Always check your corners.
There is an ideal way to play Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege and there's the way most people will play it. With a team of five friends communicating and tactically gauging the situation at hand, Siege becomes a shooter like no other. Every encounter can be approached in a myriad of different ways and the unpredictable, destructible terrain best suits a team that are talking to each other and can adapt their tactics on the fly. On the other hand, if you are more likely to be playing Siege with a group of strangers then the nuance of the gameplay can be all but lost. Your best laid plans to rappel through the skylight of an embassy to retrieve a hostage are moot when your teammate decides to breach through the front door and start shooting. It's not that you can't have fun in Siege when playing with strangers; it just isn't the full experience that developers Ubisoft Montreal created.
The question of whether this game is for you can be boiled down to this: do you have four friends to play this with? Or, are you willing to seek out people to set up a regular team? If you aren't, then your experience will be limited by how well the strangers you are playing with communicate and embrace the game's slower, tactical pace.
So is it worth finding a team? Well the good news is that when Rainbow Six Siege clicks, it really clicks; whether in multiplayer, where two teams of five operatives square off, or in terrorist hunt where a team of five take on a building full of AI controlled terrorists the thrill of a careful plan coming to fruition never gets old. The success of the two core game modes comes from the vast array of options available. Each of the game's eleven maps are filled with entry points and destructible environments meaning no two encounters ever feel the same.
The team defending the building have 30 seconds at the start of each match to bunker up: laying barbed wire, booby trapping entry points and barricading doors, but no room can ever be truly secure when your opponent can shoot holes through the wall, or smash their way through the ceiling. While one team prepares their defences the attacking force can plot their route through the building. The game's operators control small drones which can scope out the building's interior to check for traps and locate enemy combatants, but even the best laid plans can fall foul of Siege's unpredictability, an unpredictability that breeds tension and excitement.
Further adding to the options available to each team are the twenty unique operators, each coming with their own set of skills, gadgets and weapons. The operators are divided into attackers and defenders, and correct use of their abilities can mean the difference between victory and defeat. When defending, I gravitated to Kapkan, who can attach explosive surprises to doors and windows. My defensive operator fed into my choice of attacker as well. Where possible I would pick Twitch, whose remote controlled drone can neutralize explosives -- like those Kapkan uses -- at a safe distance and even electrocute enemies. Many of the abilities work in harmony and a good team will understand that taking Sledge -- who can hammer through barricades -- in the same team as Ash -- who can break through barriers from a distance -- is unnecessary. It's much better to take an operator who can fill a different, complimentary role in the group.
Sledge, with his huge, door-destroying sledgehammer, is a common sight in teams, as are the riot shield equipped characters whose strengths are immediately apparent. However, I am keen to see how the emerging top teams and community overall utilize those operators whose uses aren't as obvious. Tachanka, for example, can drop a mounted gun for his team to operate. It seems useful, but when your opponent can come from just about anywhere tethering yourself to defending one exit or entrance seems reductive. With Doc, his stim pistol can heal downed allies. Iit can't revive them though and since most fire fights result in death rather than injury his usefulness is seemingly limited.
Before tackling the multiplayer modes, Rainbow Six Siege recommends you cut your teeth on its single player Situations. These ten missions are designed to showcase some of the operators and introduce you to the game's pace and tactical gameplay. In that endeavour the Situations do succeed, but since they are not team orientated they don't prepare you for the multiplayer itself. What they are useful for is giving you some much needed currency, or Renown as it's known in game.
Renown is used to unlock everything from operators to weapon attachments, and you're going to need a lot of it. All the operators are unavailable initially, but completing the Situations will give you a big enough chunk to unlock a few of them, that is if you're smart in what order you buy them in. The operators are split into five groups that represent five special-forces units from around the globe. Unlocking your first SAS operative costs 500 Renown, your next is 1,000, then 1,500 and finally, you'll need 2,000 Renown to unlock your last one. If you start unlocking one operator from each unit you'll end up with more characters quicker, giving you more options when picking your team.
The inflating cost of these operators wouldn't be so bad if the game wasn't as stingy with how it doles out its precious currency. Awards are given for winning and losing matches online, but the rewards are meagre and unlocking all the operators and their weapon attachments will take an unnecessarily long time.
The measly Renown rewards are a problem on two fronts. Firstly, they shepherd gamers towards paying real money to unlock operators, and secondly they serve to artificially add length to a game which is essentially two multiplayer modes and ten short missions. Within the multiplayer there are three different sub categories: rescue the hostage, diffuse the bomb or kill the enemy team, but despite being different in name they all feel very similar and most matches end with one team dead rather than a completed objective.
Siege relies heavily on the gameplay variety provided by its versatile, destructible maps to cover for the lack of content, but despite excellent mechanics and rewarding gameplay, I was left wanting more. That there isn't a single player mode allowing control over a team of unique operatives, planning and executing operations utilizing the destructible environments is a tragedy.
This game was reviewed on Xbox One with a digital copy provided by Ubisoft.
Images courtesy of Ubisoft.