What’s this? A major publisher releasing a shooter that isn’t mindless twitch-based galleries? One that promotes teamwork and using restraint on your automatic weapons? It’s the new Rainbow Six? Well, that sounds fantastic! Sign me up! What do you mean I have to fill out eighty pages of paperwork first? Can’t I just play the game? Oh…okay then.
Rainbow Six Siege is the first entry in the longstanding Tom Clancy series since 2008’s Vegas 2 (having been in limbo with the ill-fated Patriots for most of that hiatus). Keen to grab a slice of that lucrative esports pie, Ubisoft has created a Rainbow Six game laser-focused on multiplayer team skirmishes. Sadly, like nearly any game before it ( and probably after) chasing the grail of whatever trend is making the big bucks, Siege fails to understand why the success stories are just that, with a highly confused, and conflicted title that isn’t just hard to love, but also veers towards inciting hatred and worse, apathy.
For instance, I can’t remember the last time a tutorial aggavated me in the way Rainbow Six Siege’s does. It’s almost impressively stubborn in its wish to drag you through a series of the game’s stages to vaguely teach you the mechanics and layouts. ‘Lots of games do that’ I hear you cry, ‘what makes Rainbow Six so bad?’ Well, where should I start? There’s the fact it disguises itself as a single-player experience so excruciatingly boring and overlong that you’d happily lay your weapons down and let the terrorists win if it meant you could just stop playing. Then, you could point fingers at the game forcing you to play this charade until you’ve ‘unlocked’ enough of the game’s Operators using ‘Renown’ (fancy name for in-game cash earned meagrely through your actions) to actually start multiplayer, but possibly the worst/best reason is that barely any of it serves to actually teach you how to play the meat of the game. You get thrown in solo to dispatch all the terrorists and defuse/rescue all the things. Solo. In a Rainbow Six game primarily focused on multiplayer. Imagine buying a ticket to a critically acclaimed blockbuster movie that you’ve been dying to see, and before you can watch it, they lock you in the cinema and force you to watch a three hour documentary on soap production first. That’s Rainbow Six Siege. From there it could be the greatest game in history, it still won’t make you forget what it made you do to get there.
Having endured that, you deserve to be rewarded, and Rainbow Six Siege does indeed start to deliver on that. Ranked multiplayer will still be unlocked at this point , but casual and Terrorist Hunt are now available to dip your toes into and they are gre…goo…alright. Short version of this story is people ruin social gaming, the long version is that people manage to get through that horrific slog of a tutorial and subsequently go nuts when they reach the mana of the main game. Even now, it surprises me how stubbornly many players refuse to shake the brainwashing of the Call of Duty’s set up and play Rainbow Six all wrong. Like I said before, the tutorials give players the wrong message about how they should be approaching a tactical shooter. When against a team of players that play Rainbow Six like a twitch-shooter, it’s laughably bad, but amusingly easy to win. When your team has them in, it’s pad-smashingly frustrating. A similar situation occurred with the Battlefield series when EA chased the Call of Duty gravy train, a dilution of a series’ principles to accommodate a new audience that changed the way it ends up being played for good. Of course, there are still good team players around, and if and when that comes together, Rainbow Six Siege finally shines ever so brightly, but already that’s a big if, as active player numbers dwindle rapidly. Or that could just be poor matchmaking, hard to say, but the smart money would probably be on both. A shame then, as there is a rather good game hiding behind the wall of gibberish and boredom.
Matches are at their best when everybody adheres to the formula. A positive to the Operators is that nobody can pick the same one, so there’s no chance to get comfortable in one role. Each Operator has skills unique to them, from explosive breaching to super-sneaky surveillance. This means any danger of things getting repetitive in that regard are quickly quashed as you learn to adapt and take advantage of your Operator’s individual skill. RBSS gives fresh meaning to team roles in modern shooters. blending the old traditional roles of previous Rainbow Six titles with a hint of a MOBA’s hero system to ensure that each team member has a significant part to play, but once again, only if they choose to play Siege the way it wants to be played. The various gadgets open up the options to win further. The drone cam is the highlight of the package. A player can drive it round the map, tagging terrorists as you go. Keeping it unseen and in play can give you a massive tactical advantage as you maintain visual contact with the enemy whilst your plans remain a deadly mystery. Outwitting other human beings with tactical thinking is extremely satisfying, more so than winning by just being the one with ‘quicker reflexes’. It may feel a bit cheap when you do it because you’re up against the previously mentioned stubborn types who force their modern shooter build into a game that’s clearly a different shape, but there’s no denying the smug smile that will cross your face.
Of course, you could just as easily be saddled with that kind of team and end up launching your console in a canal (doesn’t matter if there isn’t a canal near you, you’ll find a way). Too much of Rainbow Six Siege’s potential hinges on people playing the game properly and those people actually sticking around past the tutorials to join in. Friends with the game is an absolute must or it’s down to pot luck. If that doesn’t put people off, then the abuse of the free-to-play model will. Siege isn’t quite as stingy as Battlefront when it comes to content, but it is lacking, and the manner in which is throws microtransactions at you is appalling. It doesn’t matter if you use them or not, the way they are prominently advertised in a full price game is unacceptable, especially when the Operators require more and more grinding to unlock it shows just how blatantly they are imposed. The concern here is, will Rainbow Six Siege remain relevant in a month from now, let alone a year and beyond? A fine steak is all well and good to tempt a starving man, but if you tell him he’ll have to wade through a sewer filled with the leftover rubbish from the local morgue to get to it, or pay extra just to cut the morgue stuff out, then he’s going to find his meal elsewhere.