First impressions: Rainbow Six Siege

Announced at E3 last year, “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege” looked like it was ready to revitalize the team-based multiplayer shooter franchise with new ideas and some deviations. The game just recently entered closed alpha, with announcements for closed beta soon, and a release date expected to be later this year. I had the chance to watch the trailer live, and some gameplay footage on Twitch. The game so far showed some promise, but it still needs a lot of work.

The “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six” series is a collection of critically acclaimed shooters best known for their realism and emphasis on tactical espionage action. “Rainbow Six: Vegas” (2008) was heavily praised for its overall excellence and immersive first-person shooter experience. While “Ghost Recon” and “Splinter Cell” received more frequent attention, this was the first “Rainbow Six” sequel in the last 7 years. “Rainbow Six Siege” was announced shortly after the formal cancellation of “Rainbow Six: Patriot,” a game that was meant to be the sequel.

As the newest addition, “Siege” places even heavier emphasis on multiplayer and urban tactical elements, like destructible terrains, and closed quarter flanking, deviating from its predecessors in that regard. The closed alpha build features a “Hostage Search and Rescue” game mode, and a few maps with different kinds of play styles. The most prominent map so far is “House,” a two-story mansion with surroundings that feature multiple bottlenecks, and entry points with various options for attacking and defending, along with opportunities for imaginative tactical exploitations thanks to destructible terrains and many possible ways of play styles.

Versatility is the strong point of this game so far. A match consists of teams of five separated into attacking and defending sides that rotate after every round. At the start of each round, players select an operative from many choices that come with their distinct sets of loadouts and features, which are also further customizable. Players also have the choice to vote in the tactical approach for the team each round, such as where to attack for the attacking side, or where the hostage is located for the defending side in “Search and Rescue.” A round in “Search and Rescue” is then further separated into Prepare Phase and Action Phase. In Prepare Phase, the attacking side can perform reconnaissance on target and formulate plan for assault, while defending side can establish barricades, reinforce walls and windows, and setup chokepoint and ambushes. The majority of shooting and explosions occur in the Action Phase, as attackers and defenders clash to complete their objectives.

Gameplay is also a showdown of skills, with the layer of tactical details that Tom Clancy’s games are famous for, even shown by just one game mode. The gun loadouts feature a variety of short-, mid-, and long-range weapons and other modern gadgets, which players can select from to reflect their strengths and styles. As attackers, players will need to execute their assault strategy that’s best suited against a possible defender’s weaknesses, knowing their opponent could hide behind every corner, or even employ classical misdirection by not focusing defense on one key area. The defenders will need to deploy different dynamic strategies to best foil the attackers’ reconnaissance and assault attempts, and sometimes efficiently deal with unexpected situations. A well-barricaded group of ground floor defenders might be easily outflanked from the above, and traditional frontal assault can be best solutions to unorthodox defenses.

Given the limitless options, it is still important for both sides to formulate plans and efficiently coordinate. Players can deploy barricade, barbed wires, traps, and a variety of defense mechanisms while attackers could benefit from extra types of grenades and a variety of movement options. Communications and sometimes versatility in execution can be crucial in achieving victory. Knowing that your opponents all carry close-range weapons or that they breached from west side instead of east side can be vital to battles, and in “Rainbow Six Siege” more than most other games, efficient scouting and quick tactical reflexes can turn a game around.

While having limited gameplay options and still featuring plethora of glitches (players may find themselves completely stuck in middle of a wall), “Rainbow Six Siege”’s conceptual uniqueness at this stage outweighs many of the frustrating and sometimes hilarious downsides. However, given Ubisoft’s spotty recent releases, I hope they do well in pushing this game to be on par with other “Rainbow Six” titles. After all, this game features a wonderful concept that screams for full development. I have high hopes for this game.