Rainbow Six Extraction is a spin-off from Rainbow Six Siege's popular Outbreak mode, which saw Tom Clancy's operators fending off aliens instead of each other. Well, Extraction is a tactical FPS that builds on what made Outbreak great by repurposing Siege's PvP prowess into a moreish Left 4 Dead-like. Unpicking an alien hivemind with your mates is a real thrill, as is simply coming back from a mission alive. While it doesn't do anything to blow you away, it does more than enough to keep you coming back for a quick alien-busting session here and there.
If you were hoping Rainbow Six Extraction would be replete with lore and backstory on your favourite Siege Operators, I'm sorry to disappoint you. Ubisoft released a "lore gameplay trailer", yes, but that was a ruse. All you need to know is that there's an alien parasite called the Chimera and it's ravaging the USA. You're a member of REACT, an elite task force equipped with futuristic gear capable of containing the gooey threat. Occasionally a colleague will send you webcam footage from a helicopter or a base. The people in the footage are wearing hoodies. This means they are relaxed. But! Their faces are full of concern. A look over the shoulder. What was that rumble? Cut to static.
If Extraction doesn't exactly build on Siege's characters or vague semblance of story, it at least borrows from its sharp gunplay, excellent map design, and roster of Operators. That's not to say the game is simply a re-skinned Siege - far from it. If anything, Extraction is more of a PvE avenue for those who bounced off Siege's demanding PvP and desire a Left 4 Dead-like drizzled over their tactical shooting.
Although I wouldn't say Extraction is, as those meerkats from the telly say, simples. Even on the easiest difficulty, the game presents a significant challenge. You can tackle missions solo, but the baddies are best navigated with two friends in tow. The game's magic lies in dispatching aliens as a cohesive unit, or a bumbling mess of a unit, or a poorly fitted kitchen unit. Whatever unit you've got going on, you're guaranteed a much better time.
With that said, Extraction rewards patience. Slip-ups are fine and often funny, but elation is reserved for teams with a work life balance. The sort where craic only follows periods of knuckling down. Jovial japes come after pings and calls of "There's ammo over here!" and all of you stalking corridors very, very carefully.
The game's missions demand high levels of concentration, you see. Each has you pick from a roster of Operators, select your loadouts, and dive into a map that's succumbed to the Chimera. You're set three randomised objectives from a pool of activities like finding and escorting hostages, planting bombs, or luring monstrosities into traps. Successfully complete one of these tasks and you'll be given two options: either continue onto the next objective or get the heck outta there by helicopter. It's risk versus reward, essentially. Make it through all three tasks alive and you'll earn loads of EXP. Failure isn't catastrophic, but it certainly won't reward you with mega-bucks.
How moreish are Extraction's missions? On a scale of Trebor Polos to Haribo Tangfastics, I'd say it sits with the lime crocodiles coated in sour sugar crystals. Fairly replayable, by my calculations. The variety of missions on offer helps the cause, as does the face you're dropped into maps in different spots each time. Plus, ramp up the difficulty level and there's a chance that aliens gain mutations. They might leave slowing gloop behind them or each have blinding spores attached to their limbs. The curve is steep, mind, but it ramps up the tension nicely.
And while the aliens may not have an interesting backstory, they're a characterful bunch that won't leave you wanting. Unlike the undead armies of most co-op shooters that only charge and swarm, the aliens of Extraction (known formally as Archaens) are fewer in number, but far more communicative. Coated in black alien gunk, maps lie dormant at first. Nests squirm on walls. Bloaters scurry on all fours. Colossal Titans stand guard. All is quiet, until you alert a creature and it howls, and all of a sudden everything springs to life. The gunk spreads, the Nests birth new aliens, the Bloaters explode, the Titans try to bench press you to death. Sometimes this frenzy can lead to frustration, as one slip-up can trigger total disaster, but you'll soon learn to brush it off and move onto the next stage.
Brilliant fun lies in maintaining the hush and carefully severing the connection between the alien hivemind. You can go all guns glazing, sure, but you're far more likely to go down and temporarily lose an Operator or two in the process. There are 18 of these folks in total, many of which you'll unlock as you earn EXP and level up (something I'll get to in a bit). They each come outfitted with a special ability, like Sledge who can smash walls with a sledgehammer, or Pulse who whips out a tablet that can detect enemy heartbeats through surfaces. I like that they're focused on forging tactical advantages, as opposed to blasting aliens to bits. It encourages you to use your environment in clever ways and it's mightily rewarding when a plan comes together.
And what do you get for your efforts? EXP, baby. This feeds into Operators and Milestones. When Operators level up, their abilities get better. For instance, Pulse's tablet may get better detection range. A favourite of mine is simply: you get one more charge of something. They're simple benefits with a big impact. As for Milestones, these act as your overall levels, sort of like a battle pass. Climb the Milestone rungs and you'll earn REACT tokens, unlock new Operators, and gain access to new maps. As for those tokens, they can be spent on unlocking new grenades and drones and the like. Levelling is a touch sluggish, but it's rewarding enough to compensate.
I think of Extraction as a dip in, dip out FPS. What's here is a lot of fun and deserves its place alongside Siege, and yet I can't see myself losing an entire evening to it. Perhaps it's the way the missions are structured, with their three-step process combined with their demanding nature, that makes me want to take a breather after a couple of hours. That's not necessarily a bad thing, by the way. For many, I'd imagine Extraction is something you'll chip away here and there, as opposed to chomping down in one or two sittings.
An end-game mode called Maelstrom Protocol aims to add some greater replayability to proceedings. It's a ranked mode that sets you weekly challenges, with limited resources. Each week you attempt to get as far as you can into a 'run' and the deeper you go, the tougher it gets. At the end of the week, you'll earn ranking points and REACT tokens depending on how you performed. Unfortunately, I didn't have the chance to try this out, but it sounds fairly promising. I think questions still remain on whether you'd actually keep coming back, given the rewards are largely cosmetic and you would've completed all the Milestones on offer. Of course, you earn ranked points too, but this is a PvE game at heart. Unless you really care about reaching Diamond rank, there may not be enough incentive to tackle these tough missions.
But as far as Rainbow Six Extraction goes as a whole, I think there's a lot of good here. The missions are challenging, the aliens are clever, and the progression system is rewarding enough to keep you interested. Nothing is going to blow you away or keep you playing for hours on end, but it works as an FPS you can have a really fun time with on occasion. Sometimes that's all you really need, isn't it?