, but it is too powerful to avoid also.

      • OmNomNom says:

        Agreed. The only reason it is not completely OP atm is the lack of team communication. Once people actually start, y’know, ‘working together’ it’ll be horribly OP :P

    • Troubletcat says:

      This is my fear. The reason I can’t take any modern shooters seriously competitively (and neither can many members of the competitive gaming community) is that the shooting mechanics are far, far too simple.

      If guns have low recoil and are accurate and kill in a split second, there’s no challenge. You can address this in a number of ways – in arena shooters like Quake etc. people move very fast and have lost of health relative to the damage of a single bullet and things that do do a lot of damage are hard to land hits with because they fire very slowly or have slow moving projectiles. But obviously that won’t work in a game that’s meant to be a bit more realistic than rocketjumps.

      In CS a good player can often kill somebody very quickly, but the extreme inaccuracy while moving and the way the recoil system works can mean that between poor players a shootout is a comedy of errors where nobody can hit anything.

      Siege doesn’t need to copy what CS has done, but you need to design the mechanics in such a way where actually shooting and killing another player has challenge associated with it beyond “point and click”. Call of Duty and Battlefield and… well, most online games these days DON’T have that. It sets the bar of entry higher than “the 8th basement level”. From what I’ve seen of Siege so far, unfortunately, it’s a similar kind of situation.

      Frankly I don’t think any franchise that doesn’t have it’s mechanics as deeply entrenched as CS is going to take the risk on making something that won’t appeal to the broadest possible market anymore on account of being, y’know, actually challenging. Which really sucks because I’d like some new shooters that are actually difficult to learn.

  2. melnificent says:

    I’ve only ever played on the house level too, this plane level sounds interesting. I just wish it had larger levels ala rainbow six Vegas. Well, I just want the casino level remastered.

    Oh and I’ve been playing with a controller on the sofa for 90 % of the time, works lovely and I can see the console only players enjoying it a lot.

    Final point, this is a closed alpha hut I’m finding it perfectly capable at 1080p on my 270x 4gb which is below minimum spec. For the fun of it I tried on my i7 laptop with 740m gpu…. it’s almost 30 FPS, so we should get good things going forward.

  3. OmNomNom says:

    Even as an alpha there are some things that worry me:

    The netcode is flaky
    Shotguns are very inconsistent
    Grenades get stuck in mid air and blow up in your face / bounce back off invisible walls
    Getting stuck in floor when it is half destroyed
    Vaguely unresponsive controls
    Pretty bad graphics for something hyped as so next-gen sound is equally so-so (directional sound seems particularly unreliable)
    Rounds can be super quick, so you spend more time in the lobby / looking at the winner/loser splash / loading the next level than you actually do in game
    The game is going to be completely reliant on good levels (more than most other games) and a decent number of them to keep the variety up. The levels could really make or break this game. The plane level for instance is far inferior to the house level simply because it allows fewer attack vectors

    I do LIKE the game and assuming it cleans up I may well buy it, it is not the Raven Shield 2 that I was hoping for but then maybe that was naive in the first place :)

    • Dac2142 says:

      The Graphics are bad because the ALPHA was designed to run on all system setups. Have you gone to the options screen? There are no options outside of resolution, meaning the graphics are at their lowest point imaginable so that everyone on and every system can play the alpha so that they have as many testers as possible. Half the objects in the plane map have place holder textures that straight up say the words ALPHA on them, You cant judge the whole game based on the alpha, and you definitely cant judge the graphics.

  4. monkeymcnugget says:

    Just a shame its UBI so it’ll be borked for the first few months (at least)

  5. Montavious says:

    I just hope they add a terrorist hunt mode, then we will be good.

    • Awesomeclaw says:

      That mode is amazing. Trying to solo practically any level is tense as hell, and it’s especially interesting when you realise that the terrorist placements differ depending on your route through the level.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Grizzly says:

    Somehow, Pip’s ocasional remarks regarding her experiences as a woman in esports have a stronger effect on how I feel about these things then any article or video dedicated to the subject.

  7. MrUnimport says:

    I watched some streams of it and I’m not impressed at all. The player movement is a carbon copy of your average Call of Duty, and as a result each round plays out more like COD with destructible walls than a tactical, methodical shooter. A game where the best defense is to keep moving, spread out, and attempt to gain the flank can’t possibly be a satisfying besieged-terrorists emulation. For one thing, the terrorists can in fact exit the house or plane and shoot the counter-terrorists at their leisure, the only penalty involved being marked on people’s HUDs if you stay outside for more than three seconds, more than enough time to spray down a foe who’s busying themselves with a breaching charge.

    • Awesomeclaw says:

      If anything, that sounds like it should foster more teamwork and tactical play than less. Perhaps said man with breaching charge should have one of his team-mates cover him before starting to set the charge?

  8. Bugamn says:

    Is this post duplicated or has the Matrix glitched? I could swear I have read it before.

    • Bugamn says:

      Nevermind, I have just noticed that the first comments are from four days ago. Maybe it was posted first for supporters? I should sleep.

  9. tonicer says:

    This game (so far) is a disgrace to the Rainbow Six name. They should change the name to Rain of Six: Siege or something.

    • Foosnark says:

      I really miss the first couple of RS games. One of them (Rogue Spear or Raven Shield?) had a ton of mods available — maps, weapons, uniforms — and I played it for a couple of years. I’d love to see a remake of those with a modern engine, not the silly console-ish shooter it became.

      My friends used to play it at work when we were off duty, and one would panic, freeze, and eventually throw a grenade at her feet to end it all if she was the only survivor. Good times.

  10. Dux Ducis Hodiernus says:

    you change back and forth from “closed alpha”(as mentioned in the title) and “closed beta”(as mentioned in the article)

    which one is it, beta or alpha?

  11. Dux Ducis Hodiernus says:

    Also sadly i have had significant issues with uPlay incombarable to the likes of steam, origin, or blizzard, so i probably will be forced to skip this as well. Unless its amazingly good, in which case i might bother.

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  13. Cronstintein says:

    I’m happy to see anything different in the FPS genre. Not really calling to me personally but I hope it succeeds to encourage further exploration of the concept.

    • April March says:

      I concur. I like breaking things apart but don’t like communicating via voice online. Still it sounds like a good idea and I hope it does well.

  14. April March says:

    I don’t know what’s all this hatred towards Patriots. We’ll never know what it’d turn out to be but from the previews I expected it to go for something similar to Spec Ops: The Line.