Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege Review

Lee Bradley

I really didn’t enjoy the Rainbow Six: Siege betas. Unresponsive, ugly, repetitive and victim of some terrible server issues, they failed to grab me. Based on the reaction of some of the more vocal members of our community, odds are you felt the same.

But the betas did the game a disservice. Siege is far more technically adept than the pre-release test would suggest. The gunplay feels more responsive, it runs far more smoothly and the servers work. I know I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions without playing final code, but when your final beta phase ends just two days before launch, you can forgive me for being sceptical. Turns out I was wrong.


You don't have to blow up walls. But then, why wouldn't you?

The trouble is, after spending the best part of a week with Siege, my previous concerns have been replaced by new ones. It’s a little game, really, with a core set of modes that are limited by a concept that doesn’t allow for enough variation, eroded by a handful of niggling annoyances and some dodgy AI. Sometimes it’s great. Other times it’s not. But it gets bonus marks for being utterly unlike anything else.

Rainbow Six: Siege is all about close-quarters battles. Whether you’re playing multiplayer in and against teams of five, or tackling AI combatants in Terrorist Hunt, you’re going to be creeping through claustrophobic maps, moving inch by inch, checking corners and methodically taking on enemies. And if you’re careless for even a second? You’re dead. Siege is incredibly punishing. Everything about it encourages you to slow. The Fuck. Down.

It’s such a nice alternative to every other shooter out there. Where Call of Duty is all about speed and mobility, Siege is about slow careful movement. Where Battlefield is all about expansive environments, Siege is cramped and tight. Where Destiny and Halo are all about all-powerful space warriors, Siege is ultra-realistic. Of all the shooters on the market, Siege is the one that most prioritises planning, execution and communication over gun skill.

Multiplayer matches cast teams as either attackers or defenders. Across the playlist’s limited number of modes, you’re either going to be holing up in a couple of rooms around a hostage or a bomb; boarding up windows, reinforcing walls and setting trip mines and traps. Or if you’re an attacker, you’re gonna be searching the building with little RC drones, marking enemies and identifying threats, then breaching and clearing.

Much of the game’s variety comes from the game’s destruction. You may be limited to fighting it out across the game’s 11 small maps, but a large number of the walls and windows can be shot, exploded, punched and breached. It means that you’re very rarely safe. As a defender in even the most barricaded corner, there’s always a chance that someone's gonna burst through a wall, a window, or even the floor below you or the ceiling above you. Each environment is carefully balanced to ensure that your team can never quite cover every angle. It leads to spells of fantastic tension as you sit, waiting for the attackers to arrive, desperately flitting your sights from one potential breaching spot to another.

Siege is all about precision. If you have an angle into a space occupied by an enemy, you’re going to have to move pixel by pixel, peering further into the room. The time to kill is so short that there’s no real time to react. Siege doesn’t really do gunfights. You’re either ready, or you’re dead. And with no respawns and revives that bring you back with just a smidge of health, dying carries real weight. It adds to the excitement of matches and means that everything can go to shit for your team very, very quickly.

Further adding to the variety of each match is the ability to pick from a cast of Operators from various international military outfits, representing player classes with a unique skill and loadout. These skills are super situational and largely well balanced. Montagne has a massive shield that makes him incredibly hard to take out from the front, for example, but just a crappy pistol for offence. Glaz, meanwhile, can equip his rifle with a high-zoom scope that makes him lethal from distance but a liability in Siege’s deadly corridors. The abilities of Siege’s 20 different Operators can be used in conjunction with each other to devastating effect.

Trouble is, you’re only going to be able to take maximum advantage of this if you’re working with a team of friends. In my experience, jumping into regular matchmaking will likely put you with a couple of people who don’t use their mic, an outrageously French child, and a very angry man with tourettes. You can still have decent matches like this, but the real way to play is with your mates. That’s true of any game with multiplayer or co-op. Games are more fun with friends. But the necessity of communication and planning in Siege amplifies the need for people who aren’t shouting “wanker” into their mics every other second.

Further spoiling the experience are a series of minor niggles. The contrast works in such a way that you often can’t see into rooms; even the slightest lag means that you can be downed by people you were convinced couldn’t see you; the microtransactions are largely inoffensive but still bollocks; you have to earn Renown to unlock Operators, which puts you at a slight tactical disadvantage from the off; there’s friendly fire and people are idiots; there’s 11 maps in some cool locations, but they quickly grow tired; and there’s not enough distinction between the modes. In such a small and focused game, it puts extra pressure on every detail to hold up. Siege occasionally struggles.

Terrorist Hunt returns, a revamped version of the popular players versus AI mode featured in previous Rainbow Six games. But there’s issues here too. In the seven years since R6: Vegas 2 and the last iteration of Terrorist Hunt, artificial intelligence hasn’t improved. Enemies either display a hilarious lack of awareness (staring at walls when you’re right next to them) or are able to predict where you’re going to be with the clairvoyance of Mystic Meg with a Smith & Wesson (shooting at you before you’ve even moved into sight). It’s annoying.


Get behind the guy with the shield!

Playing as Montagne reveals just how poor the AI is. Enemies will empty their mag into your shield, then reload in plain sight without a care in the world, allowing you to pop pop pop them in the head with your pistol. As long as you don’t get flanked, you can effectively take out their entire team using this method. It spoils the tension. Like the rest of the game, at its best Terrorist Hunt is thrilling. At its worst it’s utterly infuriating, especially on Realistic difficulty.

The real issue with Rainbow Six: Siege, however, is that it struggles to justify a full price tag. What’s here, minus the niggles, is strong. But there’s just not enough of it. Many people were disappointed when it was announced that Siege wouldn’t have a campaign, traditionally a big selling point of the series. They were right. Its absence leaves a gaping hole in the heart of the game that multiplayer and Terrorist Hunt just can’t fill. Getting all of the stars in Situations, a series of fun and challenging single-player tutorials, just isn’t enough. A co-op story mode would have added greatly to the experience.

Ultimately, Rainbow Six: Siege is a pretty good game. It’s a pure, focused, unique shooter that makes no concessions to a casual crowd. As such, some people are going to love it dearly. But it has too many shortcomings to be able to recommend it unreservedly to everyone. If like me you wrote the game off after the betas, perhaps you should give it another look. Just be aware that the finished product, while greatly improved, still has its frustrations.

 

Sparse and rightly so. Siege is all about realism, so instead of a rousing score you’re going to get telltale sounds from the other side of a window and some authentic sounding weapon audio. It does this well.

Visually uninspiring, Siege gets the job done with the minimum of flair. Some of the character and destruction animations are amusingly clunky too.

At its best, Siege is a thrilling and tension-filled exercise in planning and execution that delivers on its concept wonderfully. There are niggles, but when everything goes according to plan, there’s nothing like it.

There’s just not enough of it to comfortably justify a full price tag. The maps are too limited and the modes too repetitive. A story campaign would have been gratefully received.

A decent list with just a handful of clunkers. “To the Top”, which rewards players for reaching Clearance Level 50 and “Terro Hunter”, which tasks you with getting 2500 Terrorist Hunt kills, are a grind however.

Tense, dramatic and unique, Rainbow Six: Siege feels and plays unlike any other shooter on the market. It’s not perfect but it can be great fun. We just wish there was more of it.

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