Hands On – Rainbow Six: Siege

Rainbow Six Siege [official site] is being held hostage in its last stages of development. We dispatched Brendan to breach and clear and also write about it.

The latest Rainbow Six game begins with Angela Bassett telling you that a new terrorist threat has made itself known. One with incomparable resources and intelligence. She’s getting the band back together, and giving you all the power you need to hunt these villains down.  “Borders and protocols,” she says, “are irrelevant”. Apart from being a shocking dismissal of international law, this sentence sums up the game pretty well. See that wall? Irrelevant. See that door? Immaterial. And why should we use the front door, like good neighbours, when we can just blow a hole in the goddamn ceiling?

Ubisoft’s new tactical shooter has already been through its beta, as Pip and Graham have experienced. But I was given the chance to play through a more complete version. The first mode I played was ‘Situations’, a singleplayer dry run of the whole concept. I crouch-walked my way around an airplane in the first mission, inexpertly shooting baddies in the feet until there were no more baddies left. In another mission, I defended a vulnerable hostage from waves of explosive-smitten terrorists by setting traps and blockading doorways. And in the final operation I rescued and escorted another hostage from a fortified winter chalet by patiently zipping around with a robot drone, marking the positions of my foes, then barging in. At the end of each mission I was awarded a rating for any special objectives.

It was an interesting little romp but I could tell this was less a highlight and more of a necessary introduction to the tone and pace of the game. A kind of tutorial.

“In a sense it is a way to get the players into the game, to kind of learn it,” says Chris Hendry, Senior Environment Artist. “And then they can move onto multiplayer.”

But he also says that on harder difficulties, the mode stretches itself out.

“When you start to play with the other difficulties… there’ll be more enemies, they’ll be more reactive. It becomes very very challenging.”

Sure enough, I played through Situations mode’s plane level again on ‘Realistic’ and noticed that the enemies were firing on me much quicker as well as being far more alert to my approaches. I was still able to get by without too much trouble, so long as I was careful. But it was more of a battle. The bad guys were blasting holes straight through walls once they knew I was there.

These destructible walls are the meaty chunks in Siege’s soup. In the game’s co-op Terrohunt mode, your team is tasked with eliminating all enemies in a map. A return to the good old days of Clancy games. There are a lot of places to blast your way into each hideout and some of the maps we played were disarmingly big. You quickly learn that splitting up over too far is lunacy. In ‘Kanal’, we flashbanged and murdered our way through a warehouse only to realise there was another adjacent warehouse on the opposite side of the level where the last 10 lousy terrorists had holed up. In Club House, we tried to surround and infiltrate the headquarters of a motorcycle gang, only to be routinely shot dead in the cavernous basement.

The appeal of this mode obviously lies in going in with a crack team of friends, or even a single partner, and hitting each enemy perfectly before swiftly moving on to the next, wiping out every room in a ‘perfect run’ – check those corners, the action movie ideal. That harks back to the perfectionism of the original game, and it speaks to the methodical among us. As does the ability to put down a tiny robot drone before you enter the building and speed through the map, tagging all the enemies. You can do this at any time, but it does leave the “real you” vulnerable.

For some reason, I loved this robot. It appealed to my sense of caution. My teammates always got bored of this scouting stage very quickly, often breaching and beginning the slaughter while I still whizzed about on the floor in robo-form, tagging dangerous men with bombs strapped to them (Siege here ticking the box for ‘enemy that runs towards you and explodes’). To me, my partners seemed mad with blood lust. Why risk going in without knowing all the angles? With the drone, we could be thorough. But that’s the kind of relationship you can find yourself having with your squad in Terrohunt mode. Some people are just mavericks.

Although it has obviously been given a more bombastic shootery feel, Chris says it was important that they got the pace of the older games right.

“We kept some elements definitely. We kept the tactics, the tension, the communication. Those are all very important things. In the universe itself, it’s very important to keep those. You have to be smart while you play and Rainbow Six has always been about that – making the right decision and being smart.”

Terrohunt was mostly a tasty morsel. But even though I was playing with others, and the enemies were changing their positions, the traps they were setting, and their formation, something still felt missing. It still had the sense of a time trial about it. And whenever one of us was sundered by one of the frighteningly hardy suicide bombers, they still had to wait and watch as the others finished up.

Here, the ‘one life’ rule becomes a double edged sword. You want your players to feel like there is something at stake. This means they will play through slower, more warily. But that means that when someone does die, they are watching people move through the place even more carefully than before. I am pretty patient when it comes to watching other people’s screens. But I know other people for whom this is considered torture. Chris, however, is still happy with a single life.

“It fits the universe. We want people to slow down, we want people to make impactful decisions, so if you have somebody going it alone, doing their own thing and they go down, the game becomes much much harder. We wanted to have an impact. We didn’t want this ‘run and gun’ feeling, it doesn’t fit with Rainbow Six … the tension, the communication, it’s all ingrained together and ‘one life’ is a big big part of that.”

In PvP multiplayer it is much less of an issue. The rounds move much faster and the game encourages you to get things done. The surveillance and “tagging” phase is mandatory and timed to about 40 seconds, and the assault itself is also on a timer. On the defender side the first 40 seconds are spent building up barricades, putting down traps or devices, and laying barbed wire. Often the best way for the defending terrorist team to win is simply to impede the attackers and run down the timer. It isn’t glamorous, but it wins you the round. This means that the attacking side takes more risks.

Often, those risks involve blowing up a bit of the building. This is where the game excels. The layouts of the map don’t change each time – it isn’t procedural – but using the walls and floors in an ad hoc way slowly helps you to learn the tricks of the game and the layout of each map.

“We had this technology really early on in production,” says Chris. “And we wanted to figure out how to make it work in multiplayer environments. The thing with destruction as well is it’s kind of tech heavy, it’s very hard to replicate physics objects across platforms… we put a lot of time into it. It’s not just aesthetics, the tech is very very strong.”

He’s right when he says it is not just for show. One round saw my team cramped into the back end of the airplane level, where two bombs needed to be defused by our adversaries. We barricaded the walls and waited. The whole time I expected the law to come from the only direction we had left them. But somehow an explosion ripped into the side of our hideaway and men came pouring in. I hadn’t noticed this entrance before but I was ready for them. During the preparation phase, instead of laying down barbed wire or planting C4 in the doorways, like my teammates were doing, I had used my shotgun to blow a line of wide holes all along a stretch of wall, then nestled myself into the room. This was the very back of the plane. I now had complete line of sight on any intruder, from any angle except from below me. When the attackers came in, blinded by their own smoke, my shotgun got them all. Chris is happy that the environment is working the way it ought to.

“We had to focus as well on making destructible walls readable. It takes a little while to get used to it but once you know how to read the visual language it becomes fairly easy. That’s replicated across all the maps.”

There’ll be 11 maps in the final release, with more due out in updates, free to all players. “We will not split the playerbase,” says Chris. “We want to keep everybody together.”

It’s certain that other DLC is on the horizon, with new characters a possibility. The existing character classes in Rainbow Six are another one of its strengths. At first, 20 playable “operators” seems strange to anyone coming from tactical shooters with four dudes and hundreds of microscopically different loadouts. But treating each individual as their own power works well here. You can very easily pick up favourites.

Kapkan, a defender who can put booby traps on doorways and reinforce walls with steel shutters, is an obvious choice. But the game also includes a countering character – an attacker called Thermite who can use the explosive of his name to melt through these steel obstacles. There is someone called Fuze who can plant a device that injects a cluster of five grenades into one room. But there is also Jager, who can place a gadget that can zap and neutralise grenades in mid air. This is all important to the balance of the fight but Chris says it is not true of all the operators.

“We don’t want to make a lot of direct counters, we want to be able to have some operators that are unique on the their own, that don’t have a direct counter. We need some that are direct counters to fit the meta, but a lot of our operators will be unique to themselves… we want to make sure that they have a flavour.”

That’s where characters like Sledge come in – a SWAT dude with a big wall-busting hammer.  Or Buzz, a riot cop with a blinding flash embedded into his shield. On the terrorist side there’s Smoke, who has three remotely detonated toxic gas bombs. And Doc, who fires a hypodermic needle to revive people at range (usually, if a hit is not lethal you can pull people back up, and if you go down yourself you can crawl away and you are presented with the amusing prompt that tells you to hold X to put pressure on wound. This slows the death timer as you hold your own guts in and wait for someone to help).

The classes, emphasis on communication and counterbalancing gizmos give Siege a hint of Dota, in the sense that it is clearly intended as a strategic bout between highly communicative team players. But Chris says they are far from chasing that eSports dollar.

“A lot of people are bringing up the esports thing and what we want to do with it. We have the tools to make it competitive and make it really fun but in the end that’s not us. We can’t say this is what we want to do. We have to see what the players want, what the fanbase wants, the direction they want to take it. Once we know what they want, we can take it off that.”

In short, Siege makes some obvious concessions to players of the sillier ‘shooty shooty bang bangs’. There are plenty of choke-point shootouts that remind me of Counter-Strike. But it does want to hold onto that Clancy tradition of caution and organisation. It wants to be a thinking grunt’s shooter, rather than a rehash of Battlefield Hardline’s cops and robbers. And I suspect that its success will have a lot to do with how it is received by players raised on infinite respawns. What would Chris say to someone like this, coming from Call of Duty or Battlefield?

“Slow it down,” he says. “Get a microphone. Talk with your team. What you are used to will not work in Siege. It’s a different mentality completely.”

Different for sure. Borders and protocols are irrelevant.

Rainbow Six: Siege is released on December 1st.


  1. ohminus says:

    “The latest Rainbow Six game begins with Angela Bassett telling you that a new terrorist threat has made itself known. One with incomparable resources and intelligence. She’s getting the band back together, and giving you all the power you need to hunt these villains down. “Borders and protocols,” she says, “are irrelevant”. Apart from being a shocking dismissal of international law, this sentence sums up the game pretty well.”

    So basically, what she’s saying is that the protagonists are the terrorists? ;)

    • CMaster says:

      “So basically, what she’s saying is that the protagonists are the terrorists? ;)” I think that wouldn’t be too unusal a take on elements of Tom Clancy’s work.

      Oddly, in the game you always place as a counter-terrorist force, even when you’re on the side of planting and defending bombs, you are SWAT/GIGN/SAS/Spetnaz etc.

      • ohminus says:

        Heh. In Germany, the GSG9 was involved in a false flag operation in 1978 blowing a hole into the wall of a prison to liberate a Red Army Faction terrorist or create the impression of a liberation attempt in order for domestic intelligence to be able to plant a spy in the organisation. It was only in 1986 that the press found out the truth – everyone involved, including the criminals planting the bomb, had been on the payroll of authorities.

        The GSG9 was finally nearly crucified by the public for one single former terrorist ending up dead in an arrest on a train station that got somewhat chaotic. Evidence suggested that he shot himself, but initial suspicions were that he was executed in retaliation for killing one of the officers.

        If GSG9 was running around planting any more bombs, that would be the end of them. Their time as the heroes of Mogadishu has been over for a while.

    • WALLS says:

      Im just glad ubisoft made the brave creative decision to call the terrorists the white masks, and have them actually wear white masks, id hate to have terrorists with discernible ethnic backgrounds or implied aims, that wouldnt be politically correct and generic enough, and who needs to think about things anyway?

      • magogjack says:

        No they are trying to suggest (my take on it anyway), or ingrain the idea that a certain hacking “group” are terrorists, but without using Guy Fawlkes masks.

      • Michael Anson says:

        Tom Clancy games have never been concerned with political correctness. The antagonists have been variably identified as being an Occupy movement or an Anonymous-style group, so there’s no need to go searching for things to complain about when there’s already plenty there.

  2. CMaster says:

    Played the beta, and yeah, the destructability really is key to the game. Some of the best success I had in PvP mode involved hidng behind a wall, and putting a couple of subtle “peep holes” in it. Then when the enemy team came in, keeping their backs to the wall – *blam* *blam* *blam*.

    And it means there’s no such thing as an unassiable defense position – the attackers can always come through the walls. Or the ceiling. Or the floor.

    On the flip side it felt like there were a few too many hard counters, and the game feels like a “tactical CS”, which makes the £50 price tag really hard to stomach.

    But it’s got good movement, with prone/crouch/stand/sprint, jumping, repelling and mantleing. The gunplay is solid, if a little network-oddness involved (killcams about 70% of the time show the killer missing every shot). And the levels are small but kept dynamic. It probably deserves to become a multiplayer staple, if they can fix the often broken (as in it compleltey fails to find a match at all) matchmaking.

  3. dontnormally says:

    I’d love to play a game like this that isn’t framed as Goodies vs Baddies.

    Something like: you work as special forces for one of several feudal-style Houses, going on missions to infiltrate, subvert, damage, or defend against the other Houses.

    Or even the same as that just with US vs China or something.

    Let’s get some grey area involved

  4. nanotechnics says:

    Still not sure about this game.

    • yan spaceman says:

      Yeah, me too. I need to be clearer on how the tactical side of the Single Player holds up.

      • CMaster says:

        It’s probably worth mentioning that this was always meant to be the multiplayer “sideshow” to the main-series singleplayer (but appparently axed) Patriots. I don’t think if you’re after a great singleplayer tactical shooter, this is ever going to deliver.

  5. Christo4 says:

    I know it’s probably not a well regarded opinion and while i don’t really play much CoD or Battlefield, am i the only one who is rather bothered at waiting 10 minutes for a game to finish before playing another one in CS or similar games?
    Granted, it doesn’t always happen, but sometimes i think my time would be better spent actually playing the game than waiting for everyone to finish.
    I guess what i mean in a way is that, while i do like a bit more strategy and less rushing, the wait time to finish a round if you happen to die fast feels like a waste. So i usually like games with respawns because the feeling of uselesness is lesser. Well, other than if you suck and are at the bottom of the scoreboard i guess.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      Honestly, they should just let you start another game. Discard the notion of carrying on for multiple games with the exact same group of players and instead make it possible to start another game as soon as you die, with other people. When the first match ends, you can get a notification with the results and the possibility to watch a replay if you so desire.

      It’s more work, but it’d significantly reduce downtime.

    • 9of9 says:

      While I’m generally of a similar opinion, at least in the PvP matches of the beta this didn’t end up striking me as too much of an issue. The matches overall are like 5 minutes long, tops – the first 45 seconds are set-up and then by the time you get into the action and might die, you’ll only have a few minutes left if you do. Usually never enough time to even make a sandwich.

      Should also point out that dead teammates can occasionally still be useful while dead – they’re able to use any surveillance cameras/drones that haven’t been disable yet and either communicate with living team-members to tell them where the enemy is, or try to tag enemies and have their positions show up for everyone else.

      The coop mode is another matter of course – there it does indeed get pretty slow and tedious, but the PvP works well I think!

    • Artificial says:

      I’d say this is one of Counter Strikes greatest assets. Rounds are only 2 minutes long, and as your team get picked off and you know every is focusing on your every move hoping you can pull off the win really gets the adrenaline pumping.

    • shadybearfaced says:

      Then you should try not dying at the beginning of every round, scrub :P


  6. Slazia says:

    “Incorporates 3rd-party DRM: Uplay Account Required”

    Really? I have to endure that nonsense again on top of an ¥8,100 price tag? I like the idea of the game, but there’s no way I’m dealing with Uplay again or spending so much money on a game…

    What is the logic behind Uplay? Deter potential customers because we hate money?

  7. Riaktion says:

    I’d love to hear more about the game’s bot support, that hasn’t got a lot of coverage sadly. As someone with finite free time when it comes to multiplayer games I am always behind the skill curve of the community and invariably end up being a bit pants compared to my team mates, even if it just comes down to map knowledge or understanding the game mechanics rather than actual skill level. Therefore when it comes to games like this bots are a huge selling point for me, especially ones with multiple difficulty levels like CS:GO or UT, allows me to ramp up the skill level at my own pace and still enjoy the game. Sadly though bots are a dying breed in multiplayer focused games, however what support is available in Siege would be good to know.

    • CMaster says:

      Based on the beta and reading between the lines on this article: There isn’t any.

      You can play the Terrorist Hunt mode (and this article mentions the “Situations” mode which wasn’t in the beta) on your own, against AI controlled opponenets. But there’s no sign or mention of player-equivilant bots, either to fight alongside you in the above mentioned modes, or against in Siege mode (the PvP one).

      • Riaktion says:

        Hmm if that’s the case, that’s a shame if not unsurprising. Wonder if it will be worth it just for the terrorist hunt mode….. Guess time and reviews will tell

  8. Gliese says:

    I have lost all interest in the game after reading this preview. I am so goddamn tired of games thinking increasing difficulty is MOAR MOAR MOAR WAVES OF BAD GUYS. Fuck you Ubisoft, and your lazy programming.

    • mukuste says:

      This is a multiplayer title first and foremost, the AI opponents don’t matter all that much.

      Also, you sound angry.

      • Gliese says:

        Not angry, just fed up with shitty programming. I am sick of cannon fodder baddies. Give me a 5 ruthless enemy AI controlled enemies over 500 stupid baddies in waves.

        • Exuro says:

          I do think you’ve rather taken it out of context. What he said is that there are more enemies, and they become more challenging. No mention of large numbers, or waves.

          I played Terrorist Hunt in the beta, and when we’re talking more enemies, on Normal there was around 20 enemies, compared to something like 26 on Hard. This varied from map to map, but all of the maps were quite large. They also became much more reactive, and bullet damage was more realistic.

  9. sebagul says:

    Most corny action movies show a “hero” blindingly running and shooting super dumb drones who put themselves right in the way of the bullets.

    A lot of players feel like “heroes” by behaving like dumb drones, absolutely careless about being in the way of the bullet curtain.

    I had a great time playing the Rainbow Six series. You need to use tactics or you die.

  10. neotribe says:

    Is there no AI spotting of, and response to the scouting robot? Because that’s ridiculously gamey for R6. I know it’s meant to be MP centric, but that’s not my interest in the franchise. If I want an MP milsim, I’ll play ArmA.

    • CMaster says:

      I think I remember the AI shooting at it after a while. If you were quick though, you can move on before they get to you.

      It’s genuinley a difficult target to spot, and an even more difficult target to hit for even a human player mind. The robot is tiny and pretty fast, and accuracy when moving is less than amazing with most weapons.

  11. theycallmeIRISH says:

    I am really glad they are not focusing on eSports. I don’t have any particular resentment for eSports (it’s cool gaming is becoming something you can do for a career like traditional sports), but in my humble opinion I find that if a game focuses too heavily on trying to be an eSport, it can lose some of the things which make it fun. Additionally I feel the content for the community goes to the back burner as eSports is pushed in an attempt to make more money. The main game which makes me feel this way is Evolve. I really loved Evolve during the Alpha, Beta, and (despite its release problems) when the game first released. It was different from the crowd and fun to play. However, since it released, I feel the main focus of the game has been trying to make it into a major eSport like Dota/LoL rather than nourishing the enjoyment of the fans who first loved it. I mention this because the way Evolve is played as an eSport is very different from a casual match (at least from what I have observed). In the eSport matches everyone picks almost the exact same team and uses the exact same strategy, which gives an edge to winning (of course very important in an eSport), but doesn’t exactly lead to the most entertaining or fun round. I would hate to see the same thing happen to Siege as I very much enjoyed the beta’s game-play.

    I also hope they don’t make Rainbow Six Siege too much like current shooters (e.g. Call of Duty, Battlefield, ect.). There will be plenty of those to play this holiday season with Black Ops 3, Battlefront, and Halo coming out. I want a game that is different, with a different feel and style. I really liked the game-play of the Siege beta and I hope the final game is very similar with improvements to the matchmaking.

  12. Philopoemen says:

    I’m wondering why the decision to have “skills” for each “character” (other than to sell more DLC ofc), especially since it flies in the face of SWAT/CT practice, where everyone is cross-trained to at least do one other person’s role.

    And have they done away with tactical advisers all together these days? Especially for something with the “realistic” background as the R6 series.

  13. Pizzacheeks McFroogleburgher says:

    Y’see.. I played the beta, it was OK, but not as good as the still awesome Vegas 1 or 2.. No cover mechanism? What were they thinking?

    • Cross says:

      It’s first person. It and discrete cover mechanics don’t mix, and breaking out into third person would be a massive imbalance in the defenders’ favour.

      • Pizzacheeks McFroogleburgher says:

        Such imbalance can be controlled with clever camera work, such as was implemented in a fairly recent DayZ update..