I have a long history with Tom Clancy games. In particular, the Rainbow Six series of games and the voice-command RTS game Tom Clancy’s EndWar. In a time where I was deeply rooted in multiple FPS games like Call of Duty and Halo, I was enthralled in the idea of a realistic approach to shooters, where the focus wasn’t about reflexes and being a lone wolf in a small thematic arena. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2 was my first outing into the series (yes, I’m using the full title here, because it deserves it), and it was a system shock. I couldn’t win by firing wildly and working on my own; I had to be deliberate, accurate, strategic and focused, and most importantly, it felt fantastic to succeed.
So when Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege was announced, I was immediately on-board. At this point, I had played through the N64 version of the original Rainbow Six, so I knew what to expect. The longer the reveal went on, it gradually took on its own form. I saw a concept that I hoped would work out, simply because I had never seen anything like it.
Rainbow Six: Siege takes place in a time where a group called the White Masks are performing terrorist acts across the world. Six re-activates the Rainbow Program, which has been inactive for several years, to stop the group. Following suit, the game focuses primarily on deliberately-paced action, but with a particular difference: It’s strictly multiplayer-only. Unlike other titles where you can play solo, or in the Vegas titles where you can play co-operative, Siege is primarily a competitive shooter.
There is a Situations mode available for players, but it’s essentially a very brief tutorial to the game’s many systems. You don’t even get to try every operator in a unique Situation for them, but at the very least, you get a full glimpse at how the game’s main gimmick works. Rainbow Six: Siege uses a procedural destruction engine that lets you destroy just about anything in the map.
Wooden floors, plywood walls, ceramic and even thin steel can be shot through and blown up, leaving a hole that you can look through or even pass through. This is affected by many things: the caliber of your weapon, the type of explosives you use, or the material itself. Simply put, a shotgun can blast a bigger hole through a wall than a tiny handgun. There is a particular importance to this, since this allows an incredible amount of strategy, especially when you factor in whatever the Defenders do.
In the Multiplayer section, there are currently three gametypes: Hostage Rescue, Bomb Defusal, and Secure Site. Each one has their own approach, but all use a 5v5 Last Team Standing dynamic. You can complete the objective, or you can simply eliminate every player on the enemy team. Terrorist Hunt uses the same gametypes, except it’s a 5-player team against AI.
Every game works the same way: The Defenders get 45 seconds to set up their defenses, like reinforcing weak walls and floor panels, barricading doors and windows, placing barbed wire, deployable shields, and various other traps around the area, and attempting to hide the objective from the Attackers. The Attackers during this phase can survey the area with drones in order to gain information on the enemy team and what they’re doing. After this phase ends, the Attackers have only several minutes to execute a plan and succeed in their objective.
Back to the destruction engine for a moment, this is when you start to see how insane this can get. Defenders can blast holes through walls to make kill-holes in open corridors, or use Nitro Cells to blow open entire walls to potentially give an alternate path to the objective. The Attackers can do this as well, giving this immediate divide where anyone, anywhere, can tear apart your defenses wherever it’s weak, making each and every round unique simply because the execution always changes.
And that’s what makes Siege so amazing. It’s the fact that anything could happen simply because of every dynamic at work here. This adds an incredible tension to both sides, since perhaps that one wall you couldn’t reinforce is how the Attackers are going to break through; maybe the Defenders did a great job trapping anything that wasn’t reinforced, and the player who is using the operator “Thermite” was killed early on. Every round plays out differently, and it’s an art to see how everything pans out.
The shooting mechanics add another layer of tension to it, as well. Weapons fire realistically, meaning that you can’t just hold down the trigger, since the weapon will recoil and throw your shot off-target. You have to be deliberate with your aim, moving slowly and keeping a sharp eye out for any potential places where you can get ambushed. Headshots are a one-hit kill, meaning you need to be even more careful in a firefight. You can lean as well while aiming, and this makes using cover important, along with keeping an eye on when you need to reload or if a teammate is moving up, because there is friendly fire.
With every round, Defending or Attacking, you can select from 10 operators for each side, each with their own unique talent that can potentially turn the tide of a round in your favor. For instance, the operator named Thermite that I mentioned earlier uses Exothermic Charges, which can destroy reinforced walls. Or Bandit, a Defending operator that can electrify barbed wire and reinforcements. Each operator has a use, and they can be matched against each other very well, adding yet another layer of strategy to the game.
Keep in mind that rounds typically last about 3 minutes each, and both sides have to study and execute so much in that period of time. Each round makes the teams switch sides until one of the teams wins three rounds. This is the score limit for Casual; Ranked play is first to four points, unless the match is tied 3-3, then it’s first to five.
After winning a match, you gain XP and Renown Points. Renown is the currency that you use to unlock just about everything in the game; new operators and weapon attachments for operator loadouts, in particular. There are five Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) groups, with four operators each. Buying the first operator in that group costs 500 Renown, then the second costs 1,000 Renown, and so on. In order to unlock every operator, you need to earn 10,000 Renown, which is easier said than done.
There is a second currency in the game, called R6 Coins. This is a microtransaction currency, which you can use to buy weapon skins and Boosters that increase your Renown payout by upwards of 50%. I didn’t buy any coins, although I wound up paying for a weapon skin at one point. Which means I spent a lot of time playing matches to get the Renown I needed in order to unlock operators; a difficult process.
The reason I say it’s difficult is because the servers for this game are literally a toss-up. They can be really clean, or have massive lag issues, since the servers for this game are peer-to-peer. As well as the occasional wonky hit-registration when shooting someone, it can get irritating quickly. I’ve seen nearly the entire spectrum in my time playing; sometimes I couldn’t even connect to the servers in order to play a match. Thankfully, this is improving over time, and for the most part, the developers are very invested in the community’s feedback.
Loading times are pretty minimal at about 15 seconds depending on the map and various other conditions, and the game runs without any framerate drops during normal play. Siege also runs at a rather clean 60FPS, and seems to maintain it very well.
The game looks great, although pretty muted in color at times. The most important part of this is, again, the dynamic destruction. Pieces fall off in chunks and fly around with rather impressive realism, and this continually gets compounded by the fact that even a tiny bullet hole gives you vision through the wall. Visually, this gives you so much freedom, and it’s probably one of the best systems I’ve ever seen for a shooter. It doesn’t aim to be flashy or colorful, instead going for contrasting colors that makes seeing the enemy team easier. And it works, even though the lighting is really bizarre; players indoors are at a heavy disadvantage, since they can’t see outside due to just how bright it is.
The sound quality is superb, as well. There aren’t any music tracks to make note of, but instead the sound design itself is our focus here. Siege uses dynamic sound that projects sound using a rather complex system that I can’t easily explain in words. To put it simply, if an enemy is in an adjacent room with all doors leading to it open, then you’ll hear them through the door. Now if you shoot a hole in the wall separating you two, the sound will come through the hole, since it’s closer to you. This makes audio just as important as everything else; you’ll hear footsteps of players walking above you, or hear the sound of gunfire in a nearby room without directly knowing the position of the sound. It’s just as impressive as any of the other systems in play, making a nearly perfect experience that really does tie itself together neatly.
Rainbow Six: Siege is the kind of shooter I didn’t know I wanted. The gunplay is rewarding and the overall strategy between Attacker and Defender makes every round tense and unique. The destruction and dynamic audio that are in effect add a huge amount of depth to an already deep game. It may seem like a lot to take in at first, but it is honestly easier to do than say.
If you’re a fan of shooters, give this a good look. There is plenty here for you to see, and even if the single-player is almost non-existent, the multiplayer will give you more than enough to last a while. The developers are also releasing new maps and operators for free throughout the year, and that means the game will continue expanding for a long time.