Rainbow Six Extraction needs more Left 4 Dead, less Siege

Extraction feels like it's stuck in Siege's shadow

Hibana in Rainbow Six Extraction

Ubisoft’s upcoming PvE Rainbow Six game has changed names a lot – first Quarantine, then Parasite, now Extraction – but it doesn’t feel all that different from Outbreak, the spinoff Siege mode that spawned it. You’re still fighting a parasitic, alien threat that infects and mutates humans, turning them into rabid, animalistic killing machines. You’re also still using Rainbow Six Siege operators to get the job done, with few significant changes to the gadgets and guns you get to play around with either. Heck, you can even drone ahead for enemies, reinforce walls, and ‘accidentally’ kill teammates like it’s Siege, too.

However, after spending a couple of hours playing Extraction, I can’t recall more than a handful of times where any of those Siege mechanics came into play. It’s not that Extraction is too easy for gadgetry and tactics to matter; instead it’s that it doesn’t seem like there’s any logical reason to use them. For example, Sledge and Hibana are still breacher operators, but creating new pathways and entrances in Extraction is more of a boon to the aliens than your squad. Similarly, Lion’s EE-One-D Drone – which is helpful in Siege for limiting enemy movement – merely highlights nearby enemies in Extraction. It’s barely helpful and offers no interesting way of interacting with the alien horde.

Some Extraction operators, like Alibi, have had more sensible tweaks to their gadgets. Alibi’s deployable decoys don’t provide intel whenever an enemy passes through them in Extraction, they instead attract all aliens in the area. Using this to give your team a little respite and time to reload, or to drag a horde of enemies away from a key objective, adds some vital dynamism to gameplay, encouraging you to think reactively and creatively.

Maybe the final game will have more tweaks like this, or more operators, but the current lineup and the implementation of each operator’s gadget feels a little underwhelming. Extraction offers Ubisoft a chance to really experiment with Siege’s gadgets and lore, and to create tools with no concern about how they might affect an established competitive meta, but right now there’s little evidence of this opportunity being seized.

Hibana pellets breaching a wall in Rainbow Six Extraction

The same concern extends to Extraction’s gameplay loop. The basic premise is that your team is investigating a quarantined research facility that’s full of alien parasites called Archæans, so objectives involve collecting samples, pulling data from computers, and scanning various anomalies to find out what happened.

Maps are divided into three zones, each containing an objective and an optional extraction point. Both the objectives and the order in which you tackle them appear to be randomly selected when you load into a match, and there’s a Left 4 Dead-like safe point between each zone with some supplies.

Related: Wargamer previews the Rainbow Six Siege board game

The random ordering of these zones helps stave off repetition when you’re playing the same map over and over again, but it also means there’s very little sense of progression as you battle through them. There’s no cinematic finale like in Left 4 Dead 2’s Dark Carnival campaign, which concludes with your team repelling a zombie horde on a stage, complete with a pyrotechnic display and rock music. Extraction’s forebear, Outbreak, did an excellent job of aping this escalation in each of its levels, always leading the player to a tense final showdown to cap off a mission.

Alibi's Primsa attracting enemies in Rainbow Six Extraction

There is some scope for clearing zones stealthily and methodically. There are Archæan spawners all over the map that you can destroy with a melee finisher, and each one is surrounded by slowing black goop. Clearing these nests will make the map a lot safer when you’re completing your objectives, and if you take the time to stay undetected and knife each nest then it will also remove any black goop in the area. In one mission we rushed straight to the objective without bothering to clear any nests, and by the time we were halfway through scanning some files we were being swarmed from all directions. As soon as the scan was finished we scrambled to the next zone, trudging through black goop and fending off a steady stream of enemies along the way. Had we taken our time beforehand, this stage would’ve been considerably easier.

There are a few different enemy types to keep you on your toes, such as an armoured Archæan that can create pools of black goop to slow you down, and a breacher that can blast through soft walls by engorging a hunch of pustules on its back. But neither puts up much of a fight, and you can easily eliminate them with a few shots to their glowing weak spots.

The black goop is a little annoying to walk through, but not so much of a pain that you need to worry about target prioritisation. The breachers, meanwhile, are only a threat when you don’t realise they’re near you – my only death came from backing into a wall that just happened to have a breacher on the other side, ready to explode and shower me with toxic discharge.

Sower enemy in Rainbow Six Extraction

I wish there was more going on. Something challenging or new to disturb the flow of combat and force the whole team to rally against a new threat. Instead, Extraction has the pacing and mechanics of a tactical shooter, but its parasitic enemies are too basic and ineffectual – at least from what I’ve played – to warrant any precision planning. It’s all a bit… bare. Skeletal.

Extraction feels like it’s stuck between being a Siege seasonal event and a standalone game. The setting is new, and it is fun mowing down alien monsters with friends, but while Siege shook up the multiplayer shooter market with its emphasis on destructibility and strategy, I’m struggling to see what Extraction is bringing to the co-op PvE genre.