New additions to Rainbow Six Siege's [official site] roster of MOBA-style classes can drastically affect the game's meta. Each of the content patches released so far have caused shifts in the pro scene that have then trickled down into public matches. This Tuesday brings the next, called Operation Velvet Shell. It marks the start of Rainbow Six Siege's Year 2 DLC and introduces two new classes to the game, Mira and Jackal, and a new map called Coastline.
I was able to play with all of it ahead of its release during a recent visit to Ubisoft. The update is focusing on the idea of a deep defence - an objective that's protected by people in the objective room but also by those in the adjacent rooms - and continuing to move away from the current meta's focus on 'roamers'. With that in mind, let's get to know these armed assailants.
Mira, the new defender operator, brings the most pronounced change to the game so far with the ability to put one of two special breaching charges onto any wall — whether it's reinforced or not — and blow a hole through it that's then filled with a bullet-proof, one-way mirror. This glass, dubbed Black Mirror, lets those inside see through it, with a shootable charge at the bottom that allows players to drop the mirror and ambush enemies through an impromptu murderhole. Those on the outside just see a solid black piece of glass mounted into the wall, which means rethinking attacks on previously simple objectives like Chalet's garage or the kids bedroom in House.
Mira is a 'three armour, one speed' operator, which means you'll want to keep her in the objective room. Her loadout focuses on short range weapons with low recoil: the Vector .45 is a sub-machinegun with a small clip, and her secondary weapon is a shotgun - unique to her and Jackal. This means Mira has plenty of firepower at close range, no matter which weapons you choose. Finally, a nitro cell explosive means she can resist pushes from shield operators or toss the explosive through one of the holes left by her Black Mirror gadgets to surprise brave attackers.
Her ability syncs up with those of a few other operators on both sides. Attacker Hibana's X-KAIROS gadget can counter the glass with its pellets by shooting it directly, which shatters it, or by blowing a hole in the reinforced wall beneath the Black Mirror so you can get a line of fire on anyone trying to look through it. The Black Mirror also works well with Tachanka's turret, giving a much needed buff to the underutilised defender, and an increased focus on the "siege" part of Rainbow Six Siege means that Mute is going to be more valuable, especially when it comes to blocking potential Hibana counters. Mira is a lot of fun to play, and I'm expecting her to make a big impact in games immediately.
On the attacker side, the new class is Jackal, a 'two armour, two speed' operator with a toolkit to take down roaming operators. Roamers are defenders who, rather than hunker down in an entrenched position, play more aggressively by wandering all parts of the map. Jackal's first counter to that tactic is a camera that detects footsteps on the ground. This is quite powerful for tracking roaming operators by itself, but he also has the ability to "lock on" to sets of footprints three times during the match to reveal that operator's location and identity. This also puts a trace on them which periodically informs you of their position three separate times before the effect expires. Locking on notifies the tracked enemy, encouraging them to return to a better defended area for the length of the tag, or at least to put themselves against a wall and play defensively.
Jackal's gadget is backed with an aggressive loadout. The C7E is a beefy assault rifle, with good damage and penetration. The PDW9 is a submachine gun with a 50 round drum magazine, dishing out low damage but well suited for enemies you've discovered with his ability through walls. This is backed up with a primary and secondary shotgun, making him perhaps the best operator for shooting wildly through surfaces in the hope of snatching a kill.
Jackal is unlikely to see much play at the pro level, as he loses out to several operators that are faster or have more utility at the highest level of play. In public matches however, he may signal the death of the roamer as a common feature, and seems tailor-made to protect the attackers' assault from any surprises. This might in turn diminish the popularity of Rook and Valkyrie, operators who had found an audience for their ability to ambush unlucky attackers with careful camera use and decent weaponry. Jackal does indirectly buff Caviera however, strengthening her stealthy skillset, since when she activates her silent step ability she'll be undetectable to Jackal. Mute will also get a boost, as Jackal's headset is an electronic gadget and can therefore be disrupted.
Mira feels more immediately powerful, with her punchy weapons, but I'm strongly of the opinion that when players work out what Jackal is for, and what situations he thrives in, he'll have a ripple effect on the game too. At the moment he's a theoretical threat: the idea that he could be in the round seems like a stronger deterrent to roaming than anything he can actually do on the ground.
Coastline, set in a party mansion by the sea, feels like one of the simplest maps released as DLC so far. Its layout resembles a double-decker combat doughnut, with a circular map around a central courtyard, filled with sightlines for attackers to have clear views on the routes defenders use to move around. It's one of the most immediately compelling maps I've played in Rainbow Six Siege. The layout feels like a denouncement of roaming as a strategy, while the clusters of defensible rooms around each objective mean that, at this stage, the best way to defend it is to bed in.
Velvet Shell, and new map Coastline, is available on Tuesday. Season pass holders have exclusive access to operators for the first week, after which they're available to anyone with the in-game cash to buy them.