To start off this off I’m going to say yes, I know Rainbow 6: Siege came out about a year ago. Clearly this is not going to be the most timely of reviews. But I still want to do it, partially because a decent chunk of content has been released for the game and partially because I’ve been playing it with incredibly consistency since its release.
The premise of the game is simple. You play as the elite inter-governmental task force known as Rainbow 6. It’s a coalition of anti-terrorist police groups from around the world. FBI SWAT, Spetznaz, GIGN, SAS, it’s quite the mixed bag of highly trained police and special forces. You’re fighting against a terrorist organization striking at targets around the globe, an organization with absurd amounts of funding.
Let’s get one thing clear here, that’s absolutely where the story ends. There is no campaign mode, and nothing more of this plot ever unfolds. The entire game is built around several different multiplayer modes, all 5v5 player versus player. To make the flavor of the game more confusing, both teams of players actually play as Rainbow 6 operatives. I think the implication is supposed to be that you are playing as the anti-terrorists, while your enemy is playing as the very well equipped terrorists.
Honestly though, this isn’t a problem. As long as you’re not going into Siege blind, none of this well surprise you. If you’re playing this game, it’s not for the enthralling story. It’s for fun, varied, and incredibly tense siege-based action.
There are three different game modes in Siege. All of them have the same core concepts however. There’s a location such as a house or plane or consulate building. One team is defending it, granted a minute to fortify the location. They’re allowed to reinforce walls (which can otherwise be breached) and place gadgets such as barbed wire and laser tripwire bombs.
During this time the attacking team are all piloting low to the ground camera drones that can roll under doorways. They use these to scout out the map, locating the otherwise hidden defenders and judging the best avenue of approach.
No matter what game mode you’re playing, team deathmatch is always a viable backup plan. Players can’t respawn during a single round, so if every player on a team dies that team loses regardless of their objective progress. This leads to some horrifying moments when you realize you’re the only one left on your team and all of the enemies are still around. You might take them all out, but honestly odds aren’t good.
The objectives do play a major role in the game however, even if they are seldom the cause for victory. Hostage sees the attackers trying to enter the structure, grab a civilian hostage, and get them back outside to a specific location. The defenders would rather they didn’t. Bomb has the attackers trying to get to one of two different points where bombs are planted and use a mobile defusing packing to, well, defuse them. The defenders, again, would rather they didn’t. Lastly, secure the zone requires the attackers to get within the radius of an objective and hold it for long enough without any enemy interference. Once again, the defenders are having none of it.
Most games end with all of one team dead and the objective not scored, but that doesn’t mean the objectives aren’t important. Each round is only a few minutes long, so the if the attackers don’t actively pursue their goal they can run out of time and lose. The same is true in reverse, however, as scoring objectives isn’t terribly hard for attackers if no one stops them. The games go in multiple rounds, requiring best of three or best of five to win.
This time crunch wars directly with the otherwise very lethal nature of the game. Even the weakest weapon the game at extreme range takes a mere handful of bullets to kill you. Every weapon at every range kills with one hit if it strikes the head. This combined with a lack of respawning means every round is incredibly tense. Rushing forward and blitzing around blind corners is a surefire way to get yourself killed. Agonizing slowness won’t work either, however, as the clock is always ticking down.
To facilitate all of this attack and defense are the operators. The operators are specific characters you can play as, chosen at the beginning of each round. Operators are attack or defense specific, and each has a ability and combination of available guns and gadgets. The core gameplay doesn’t change regardless of your choice, but the different abilities can dramatically alter your avenues of approach.
For example, there’s an attacker named Thermite who has upgraded breaching charges. Normally breaching charges break walls but are stymied by defensive reinforcements. Thermite’s charges go right through those, allowing your team to breach an otherwise impregnable room from unexpected angles.
At the same time, defenders have special gadgets as well. Mute is able to place signal disruptors that broadcast a field to scramble remote devices. Drones that enter the area can’t be piloted and lose camera feeds. The signal even goes through walls, so breaching charges (including Thermite’s) placed on the other side can’t be detonated.
There are more than two dozen operators in the game now, each with abilities that add dramatically to their team’s abilities. Some are slightly stronger than others, but the developers are supporting the game remarkably well. Patches and updates occur relatively frequently, lowering the strength of some characters while raising others. So far these changes have been clever as well. Players aren’t given simple stat buffs, raising damage or lowering health. Instead, their actual abilities are changed to function better. The previously mentioned trip-wire bombs, for example, to patched to be much harder to see.
Since its release, six additional operators have been added to the game as well. Some of these are more interesting than others but all are welcomed addition. My personal favorite is the new operator Caveiara. A defender, she is able to roam around the structure incredibly quietly and interrogate downed attackers. Doing so is dangerous and time consuming, but briefly reveals the exact position of all enemies to the defending team.
The characters and the environments in the game all look great. Attention was given to making sure that each operator has their own distinct aesthetic style. It’s important, especially considering how easy it would otherwise be for a bunch of guys in SWAT gear to end up looking similar. The maps follow suit, though being incredibly destructible means they likely won’t stay pretty.
That destructibility is both good and bad. Breaching walls and creating murder holes is a core component of the game, but it doesn’t always feel as fluid as it should. There are specific (if plentiful) walls that can actually be breached. It makes the game feel less free flow than arcade. It isn’t really a problem, and almost certainly helps the actual balance, but it doesn’t quite deliver on what was actually promised.
The game suffers from some noteworthy issues. Bugs are present even this late into its life cycle. They are fixed quickly, but in such a tight and precise game these bugs can be huge. Additionally, team killing is fairly rampant. Why I could not explain. The game penalizes you by kicking you out of the match, but that rarely stops players. It won’t happen every game, but likely will once or twice in a night of gaming.
At the end of the day the gameplay and variety is absolutely addicting. It’s become the regular game for me and my friends. We’ve sunk dozens of hours into this game happily and have no plans on changing. When everything works right they game feels absolutely brilliant, and even after a year it’s still one of the best first person shooter experiences around. I absolutely love Rainbow 6: Siege.