Rainbow Six has always been a very specific taste in the military shooter genre. The series represents a true taste of the 'hardcore' which has become a rarity. While Call of Duty has come to be about the fast paced respawn laden cycles of play to create a flow, Rainbow Six goes in a completely opposite way. It instead is an uncompromising experience that deals with death in much more finite way. It's a methodical series, where a couple shots will result in game over. That brutal attitude towards players is exactly what fans have come to love about the franchise and it's really what sets it apart from other AAA franchises.
So after a hiatus of seven years, arguably Tom Clancy brand's most recognisable name has returned as an online focused experience, dropping a typical campaign in favour of tight mulitplayer. The question though is despite having that multiplayer focus, does Siege retain the essence of Rainbow Six? For my money, in a few words, it absolutely does.
The baseline concept of Siege is pretty simple. Teams of 5 work together to complete an objective. If you die once, you're dead for the round and have to wait until the end to rejoin the fight. This idea is then stretched across several modes, and that makes the skeleton of the game. There are two main modes to choose from, Terrorist Hunt and Multiplayer, with a tutorial like Situations getting you into the flow. Terrorist Hunt has you and or a team of other players going up against several AI opponents in a quest to eliminate them all. You're multiplayer matches are 5 vs 5 matches in a best of 5 match up. This all sounds very by the numbers, but what makes Siege stand out for me, as a very interesting property in the modern gaming landscape, is that it is a game designed on patience. You can't play this title like Call of Duty or you will be done within seconds of starting. You have to work with your team, closely, to come out with a W, and if you get shot more than a handful of times, you're done. It's rare to see that kind of hardcore mentality thrown onto players in 2015, especially in a game of this size, and it's pretty refreshing.
Lets go deep on the main multiplayer mode though. There are 11 maps where objective based games are played. They can be anything from securing a hostage or defusing a bomb. As you complete games, you'll be able to unlock 'Operators', of which there are 20, 10 defenders and 10 attackers. These are specific characters who each have their own set of skills and devices. Castle for instance has bullet proof boarding, Mute's disrupters disable all electronics, Thermite's charges can blow through barricaded walls etc. You then try to either infiltrate or defend, completing the objective only using the gadgets available to you. It's a pretty compelling cycle of play and I found myself getting that 'just one more' feeling when a game ended. I've not had that with a multiplayer title in quite some time. It's very smart in its execution and the balance is tight. Every situation is winnable, and if you die it's likely the fact that you weren't paying attention to your surroundings. The tactical edge of the gameplay loop here is unique and that is a rarity in this genre. I will say however that 9/10 times, a game will end with you killing all the other players on the team rather than completing the objective. This is because defence will naturally guard the objective so you'd have to clear a team to get to the goal, but that is only a minor niggle.
The other main mode is Terrorist Hunt. Again, this can have you on the attack or defence, but instead the focus is on taking out AI rather than a team of online players. While this might sound a little less intense than the standard online mode, the AI are actually incredibly well programmed. They aren't stupid, often utilizing trickery and misdirection to keep you on your toes. It is excellent work by the dev team in that regard, and something that is worth the time interacting with.
Now, of course, Rainbow Six: Siege is at its best when you are in your own team of friends and all communicating to complete an objective. There is something powerful about it, as each player takes on a role and if there is one false move by the wrong player, an ability you might need later will be out of the game. It's somewhat MOBA like in its execution, but yet more intense due to the threat of being taken out and losing a match for your team at any time. What this experience excels in is a kind of natural roleplay, as you try to deftly execute on plans. Playing a match can at times feel like being in an elite spec ops squad as players bark orders and information to one another, in order to find a way to succeed. It's pretty intoxicating actually and is absolutely when the game is at its best.
But now we get to the elephant in the room. While the multiplayer is excellent, there is no getting away from the fact that this is a multiplayer focused game, with no real campaign out of the 11 missions you get in Situations that will take you 2-3 hours to complete. For some, the question of value will become a stumbling block. I got a good 10-15 hours of my time with Rainbow Six, but for some, that might not be enough. Also, for those who plainly don't like multiplayer modes or military shooters, this isn't going to be for you. For the RRP, unless are a huge fan of the franchise, have the money to burn or the idea of a tactical, one and done multiplayer game, it might be a little steep.
On top of that, the progression system is quite a mixed bag that gets in the way of when you can enjoy content. The game is based on a currency system that will allow you to buy upgrades for your weapons and all of the operators. You'll earn these naturally while playing the game, but if you are a season pass holder, you get a natural boost in the amount of the currency you get from each match. You can also buy boosters that increase the amount you get as well. On top of all that, there are some pretty heft micro-transactions in the game for paint jobs on your guns as well as those boosters. I'm also not convinced there is actually enough items to really offer the variety of other hardcore shooters, which is a problem if you like to get into the real nitty gritty of that stuff.
This isn't a knock on how good the game is to play in the moment to moment though. Rainbow Six: Siege is one of the very smartest, if not best military first person shooters I've played in a long time. It retains everything that made this series special, namely a staunch focus on teamwork and tactical execution. It's brutally punishing, but that is all a part of what makes this a unique experience in the AAA space. However, the odd progression system and the lack of content are significant hurdles, especially in a hardcore game like this where you'd expect a deeper experience. Still, the game part is so strong it is hard to ignore the quality of the title over its faults. If you get the chance to pick it up, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so. It is addictive and has kept me coming back over and over, which is unlike most multiplayer games this year. Despite an iffy exo-skeleton, the core of Rainbow Six: Siege is a tight and intense experience.
Get it if: You want a smart and deeply tactical multiplayer experience that fits in with the ideals of the franchise's hardcore shooter roots.
Avoid it if: You need more than a multiplayer mode to sustain you and you are put off by progression system that can utilise micro-transactions.