I sometimes wonder how many people tried and appreciated the SOCOM games back on the PS2 and PS3, the more tactical shooters where a single wrong move would have you flat on your back, quite dead and sitting out the rest of the round. I’d spend hours with my PS2 (complete with enormous network adaptor), making the most of my fledgling broadband connection by rescuing hostages, planting bombs and waiting in the perfect hiding place to ambush anyone who had found their way through my cunningly placed C4. Sadly the infamous PS3 hack from a few years back put paid to the SOCOM series, crippling the development studio who released their online-only title just as the PSN went dark for several weeks. Since then there hasn’t been much on consoles since then to make up for the lack of a tactical, slower paced shooter. Call of Duty and Battlefield are all very well and good, but offer a very different play style and don’t reliably and consistently offer the tactical gameplay that SOCOM managed so easily. But there’s good news, very good news, and it’s in the shape of Rainbow Six: Siege, a game where tactics, communication and careful planning will bring far more success than the quality of one individual. And you know what? It’s extremely good.
Joining a team of 5 players it’ll be your mission to either attack or defend an objective on one of the game’s many maps. It might be that you’re trying to defuse a bomb, rescue a hostage or capture an area, and each approach will need different considerations – you can’t go into a hostage situation with big explosions and loosely thrown grenades in case you kill the hostage, at which point all of your hard work has come to nothing. Similarly if you’re just hoping to capture an area by getting rid of the defending team then synchronised breaches and multiple lines of attack will fluster your enemies and give you a greater chance of winning that round. But you can use this to your advantage when defending as well; barricading walls and windows will force attackers to take alternative routes, hooking up explosive traps will make entering through doors and windows a dangerous game, and there’s a whole host of gadgets you can use to make the opposing team’s life that bit trickier. Remember too that while the defending team are busy barricading themselves into a secure room and setting their traps, the attacking team have 30 seconds to control their drone camera and find where everyone (and everything) is hiding, making life a lot easier when the time comes to start the siege. There’s a lot to consider, even down to which characters your team decide to send out – the wrong combination could make life impossible before you’ve even started.
This comes down to the way you unlock operators within the game. Each game will reward you with an amount of “renown” – the in-game currency which you can spend on unlocking new people, upgrading weapons and so on. There are some sneaky microtransaction options here which I wasn’t keen on, letting you buy additional renown to unlock the operators more quickly. Considering the main meat of the game is in the multiplayer, you’d like to think people would want the challenge of unlocking them by earning them, but maybe I’m doing it wrong by not spending any extra money after the initial purchase. Either way, each operator has their own skills and weapons and can only be used for their specified use between attacking and defending. There are some very neat gadgets to use; selecting Mute as your defending operator and you can set up signal disruptors to disable the remote camera drones used by the attackers. Rook can drop armour caches for the rest of the defending team, and the awesomely named Tachanka can set up a gun turret which can be used by anyone nearby. Similarly when attacking you’ve got EMP grenades, thermite charges which blast through thicker barricades, and cluster charges which shoot a set of grenades through a wall without the need to blow a great big hole in it first. There are 20 operators in total, and as no two players can choose the same one in any round you’ll be getting plenty of chance to try them. They do nudge you towards trying out different game styles though, breaking up what could have been a slightly samey game and turning it into one with multiple ways to go about your work.
The maps are fantastic, and while some are tight and favour close combat (such as the passenger aeroplane) others are more open and let you get creative with where you attack or defend from. Even within each map there are multiple spawn points for the bombs, hostages or whatever else so there’s a lot of variety – even two different points on the same map can greatly alter how best to go about your mission. There could possibly be a few more though – the same ones do crop up a lot – and it seems a shame that premium DLC seems to be the way to go with that, but Ubisoft do at least seem keen to support Rainbow Six with additional content, so that’s very encouraging.
As I mentioned earlier though, communication can make all the difference, something which is tricky when most players don’t seem to use a headset when playing. I’ve had games where the whole team has used them, and it’s a totally different experience to one in silence. Planning the next move, reporting back on something you’ve found, even after you’ve been killed you can use the security cameras to pinpoint enemies for your teammates who are still fighting. It’s a shame more people don’t use them, but I’m wondering if once the initial rush has died down many people will disperse to other shooters, and those remaining will be the players more likely to chat while playing. It’s a hope more than an assumption, but I don’t see why it couldn’t happen.
Although Rainbow Six is mostly online, there are other options. The Situations mode gives you a series of 10 single player missions designed to give you a feel of the game and how it works, and delivers a brutally tough series of challenges which have additional objectives included just to make things even more tricky. They’re great, and very tense, but there’s nothing random about them and it can become more a test of memory skills than shooting skills. They’re good fun though, as is the Terrorist Hunt, which lets you team up with others or go it alone and fend off waves of terrorists, all the while trying to keep yourself alive and protect whatever it is that the bad guys are coming for. It’s a fantastic change of pace to the competitive multiplayer, and certainly something we spent a lot of time on.
All in all, Rainbow Six Siege is a great achievement. Blowing holes in the floor and dropping down to secure a room will never get boring, just as blowing someone up with a well-placed trap will never get boring. The single-life mechanic means games can be nail-bitingly exciting, and if you’re the last man standing with 3 or 4 attackers heading to grab your hostage you’d better have nerves of steel if you want to grab that win. Highly recommended.
Matt’s Second Opinion
I am loving Rainbow Six. Initially underwhelming it bubbles with brilliance the more you get to know it. Environments are incredibly well detailed with small touches – paperwork and glasses left on desks, an employee of the month plague, someone’s wallet in a store or piles of cash and drugs in a biker den. The sound adds to what is a rich environment, footsteps, some ‘battle chatter’ and dogs barking, ships creaking on a dock, distant sirens or helicopters.
Siege invokes memories of Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. It’s multiplayer only (aside from a few tutorial missions mentioned above) but the attack/defend situations make tense rock/paper/scissors class differentiators the key factor in deciding matches – assuming your team works together. It seems to have attracted the right crowd too, mostly folks playing seriously and not gun-running. The level of excitement and tension and difference in pace is unique to Rainbow Six: Siege vs. the current explode-a-thon lineup of FPS titles this year. As such it has me hooked, and may well end up being in my top three games of the year.
Reviewed on PS4