My four teammates and I have searched the entire building and only one room remains: it must be where the terrorists are keeping the hostage. There’s a few ways into the room. An explosion on the eastern wall would create a new entry point. The floor above offers a trap door that will let us shoot down upon unsuspecting enemies. If we are feeling acrobatic, we could rappel down the side of the building and shoot in the windows. We decide to go with the loudest option, a thermite charge on the wall, which kills one terrorist in its explosion. I throw a flash bang grenade into the room and my team enters with purpose. Finishing off the other four enemies with a combination of shotguns and assault rifles, we emerge victorious.
Of course, matches in Rainbow Six: Siege don’t always go this smoothly. Like most online games, the best laid plans often have to deal with many unsuspected factors. And yes, Rainbow Six: Siege is mostly online only. The main modes are terrorist hunt, which let you and up to four other teammates complete randomized missions such as defusing bombs or grabbing hostages against the AI, and a 5v5 online mode. One final mode is a set of a dozen or so situations which can be ran through on your own and serve mostly as tutorials.
Before I go into any other aspect, I want to talk about the gameplay first, which is very good. If you have ever played a first-person shooter, you will be comfortable with Siege’s controls. Ubisoft has somewhat streamlined the controls in Siege, borrowing from the wealth of shooters that have come out since the last title in the series. The shooting controls and the way guns feel is as good as any game out there. Graphically, the game won’t blow you away, but events like breach explosions and head shots look good enough.
The biggest change to the way Rainbow Six: Siege plays is in how the players interact with the environment. As the title hints, the game is about surrounding a building and infiltrating it. Certain walls and floor traps can be destroyed with explosive packs, while barricaded doorways and windows can be shot through or smashed to pieces with melee. The level design is great, with buildings filled with multiple stairways, corridors, rooms, skylights, and more. When you add in the ability for players to create some of their own pathways through the house, you will understand just how many options you have for getting to the room you need to be in.
On the other side of the battle, defenders have a number of strategies as well, from barricading doors and walls, to more high tech options like electronic jammers. The 5v5 game mode always start with a 30 second round where defenders get to build up barricades and defences, while attackers control tiny drones that can reveal locations of enemies or objectives. If this sounds unfair to the defenders, it isn’t. While objectives remain on the map if found, the location of defenders only stays on screen for a short period of time. Besides, defending often gives some natural advantages, while drones can be shot and destroyed if spotted.
That brings me to the biggest drawback for me in the actual gameplay, which is that it is very “gamey”. Not smelly, but rather that every aspect of the gameplay is balanced against something else in the game, destroying any suspension of disbelief. Some games try to create an in-game world by explaining gameplay aspects as a part of the game’s reality. In Siege, aspects of gameplay are often there to create a balanced multiplayer mode and that’s it. To be honest, it’s not really a bad thing, especially for an online only game. It does however, speak to the larger problem of the game, which is that Ubisoft didn’t put much effort in any aspect of the game other than the 5v5 mode.
Take the story for example. If you have been following Siege’s development, you know that Ubisoft touted the appearance of Academy Award-nominated Angela Bassett in Siege. Well, guess what. She appears in the opening cinematic when you pop the disc into the tray, telling you that there is an evil terrorist group that will stop at nothing to get what they want. And that’s it. Not just for Angela Bassett. For any plot point. For the entire story. Sure, I agree that, when it comes down to it, you don’t really need a story for playing a 5v5 online shooter, but when you pay full price for a game, you expect at least some plot other than the laughably absurd attempt Ubisoft put forth.
In Siege, characters are named “operators” and are unlocked over time. You choose to play as a certain operator at the start of each game round, and they are categorized into attackers and defenders. Each operator has unique guns and a unique skill. For example, Doc can fire a hypodermic needle into a downed teammate from across the room, while Ash is able to shoot an explosive round that destroys barricades or walls. The operators are diverse and well-balanced, each of them fun to play with. Most of the skills will affect how you approach situations, both on offense and on defence, and add to the experience. While I enjoyed unlocking and playing each operator, my gripe is with what happens after you unlock the operator, which is to say not much. You can add the expected gun sight or grip, but skills don’t get upgraded and you can in fact largely ignore upgrading an operator once they are unlocked.
For a full price game that offers very few game modes and no campaign, Ubisoft really wants you to spend even more money. A whole menu screen is dedicated to purchasing gun skins, XP boosters, or the season pass, and what a terrible season pass it is. For $30, the season pass gets you weapon skins, a permanent 5 per cent boost to XP, extra challenges, a few in-game credits, and early access to future operators. Season pass holders will get these operators a week early, with no need to unlock. Everyone else will have to unlock them a week later using XP. Although, it’s not really that difficult to unlock operators. A few wins in 5v5 and you have more than enough. The season pass seems like a bad joke to me. To their credit, Ubisoft will be giving out all maps in future DLC completely free to everyone. However, this furthers the uselessness of the season pass.
Perhaps it is a sign of the times, but the season pass and the micro-transactions in Siege, even though they can completely be ignored, leave a bad taste in my mouth, . If it wasn’t for the lack of story or campaign mode, or the lack of more multiplayer modes, or the lack of upgrades available to operators, I wouldn’t say Ubisoft is trying to rip off consumers. Siege is missing all these things, however, and the more I play the game, the more I’m convinced that Ubisoft put out a somewhat unfinished game, with the intention of basically tricking people into buying more things in-game. With other online-only games such as Titanfall and Evolve having seen such a drastic dip in their respective number of players that both games are now basically available for free, I also wonder for how long Siege’s player community will remain active.
Despite the fact that Rainbow Six: Siege isn’t worth the full price of a video game, I would still recommend it to a select few. After all, the gameplay here is fantastic, the strategies for attackers and defenders are diverse, and the level design is strong. If you have a couple buddies who are willing to buy the game and meet up online every now and then, Siege potentially offers as much fun as any other online objective-based game. Just be aware that you are buying a game that doesn’t come close to the value of most full priced games out there.