Wot I Think: Rainbow Six Siege

When firefights break out, bullets sending plaster dust into the air and punching holes through walls and doors, Rainbow Six Siege [official site] is as effective a depiction of close quarters first-person combat as I’ve ever seen. It reminds me of F.E.A.R., Monolith’s horror-themed FPS. Take away the slow motion and the scare tactics, and F.E.A.R. is still fantastic, thanks to some of the crunchiest and weightiest shooting in gaming.

As in intense and grimly beautiful depiction of firefights, Siege is on the same level.

At the end of a round, the level is scarred. The new Rainbow Six doesn’t have the kind of destructibility that you might find in Just Cause, Battlefield or Red Faction – the damage is much more detailed and on a much smaller scale. Individual bullets can penetrate certain materials and a shotgun blast or concentrated burst of rifle fire will completely destroy cover. That matters, not only because it’s a brilliant way to communicate the intensity of the firefights, but because of the malleable tactical situations that the collapsible walls create.

The damage isn’t cosmetic. Not only will bullets tear through walls and damage anyone on the other side, they’ll leave holes that create new lines of sight. Explosives can create new entry points, either intentionally or due to unintended collateral damage.

Infiltrating a building through a second floor window, my squad split into two. Three went right, to secure a stairwell, and I went to the left with out shotgun-wielding bruiser, ensuring that no enemies could approach the rest of the team from behind. The chatter of fire came from the stairs and before our three chums could react, they’d been cut down. We ducked into a side room, with just one way in and out. The corridor outside would become a killing floor if anyone dared approach.

I expected the other team to roll a grenade into my lap. That would have flushed me out of the room and I’d have been doomed.

Instead, I heard footsteps and creaking floorboards as they moved into position. They surrounded the room and then, simultaneously, two of the walls collapsed under a hail of fire. Suddenly there were three ways in and as I bled out on the floor and the camera cut to my killer’s point of view. From his perspective, I didn’t look like an elite operative at all. I looked like Buster Keaton at the end of this clip. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pA9Y4CWm6oI

I love almost everything about the minute by minute experience of playing Siege. There are few actions that don’t feel involving. I’ve described the actual fights but scouting and preparing are just as enjoyable. It’s slightly disappointing that there’s no real planning phase and that the various entry points for each map don’t have more of an impact on what follows. Wherever the attacking team decides to approach from, they’ll soon be rappelling up the side of a building or breaching doors and windows at ground level.

Rounds play out quickly but that’s not to say there’s no room to stop and think. Whether you’re playing against the AI or against other people, there are usual moments of calm within the storm. They usually last a few seconds and at first that doesn’t seem sufficient – you can barely draw breath, let alone change your entire tactical approach on the fly.

As you gain experience – in the form of in-game levels and unlocks, but more importantly, in the form of ACTUAL EXPERIENCE OF THE GAME – your reaction times will improve. This is one of the essential and most important facts about Siege; you can feel yourself becoming a better player as you learn how to use its tools and systems. That’s vital. If it weren’t the case, the fairly barebones package that comprises the actual #content wouldn’t be anywhere near enough to keep anyone’s attention for long.

And here’s the problem. Siege is a luxurious piece of design, an absolutely phenomenally crafted tactical shooter, but it’s trapped in an outfit that feels more restrictive than Sam Fisher’s corset. There are eleven maps and I’m not sure adding more would (or will, as more are incoming, for free) make the game feel bigger. It’s the limited objectives that are the source of the problem. Whether you’re trying to rescue hostages or defusing bombs, the asymmetric play only has room in its mind for two approaches – attack or defend. If there are bombs, you infiltrate and attack to reach them or defend them much as you would if they were hostages or valuables.

There’s so little variation in the flow of each round, whatever the map or specific objective, that it’s incredible that Siege has held my attention. That’s testament to the intelligence of the fundamental design, which has found the sweet spot between reflex shooting and tactical team play. Best played with a group of friends, Siege only needs two people for a spot of terrorist hunting, but ideally you’ll have five to form a full squad for team battles. It’s entirely possible to have a good time playing with strangers though, provided you’re willing to pop on a headset and listen to basic instructions, and the cooperative focus of the game actually seems to have ensured that the people playing are interesting in playing well.

Even though cooperation is required, particularly when coordinating defensive positions and preparing for intruders with wire, barriers and nitro charges, almost everything you need to say or hear can be communicated in a few words. There’s no need for in-depth discussions – and no time for them, in fact – but there is a need to be responsive and responsible. Death comes quickly.

Although I’m complaining about the lack of modes, I’ve enjoyed both the team vs team centrepiece missions and the human vs AI terrorist hunts. The AI has obvious advantages, mostly in terms of the number of folks it drops into a mission and its apparent ability to spawn hordes of enemies as soon as you reach an objective. That’s frustrating, as it goes against the nature of the game, which rewards planning and careful sweeps of every room in a building. But playing with Graham yesterday, the two of us against all that the AI could muster, the game took on an entirely new type of tension. It also made me want Left 4 Dead 3 in this engine, as enemy bombers bursting through walls seemed just a little too much like monsters to be credible.

The Left 4 Dead craving sums up my only real issue with Rainbow Six Siege. I keep wanting more from it and, more specifically, from this beautiful and unpredictable engine of destruction on which it’s built. My favourite moments in the game could be part of a SWAT game rather than a terrorists and special forces deal, and I absolutely want to play that game. The tension of trying to make an arrest rather than taking a shot, and not knowing quite what is waiting behind each door would be fantastic. As it is, in Siege, you know what’s behind the door – it’s a person with a gun who wants to kill you.

I’m tempted to complain about the unlock system but I’d be doing so out of habit rather than for any good reason. New operatives, each with a unique ability that helps in either attack or defense, are unlocked fairly quickly. You’ll have your first after doing a couple of singleplayer training missions and you can take your pick based on the playstyle you favour rather than having to climb a ladder. Essentially, as long as you’re not stuck with the basic Recruit, nobody has an overall advantage over you – instead, they have a skill that gives them an advantage in specific situations. But so do you. Planning so as to make the most of your squad’s skills is one of the keys to success.

The season pass is another easy target for criticism but the only people who have any real reason to criticise it are the people who spent money on it. Everyone receives the new operators and maps that are coming for free, those with the season pass just get a few days exclusive access, and some weapon skins and boosters to unlock everything quickly. Given that the people who buy the season pass are presumably going to be dedicated players, they’re unlikely to need those boosters, given that they’ll spend enough time in-game to unlock everything sooner rather than later anyhow.

Several times, both while playing and while writing this review, I’ve come close to condemning Siege as a too-brief flash of brilliance in search of a proper home. Siege does feel like a slight game, and that’s due to the compact nature of the maps and the way that almost every mission turns into a deathmatch rather than a careful approach to a finer objective. The planning phase for the defenders is the closest the game comes to a and it’s best to accept that Siege is an intelligent multiplayer FPS, with disruptive and satisfying gadgets, rather than a thoughtful full-on tactical experience. It’s a bloody good multiplayer FPS though.

And that’s down to the technical side as much as anything. Matchmaking and connectivity have been spot on, although there seems to be some confusion between Uplay’s own voice settings and the game’s in-built ones. I’ve found the volume of in-game voice so low that I had to turn down the rest of the sound effects, and Uplay’s own settings seem to take precedence unless they’re disabled. That hasn’t happened for everyone I’ve been playing with though.

Anything that interrupts or weakens the actual audio design is criminal because it’s some of the best I’ve encountered in recent memory. Whether it’s the voices of AI opponents identifying one of your teammate’s movements or the sudden thudding footsteps of a startled enemy behind a wall, Siege is a masterclass of diegetic sound.

Every noise, whether it’s the telltale crackle or whirr of a specific gadget or the creak of a board, sounds as if it has its origin in the world. It’s only after going back to other games after playing that I’ve realised how rarely that’s the case – sounds in Siege actually seem to bleed through walls and to muddle into one another. It’s quietly spectacular, just like the damage system. Nothing in the game looks particularly extravagant but everything reacts to the combat and that’s more important than a thousand ultra high-res textures.

Here’s one more reason why I love Siege. Everything that I do feels meaningful and satisfying. Take remote cameras. Sending them into a building is tactically astute, whether scoping out enemy positions or trying to find an objective within a building, but the device works so well because the tiny remote drone moves just right, bumping against or clattering across obstacles. It’s like a stealth minigame, as you scuttle underneath furniture and away from prying eyes. From the individual pieces of equipment to the actual movements of your operative, Siege’s component parts are all exquisitely handled.

And yet I still wish they’d been placed in a more inventive or expressive shell. For all of the wonderful craft on show, Siege doesn’t contain any surprises. It executes its plan to perfection but there’s no room for deviation.

Rainbow Six Siege is out now.

57 Comments

  1. TheRaptorFence says:

    I’ve enjoyed Siege as a possible e-Sports game, and I hate e-Sports. It reminds me so much of Counter-Strike: the voice comms, the meta, and the tactics all come together to make a perfect multiplayer shooter. It’s a game designed around balance, where you play and re-play a map until everything is known about it, and you learn all the basic placements and cams and strategies and design counters to them, and counters-to-counters. I’d compare it more to a game of chess, where you try to think ahead a few moves, rather than the twitch-based shooters of recent memory. And I love it all the more for that.

    • crazyd says:

      The biggest reason I don’t like it is that I don’t see where a progression system fits in a game of chess. In CS, both teams start with the same stuff, and have access to the same stuff. Including a progression system seems to completely break that, with people that have played the game longer getting a large mechanical advantage over those new.

      • CMaster says:

        The progression provides such minimal advantages, it’s not really an issue. You have less of an advantage from progression than you do in say, League of Legends.

        All weapons are available from the start. It’s only the operators and their specialist gadgets that are locked away, plus some gun mods with real but minor effects. You’ll be level pegging with other players in a 3-4 hours of play.

      • Solanaceae says:

        You’ll have basically all the stuff you want within a few hours of play. It becomes irrelevant really quickly.

      • Herr Dr. Face Doktor says:

        To be fair, the progression becomes moot once you get into ranked mode, which requires you to be level 20 to play, which takes a long time and by then you’ll have nearly every class, if not every class, to choose from.

  2. zeep says:

    Nice review.

    ” It executes its plan to perfection but there’s no room for deviation.”

    Says it all. Spot on how i view many other games too.

  3. Koozer says:

    I enjoyed the beta for a bit, but the fact everyone else seemed to have the maps memorised, and I never got to use my one new character because someone else picked them first every time turned me off.

    • NegativeNancy says:

      So essentially you’re complaining about a multiplayer shooter not being casual enough. The gall!

      • Sleepy Will says:

        It’s perfectly legitimate to not enjoy a game because it’s too hardcore. I know “casual” is a dirty word, but it’s only a dirty word because there are a huge number of people who enjoy casual games but have been relentlessly given bad games with terrible business models under the banner of “casual”. Let’s not try to shame people for what they like and/or don’t like. We’re all victims of the likes of King et al, there’s nothing inherently bad in liking a game that is accessible, not too taxing and not time/life consuming. It can be a nice juxtaposition to the hardcore games you enjoy but need to switch off from once in a while.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Skabooga says:

    Sounds like a game that would be just perfect for modding, combining its strong technical base with the creativity of the masses.

  5. Herr_C says:

    I’m glad I was wrong about a few things, this reads like a really good game.

    It seems the only problem right now is the price. Untill it drops significantly I will not have enough friends to play with… I guess the main reason everyone I know plays or has at some point played CS:GO is low entry price.

    • Petethegoat says:

      I got a copy from cjs for 20 quid. I’m guessing it’ll be similarly priced on some of the other cd key sites as well.
      Enjoying it thoroughly so far. A Neo Tokyo style mod would be perfect.

    • deanimate says:

      Never understand this train of thought when a quick search reveals the game for about £20. If that’s still too much then ok but don’t just look at the ridiculous steam price

  6. thedosbox says:

    My favourite moments in the game could be part of a SWAT game rather than a terrorists and special forces deal, and I absolutely want to play that game.

    Signed. I still dream of a follow up to SWAT4.

    • hamilcarp says:

      It is such a shame that there is still nothing else like it. Or Raven Shield while we’re on the subject.

    • goettel says:

      4 was excellent, but I missed the guy who voiced 3… “let’s slow it down”, “stack up”, “mirror for suspects”.

    • CMaster says:

      Yeah, a new SWAT would be great.

      What I don’t get is why games that claimed to be inspired by it often aren’t. See Takedown, which claimed to be channeling it, but was exlusivley leathal and primarily multiplayer.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Maybe someone in Ubisoft is using this as a strategic stepping-stone to get back to making a full-on SWAT game. Show that there’s [still] a market for the bones of it first, then build on it in a sequel.

      • hamilcarp says:

        One can dream. In a perfect world we’d get a proper sequel to Raven Shield, but I’d settle for a Rainbow Six with a campaign with Ding Chavez and all that good stuff, however outdated the Clancy mythos might be. At this point I’d even be happy with another Vegas type game, because while I’m sure Siege is a fine multiplayer manshoot, it doesn’t strike me as being remotely related to the previous entries.

        • Havalynii says:

          To be honest, I’d be completely fine with them porting all previous Rainbow Six and SWAT games (different developers, I know) to the Siege engine, damage included. That’s really a dream solution for me, I’m not necessarily dying for new content, I’m more just longing for the familiar content to be updated. Mod support would, of course, be the cherry on top of this dream cake.

        • happydan says:

          I’d settle for an unranked, non-levelling ‘classic mode’ for this game where all the weapons are there to pick and choose.

          • happydan says:

            EDIT: Also, bring out the Raven Shield maps as DLC! Import/Export! The prison! Mountain top one!

    • Zetetik says:

      You read my mind exactly….SWAT 5 in this engine could be an absolute marvel!

      I’d definitely like to see this kind of thing but in a longer-form format (proper protracted hostage sequences, clearing areas in a building/ grouped buildings etc that’s been taken by ‘opposition’ – also having more civilians/people “caught in the cross-fire” etc in the area would be fantastic; so you really have to think and make a judgement call before pulling your trigger)

  7. yogibbear says:

    I got it for $40 via greenmangaming. Instead of Steam’s $60. I think the sale is still on. Game is really good even though I’ve only played it for about 5 hrs I’ve already got 8 operators unlocked. The main thing that annoys me is the GMG version is direct to uPlay so I had to add it as a non-steam game to my steam list so my friends can see me playing it… whereas on uPlay service I have 0 friends, vs. steam like 250+ [DOTA 2 / TF2 / CSGO / L4D shenanigans]. So I basically only have been playing with randoms. Which so far has been OK. The weapon unlock system is not very deep, just more personal preference stuff on scopes and some very cheap and quick to unlock things like grips and silencers that you can earn for an entire operator in 1-2 maps. So nothing unbalancing.

  8. TheAngriestHobo says:

    Now, see, imagine if Bethesda had used an engine like this for Fallout 4, instead of using up the last of their duct tape on the Creation Engine.

    • drinniol says:

      Then… We’d have a FO4 consisting 11 small buildings and focused on multiplayer and they would have thrown away all the modding experience people have had with the Creation engine?

      • socrate says:

        what? O_o

      • Holysheep says:

        “creation engine”
        Ahah!

        For one, It’s the gamebryo engine. The only change from Gamebryo to creation engine is the name change.

        It’s essentially a very bad, outdated engine kept together by duct tape and what you said there is ESPECIALLY untrue. A proper engine nowadays would handle what Fallout 4 did with much older hardware, at a much higher framerate, without that many stability problems.

        The modding is basically bad. It’s the same since Morrowind and didn’t evolve one bit. Whenever something a bit hard is achieved in that engine, it’s done by kludging and tricking at the expense of quality and framerate. And it doesn’t even use your hardware properly.

        No, OP was right on that one.

        • drinniol says:

          There’s no doubt that Gamebryo/Creation/whatever is a creaky old beast but it is just a fallacy to say that ‘If Dev X made Game Y in Engine Z, it would have been awesome!’ when, sticking with the FO4 example, you’d have nice walls coming down but still living with the mindless AI, barely competent story, often terrible voice acting, zero world development, limited dialogue etc etc etc.

          There’s more to games than engines. So, OP was not right in the least.

  9. Banks says:

    This game is absolutely fantastic. Once you start learning how all the classes work together and against each other, how to defend/attack properly and you realize that you must take risks and gain the element of surprise at all costs, It becomes so damn thrilling.

    And It’s amazing that in a few days the playstyle of every player has changed completely. Before everyone was camping in a corner and now It really feels like a tense duel between two teams looking for each others weak point. It’s so rewarding when great teamwork goes well.

    I hope that UBI fixes the network problems quickly and keeps supporting this game for a long time because they have something trully special here.

  10. Derpkovsky says:

    I think it would be great if the mechanics of this game would be used to make a strong singleplayer experience, maybe DLC, maybe a sequel, it just sounds like it’s oozing potential.

  11. malkav11 says:

    So there’s no real singleplayer game here? I thought it was going to have a campaign, but if it does I’d never know it from this review.

    • anHorse says:

      It had no single player campaign just singleplayer tutorials

      Hope that helps

    • drinniol says:

      Why would you think it has a campaign? I think almost every article on the game complains about the lack of campaign, it was never advertised as having a campaign, it’s pretty much being positioned as an alternative to Counterstrike which, again, has no campaign.

      • malkav11 says:

        There were numerous articles prior to its release that suggested it would have a singleplayer side. I can’t find anything that specifically said “campaign”, so I guess that’s my fault for assuming that when they said singleplayer that’s what they meant, but they certainly talked like there would be a reason for the solo gamer to buy it for much of the prerelease coverage. (Apparently I missed a bunch of articles from a couple months ago with the news there wouldn’t be a campaign, but to be fair I haven’t been actively following the game.)

        Oh well. Guess I can strike it off my list.

        • malkav11 says:

          For example, from an RPS interview back in 2014,
          ““We know that single-player is also an important part of the Rainbow Six experience. We understand that while this year we showed multiplayer – because we want to have fun playing against each other internally, it’s a good test to know if a game is fun – but we are 100 percent aware that single-player is a big part. We’re currently working on that too.”

          “The scope of the single-player is not completely clear yet, so I cannot really elaborate on it. All I know is that the message we have on the production floor is like, ‘All the comments online, people are always talking about single-player. So we’re gonna have something for them.’ But I can’t say if it will be more cinematic [like Patriots was] yet.””

          So, yeah, okay, they don’t say campaign, but that’s the sort of talk that made me think there’d be something meaty and engaging for a solo player and apparently not. Boo.

          • CherryPhosphate says:

            Actually I find the single player very enjoyable. It is either Situations (solo-only set missions with a minimal story and a fixed agent/loadout) or Terrorist Hunt (co-op but can be played solo).

            Situations are more a very fancy tutorial but there’s plenty of replay value in them as you learn and adapt to each one.

            Terrorist Hunt is much much better than I’d thought it would be. It uses multiple mission type, attack & defence and the enemy AI is pretty good; it flanks and reacts pretty well.

            There is a fairly decent amount of single player fun that can be had with both, not enough to justify the £50 price by any means – although I got a cheap key for £21 and at that price I’d say it would be a feasible buy for 20-30 hours of tactical drone-scouting wall-smashing murder.

  12. flashlight_eyes says:

    If any fellow amerifats/south amerifats wanna play together, I really enjoy competitive games and love working as a team (IE I wont get mad at you). I have a couple friends who I intend to play regularly with once finals are over and would love to be able to get a nice team going. Add me on (dry heave) the horrible ubisoft equivalent of steam. Flashight_Eyes is my tag

    • MirzaGhalib says:

      I will add you. I haven’t finished all of the situations yet, though.

  13. gwathdring says:

    This makes me want another SWAT game really, really, really badly.

  14. Unsheep says:

    As with most FPS the focus on multiplayer destroyed the Rainbow Six series. Multiplayer FPS is superficial and incredibly simplistic.
    Multiplayer is killing actual game content.

    • CMaster says:

      I’m not sure that announcing a tight, focussed multiplayer game designed for esports (we’ll see if that happens or not) at the same time as announcing a “main series” singleplayer game means destroying a series.

      I mean sure, the singleplayer game got cancelled because it was awful, but the intent was never for this to be the “main” Rainbow Six game, just an exciting sideshow for those who love focussed multiplayer.

  15. CMaster says:

    First off, I’m trying to get a bit of an RPS community going for the game. See Rainbows, Paper, Siege. We’re going to have a play session on Tuesday 08 December, from 19:00 (UTC). Join us on the community mumble.

    Next, about the review. Yes, the objectives don’t really make a part of gameplay very much, other than don’t bring Fuze to hostage rescue and the fact that they force iniative in to the attackers hands, as defenders have to at least stay within reach of the objective. Part of it is the nature of the game – completing the objective is risky, when death comes so fast. Staying on the hunt for hostiles often feels safer. However, I have seen that there’s actually a lot of variety in tactics both sides can employ, and the longer I play, more of the map is being used. Everyone camping the objective room is of doubtful effeciveness, so things are developing.

    • Ferno says:

      Oh fantastic! I’ll take a look if I can. I have a few friends with the game but not enough for a full team

  16. Ferno says:

    I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this game (barring a few connectivity issues and bugs) and I’m glad that every where I’ve read about it seems to share the same opinion. The sound in the game is fantastic and really adds to a layer of tension that’s so rare in game. Spot on with the suggestion for a L4D game in this type of engine. Could really add some scare factor, the bombers are terrifying enough. Like you’ve said, I just wish there was more of it! Fortunately I got it cheaper off GMG (£30)

  17. Solanaceae says:

    I gotta say apart from the fantastic fluid movement, the sound is what most impresses me about this game. It’s like a generational leap beyond any other shooter in that respect.

  18. melancholicthug says:

    Seems great. Makes me wish I actually had friends.

  19. OmNomNom says:

    It is a fun game although a little lacking in depth if you ask me. Definitely best played with friends. I played alpha and beta a fair amount and balance is decent and its good fun.
    What’ll really make or break it is the maps and whether they can keep a steady innovative stream of them coming, the netcode could do with a fix-up too…

  20. Flappybat says:

    The music is disappointingly naff in stark contrast to how good the sound work is.

  21. untoreh says:

    I really liked the game, but the gunplay just felt too much like cod, and all the quickscoping in room to room combat is just a turn off.

  22. BooleanBob says:

    “some of the crunchiest and weightiest shooting in gaming”

    I’ve been reading this sort of thing for about a year, but I’ve never really understood what it means. Can anyone help me out here? Is it that the sound effects are impressive? Or what?

    • Buzko says:

      @BooleanBob I’m not sure myself, but I think it’s meant to convey that the combination of sound effects, shooting animations, enemy-getting-hit animations and damage done conveys physicality and sensation in a way that other games don’t. It somehow turns fundamentally weightless pixels and polygons into solid hunks of muscle and bone using handheld explosives to damage each other.

      I think.

      • BooleanBob says:

        Ah, I guess that makes sense. I’m still not sure it’s a useful or intuitive short hand but at least I’m not confused about it now. Thanks for the explanation!