Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on PC, Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One
Seven years since the last game in the series was released for consoles, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege steps into the breach to revive the franchise. It’s a more tactical approach to first-person shooters than we’ve become accustomed to in recent years, with a heavier focus on planning and the careful use of resources, and less on charging in guns blazing, getting shot in the face, and rapidly respawning. A few things have changed since the last instalment, though: most notably, the fact that Siege, unlike its predecessors, features no campaign mode. So, is it a worthy sequel – albeit a multiplayer only one – or is it just half a game?
The first thing that should be established is that just because a game doesn’t have a campaign, it isn’t automatically disqualified from being any good. Ubisoft haven’t hidden the fact that Siege was specifically designed for multiplayer, so it would be foolish to criticise it for a lack of solo play – after all, that’s not a charge you would level against World of Warcraft. Nevertheless, there are a few other points to make. Firstly, the Rainbow Six series has traditionally had story modes, so fans of previous games may come to Siege disappointed – especially if their internet speeds aren’t fast enough to maintain an online match.
Secondly, if you are going to drop the single-player component of a series which has traditionally had one, then the multiplayer needs to be absolutely top notch. Is it, though? Let’s dive into what the game is actually like. The first thing you probably want to do, turning on Rainbow Six Siege, is play through the Situations, a series of missions you play on your own. “Wait a minute!” I hear you say. “You just said there’s no solo play!” True enough, but to call the Situations mode single-player in any meaningful sense would be misleading. They’re effectively training missions, performed without any backup, so you can learn to use the different Operators – or characters – in the game.
Terrorist Hunt, a co-operative mode where you fight against AI opponents rather than human ones, can also be played on your own (or “Lone Wolf”, as the game calls it in an attempt to make it sound cool). Once again, however, just playing it on your own doesn’t make it a meaningful single-player experience. In fact, given that all the maps are the same as the main multiplayer mode, it actually pales in comparison. Terrorist Hunt, in Lone Wolf mode, basically allows you to play a game designed for multiplayer but without any of the multiplayer trappings – an experience which is unsurprisingly underwhelming.
The main feature of Rainbow Six Siege – the online matches – is thankfully superb… some of the time. When it all comes together, there’s no doubt that this is one of the best first-person shooters in recent years. Each Operator has a different range of skills which makes them each useful in their own unique way, and that means that every fight evolves in a different way. For example, Sledge carries a sledgehammer which can knock through walls, while IQ can scan for electronic devices such as bombs and traps. Through careful communication and teamwork, you can establish a plan that uses your team of Operators to the best of their abilities, working in a perfect harmony of bullets, bombs, and sheer brute force.
The recent release of Star Wars Battlefront saw players plunged into a bloodbath of die, respawn, repeat, but Siege lives at entirely the opposite end of the spectrum. There is no regenerating health. When you die, that’s it – a concept that may shock many gamers who think that death is temporary. You can continue to watch the match, but your part in it is done. As a result, every tiny mistake can mean failure for your team and each member is important. This adds to both the need for tactics and the tension of every match, which can be won or lost by the smallest of margins.
However, all of this relies on good communication between players – and that is why Rainbow Six Siege is only superb some of the time. If everyone has headsets, things inevitably go well. The A-Team did not lie: when a plan comes together, you’re going to love it. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case when your team can’t speak to one another. Without headsets, the only way to communicate is through a simple marker system, and it just isn’t enough. You’ll end up with a dual sense of dread and boredom, knowing that you’re about to be wiped off the map by a precise tactical strike, while you and the rest of your team run around like headless chickens with assault rifles.
There are other problems underlying the game’s basic structure as well. Unlocking Operators relies on earning “Renown” (essentially experience points) from any of the game’s three modes, but they get progressively more expensive to buy. As a result, you have to grind in order to buy them, and it’ll take quite a while to get all twenty if you’re running a full-time job, a family, and a variety of other hobbies at the same time. Nor is this a minor frustration: each Operator can only be picked by one person each match, so you may find yourself low on options until you’ve unlocked a decent number of them.
Furthermore, you need to reach level 20 before you can access ranked matches; before that, you’re limited to casual play. This, too, will take a while if you can’t dedicate yourself to spending much time with the game. Perhaps most problematic, however, is that although the gameplay really shines, the environments don’t. At all. The graphics look pretty good and there’s a wonderfully high level of destructibility to everything, but the maps are utterly uninspired. There’s nothing memorable about any of them, nothing that will leave you jubilant or even groaning in disgust. They’re just bland.
So, is Rainbow Six Siege half a game? No. When it works, the multiplayer is far too good for that accusation: there’s nothing better than rappelling down the side of a building, smashing through the window in a hail of bullets, and gleefully realising you’ve caught your enemy with his trousers down (in a non-literal sense). Unfortunately, it’s also much too capricious; you’re left to the whims of Lady Luck when it comes to getting an effective team. We didn’t have many problems with connectivity, fortunately, but there are reports of issues out there, even if it’s likely they will stabilise over time. Ultimately, Rainbow Six Siege is a really good multiplayer experience – you’ll just wish it was a little bit better than it is.