By Remko Molenaar (Proxzor)
A few weeks ago the Rainbow Six Siege community had their first chance outside of localized events to get hands-on time with the beta. While they could have limited this to only pre-order players, they were interested enough in wider feedback to release a few freebie codes as well that I managed to snag a hold of. As you can expect with most beta tests, the first week was quite rocky, leading to a beta extension of an extra week to get things right. There was still plenty of issues in the extended week, but a few times things ran right, and I got to see the glorious vision of what Ubisoft has in mind for this team shooter.
Rainbow Six is a game series I have enjoyed time and time again throughout the years. But I should preface that it is not a game for everyone into the shooter genre. Actually it started off rather niche until Rainbow Six: Vegas, turning this series into a huge hit. Anyway, the series has stayed true to its roots, creating a more visceral, realistic shooter experience focused on team coordination and tactical planning. Those looking for a mindless adrenaline rush roller coaster will be put off by the slower pace and punishing gameplay, but experienced clans will relish in the opportunity to showcase their superior coordination and planning.
But back to the beta. The first real change in this edition of the series was the unlockables. Basically you have to earn just about every fun gadget and agent in the game, which limits the initial fun you can have by quite a bit. Not to mention leaving most people in the beta fighting boring mirror matches with similar units.
When you get into a multiplayer 5v5 game where you either have to defend a hostage, or defend a specific area or objective you first start out with selecting your character. There are a few different organizations and countries your character can belong to, and the kit your character uses also heavily depends on that. Each character is specialized into something, be it either breaking down walls, having a few more demolition tools, or carrying a big shield that makes it easier to gain access to a specific area. But as I mentioned above, everything needs to be unlocked, including the individual tools that unleash the full potential of the agents. Rainbow Six games have always been something I played casually as a one-off to another game. The threat of having to grind to reach an enjoyable experience here is a real turn-off. Sure Call of Duty gets away with it, but they’re catering to a far different market of shooter fans.
When everyone has picked their character and tools, it is time for both sides to prepare for the round. The defenders will be able to set defenses up, and fortify the walls and windows, while making sure everyone is watching a specific area to have the best chance of outsmarting the other side. This of course gives the defenders a few distinct advantages, so Rainbow Six Siege gives the offensive team some fun toys to even the odds. One I found particularly entertaining is the remote control cars; you drive them in to have a look around hostile territory to make note of fortifications and the objective. It’s a blast watching the defenders frantically set up their fortifications while you buzz RC cars around them to further annoy them. Plus the cars can go beneath all fortifications, letting you find the objective with enough time to spare to screw around a bit. A few times the defenders dropped what they were doing to chase after my car, leading to some pure slapstick comedy routines as I ducked under objects to throw them off again and again.
Unfortunately this was one of my highlights of the beta, as the actual gameplay felt lackluster. The game just doesn’t feel challenging, and its not the fault of our opponents but rather the characters and tools themselves. I mainly had to play on a map where the main objective was placed in a house. As an attacker there were only so many routes you could take to the objective, leading to stale meta gameplay time and again. Those looking for quick progression would bust through the window into a firefight that felt distinctly against Rainbow Six style. Those sticking to Rainbow Six style would enter through the doorway and work room to room carefully and cautiously… with the same routine every single play through. The defenders are obviously lying in a corner waiting for their attackers behind boarded up doors. Opening the doors would give away your position making you an easy target. So in the end you have a slow game of cat and mouse where two sides wait out each other, with the first one that gets bored and moves around getting shot.
This circles around back to my initial point. The gameplay doesn’t need to be so monotonous. If we were given free reign of which characters and tools we could use, a huge variety of possibilities open up. But in the beta we had no such luck, and those that did spend the time to grind up to the goods introduced some overpowered mechanics that disorganized default pugs had simply no chance against. When assaulting, most people chose to go for a character that carried a shield. And why you ask? Well, you cannot shoot through the shield, and it was damn near impossible to even hit the guy carrying the shield. And now comes the kicker, the person with the shield was also able to shoot a deadly pistol without dropping his guard. In the end one shielded assaulter would turn a well defended fortress into the equivalent of an unprepared clam baked house getting surprised by SWAT. You die so fast its hard to even learn from the experience to do better the next time around. Your allies sit around unsure of themselves as well, and not much fun is had all around. Meanwhile we all daydream about the cool gadgets we might have a chance to fight back with, but just don’t have the motivation to grind up to.
Clam Bake Eliminated
This is all multiplayer problems though so it shouldn’t be a big deal. The big selling point on Rainbow Six titles has always been the Campaign mode. Yet recently Ubisoft announced there would be no campaign mode. Instead we’re getting the Terrorist Hunt game mode though, where you as a player have to fight wave after wave of enemies to win. I only lost one game out of twenty in this mode though, putting the difficulty so low to be a snoozefest that drove me straight back into the broken multiplayer. It’s clear that the game still needs a lot of work, and there is only a month left until release.
Right now I am still a bit skeptical. As a series I love, I’m rooting for Ubisoft to pull off a hat trick at the last minute. There just isn’t any charm in Rainbow Six Siege, and the grind is tedious. The intense gameplay previewed at E3 does not at all reflect the live experience in beta. I questioned my clan members if they had fun, and most just dodged the question or focused on the few things Rainbow Six Siege gets right. Honestly the only enjoyable moments were with my organized clan members over VOIP, which seems to be the target market for the game at least. But the solo experience is so bad, I worry about the game seeing a large enough market post-launch to stay online.