Rainbow Six: Siege is the first non-mobile game in the series since 2008’s Vegas 2, and the first in the series since Tom Clancy’s death in 2013. It’s also the first Rainbow Six game to be released in a post-COD-explosion world, wherein one FPS series dominates the market, a market Ubisoft’s other shooters have struggled to keep up with. That’s already a lot of pressure, without considering that Siege is following Star Wars Battlefront‘s hugely successful beta, which winded up breaking EA’s personal beta records.
Siege shares some noticeable commonalities with Battlefront, most notably its lack of any campaign mode. My favourite aspect of past Rainbow Six games was always the story mode, so I’m a little disappointed to see its absence in Siege, particularly when the slice of multiplayer shown off here doesn’t exactly scream ‘longevity’ or ‘variety’ (although those would be weird things to scream).
The modes available in Siege‘s beta include a bomb defusal multiplayer mode, and ‘Terrorist Hunt’, a familiar name to Rainbow Six fans. Weirdly enough though, terrorist hunt is effectively the same as the standard multiplayer mode, only it pits you against AI enemies.
In ‘Bomb Defusal’, an attacking team scouts out an area with rolling camera drones, hoping to find a bomb to defuse, and any enemies lying in wait. They then inflitrate whichever building contains the device, utilizing breach charges and other gadgets to blow out flimsy walls, barricades and windows. Meanwhile, the defending team must fortify their position with barbed wire, barricades and C4, and lie in wait for their attackers. It’s a solid dynamic, one that promotes caution, teamwork and preparation, and can result in some really tense moments.
In ‘Terrorist Hunt’, you’re more or less doing the same thing, albeit against AI bots, and with a few extra objectives thrown in for good measure. In both modes, death is permanent (at least for the round), and can result in excruciating wait times if you get caught out early. I understand this for multiplayer – the permanence of it all reminded me of a really good game of Search and Destroy circa Modern Warfare II – but for terrorist hunt, it feels a bit cruel. Allowing you to respawn after thirty seconds would only be hurting the AI, and would prevent early casualties from getting bored and quitting with five minutes still left on the clock.
To make matters worse, I found matchmaking to be a complete mess at this stage. I struggled to find a match more than I successfully joined one, and was regularly met with infinite loading screens upon entering a game, whereby players were saying: ‘Oh no, that glitch again’ in the text chat. Once you do get into a match, it’s an upward struggle to figure out what the various icons at the bottom of your screen mean – icons which vary between characters. If that icon happens to be something that’ll blow you up, you can’t really afford to test it out unless you’re in the heat of battle.
At this point, it’s impossible to access the single player portion ‘Terrorist Hunt’ (Lone Wolf mode) of the game if your connection to Ubi’s servers goes down. Not even your own internet connection, Ubisoft’s servers. Let that sink in.
This means most games go like this: 1.) You wait around for five minutes to get into a game, 2.) You wait around while you figure out how all of your gadgets work, 3.) You get shot, 4.) You wait for five minutes while the other players continue playing. There might not be such a steep learning curve if Siege offered up a more substantial offline mode. Campaigns in FPS games have traditionally been there to ground the player in a fictional or real war, and to give them an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the game’s quirks. Take that away, and you’re just being dropped into a house, being asked to defuse a bomb, but being given very little reason to care. It’s not like there are really even ‘teams’ or national rivalries to speak of, since every team is made up of operatives from various national services, from the FBI and the Polezei, to the SAS and Spetsnaz.
The environments themselves aren’t particularly interesting either. It’s nice that each mission focuses on one or two small building, promoting precise penetration and claustrophobic firefights, but most of the maps are mundane suburban houses or nondescript industrial complexes. Art direction aside, these places just look bland and graphically unimpressive – especially coming off the back of releases like Battlefront and Fallout 4, which boast interesting environment design and some impressive visuals.
Without a dedicated single player mode, and with very little in the way of diverse multiplayer modes, Siege’s beta is actually something of a bore. It offers up some brief moments of truly awe inspiring tension and action – when the gears turn perfectly, it is truly glorious. But most of my time was spent waiting; waiting for matches, waiting to respawn, and waiting for a reason to care.