Rainbow Six: Siege has been in open beta this weekend, and we’ve been having a bit of a play around. Ben, Matt, and Phil have all spent some time equipping siege equipment, demolishing non-load-bearing walls, and getting reduced to red paste by bullets (or, in Ben’s case, being almost completely invincible thanks to an indestructible riot shield).
With our days of elite tactical action complete, we now bring you our impressions of Rainbow Six: Siege. Is this the shooter to tear you away from the likes of Counter-Strike?
Ben: Let’s begin with what will soon become painfully obvious - I am not a Rainbow Six man. Tactics to me is whether you’re crouched or prone and if you decide to go for the UAV or the anti-UAV. The wall-breaching, tango-spotting, camera-watching world of terrorist hunts this elite squad puts itself through is not something I’ve tried before, but I was excited to give it a shot.
My immediate favourite thing was the little cars. [Matt: They’re drones, Ben. DRONES!] They’re used for scouting by the attacking team at the beginning of each round, where the defenders have about a minute to erect their defenses and choose positions. You dash them along the ground at great speed, automatically highlighting enemies and objectives you come across while trying not to come face to face with too many bullets. They’re vital too - going into any of the beta’s maps without knowledge of where your targets are is a recipe for a quick loss.
They’re just one of a truckload of gadgets you have access to, customised by which operator you go for. My man was Montagne, equipped with a massive riot shield that could extend to protect his entire front from gunfire and knives. I had slightly more trouble with grenades and being flanked, but it immediately installed a need for teamplay. I charged in drawing fire while Matt, at least theoretically, swept in behind me and had time to line up headshots.
Breakers like that are important because, at least at this early stage when neither I nor many of my opponents have a single clue what they are doing, Siege is a game of camping. Find a good spot where you’re unlikely to be seen before it’s too late and pick off anyone that rounds the corner. There’s a legion of tools for both sides to alter this dynamic, and map design plays a part as well, but in the end it felt like being the best at pointing and clicking on heads was still going to be the deciding factor.
Not that that’s a problem, it is a shooting game after all. It’s also nice to see such a wealth of abilities and options across the operators, more than I could easily count even before all the characters have been implemented. There’s an incredible amount of depth to explore, but it’s up to Ubisoft to give tools that allow players to tackle that and make sure there isn’t one overriding strategy that makes others irrelevant.
Matt: Rainbow Six: Siege is a very loud game. That’s the main thing I’ve taken away from the beta: considering it’s a game with just ten players, there’s always something going bang, or crash, or snap. People are tearing through barricades with sledgehammers, or blowing each other up with grenades, or burrowing through the floors with breaching charges. It’s rare that there’s a moment of calm, which seems strange because so much of the mechanics seem geared towards sitting and waiting.
It’s a game where five people hide in a house and another five assault them, and so it appears that defenders should just stick barricades over every door and simply wait. But from what I’ve played, that’s not quite how it pans out. The amount of tools at your disposal means there’s plenty of improvised traps to lay (you can barely walk down a corridor that isn’t a bleeping display of C4 charges), and the destructible environments are not just for the attackers to decimate. Perhaps the constant buzz is just because right now everyone is excited to play with the many, many toys available to each operative. I hope the novelty doesn’t wear off though, because this strategic chaos is what makes Siege feel unique.
The beta highlights more of the game than we’ve previously seen. There’s a terrorist hunt mode, that sends five players into a map defended by 26 AI terrorists. Now that it’s confirmed that a single player mode is not happening, this is about as close to a campaign as we’re going to get. It’s really good fun though, even if the AI is slightly daft and likes to run at you with primed grenades.
Having a mode with hockey-mask wearing baddies also removes an annoying niggle I have with the 5v5 modes on offer in the beta: both the attackers and defenders are Team Rainbow operatives. Is this actually Rainbow Six: Civil War?
Phil: It seems disingenuous not to acknowledge Counter Strike’s existence when discussing Rainbow Six Siege. Until now, I’ve been prepared to don a balaclava and Kevlar for one game, and one game only. Thus, I’m approaching Siege with a specific mindset, one no doubt shared by many others: why should I play you over CS:GO?
Ubisoft’s close-quarters tactical shooter does a decent job of answering that question before the round even begins – the game’s attacking force first reccies the game map with their r/c camera drones, tagging enemies and points of interest until the round begins in earnest and those drones are left where you relinquished control of them. The potential in this single mechanic is rich: it means defending forces need to be particularly alert during the first 30 seconds of a round. It means that if they’re clever enough, that defending force can also send their enemies on a wild goose chase by dramatically altering their battle plan once that reconnaissance phase ends.
Inevitably, I feel like I’ve harnessed barely a foothold on that mechanic during my first few rounds of play – it only strikes me afterward that my drone is still operational where I left it for the whole game, and can be called upon again mid-round. Still, I’ve never done anything like that in de_cbble.
There’s also a lot more non-combat kit to get your head around in Siege. You’ve seen its wonderful destructible scenery plenty already so I won’t labour the point, but spending some time in those balsa wood environments quickly hammers home that managing that level of destruction is a key element in Siege. More time is spent boarding up windows and doorways or laying down barbed wire than lobbing flashbangs or noscoping folks.
The little shooting I actually conduct, though, feels more familiar in a Rainbow Six context than that of a multiplayer shooter. Siege really rewards having your beads already trained on a doorway and your ironsights engaged – twitch shooter principles simply can’t be applied here.
Perhaps the most encouraging take-away from my time with Siege, though, is the way it induces constant, helpful communication between team mates with little-to-no prompting. You thought those Ubisoft devs were talking like SWAT team operators for marketing purposes in that E3 reveal video, didn’t you? Not true. You simply can’t help but talk like that while you’re playing Siege.
Have you been playing the Rainbow Six: Siege beta? Let us know what you've been discovering about Ubisoft's new destruction-happy shooter in the comments.