A wise man once said, "I love it when a plan comes together." And when everything clicks in Rainbow Six Siege, you'll feel like leaning back in your seat and uttering that famous phrase.
When a Rainbow Six match begins, you'll have some preparation time, which you can use to scout for objectives (if attacking), fortify positions (if defending), and come up with a general plan of action. This is a game that you will need to strap on your headset and engage with your fellow players to stand any hope of succeeding.
This is particularly important because your plan needs to be flexible and you need to be able to come up with new approaches on the fly. Perhaps there's a barricade or fortified wall in an entry point; maybe you weren't vigilant enough in taking out drones; maybe the other team has a plan of their own that you hadn't expected. And because matches take place over a number of rounds, teams adjust to each other's tactics and strategies on the fly. It's as much a game of psychological warfare as a game of reflexes, if not more so. For a first person shooter, there isn't a lot of shooting. Health depletes rather quickly and doesn't regenerate, and your reflexes will only get you so far. However, you can tilt the balance of a firefight in your favour by catching an enemy off-guard.
And there are a lot of ways to do that. You can rappel up walls to take a new avenue of attack, utilise your operator's equipment, and, most importantly, blow the heck out of levels to open up new vantage and entry points. This adds a whole new layer of thinking and strategy; these destructible environments can be used to gain the upper hand in a firefight, but are also a worthy distraction tactic as your team moves into position at another entry point.
Rainbow Six Siege strikes a fine balance in how it handles matches. Once you die, you're out of the round, which means it's best to work as a team and take your time. But you're also on the clock, so you can't dawdle. It can be fascinating at times to see how each side can use time to their advantage, with attackers occasionally delaying their entry just to see how the defending team reacts. The good news is that rounds tend to go pretty quickly, so even if you're first out you don't have too long to wait before getting in on the action again.
Before you get into the multiplayer side of the game, it's worth taking on some of the game's situations and the Terrorist Hunt mode. These essentially act as the game's single player component, but are also a valuable source of renown, the currency that you use to unlock Operators.
All 20 of the game’s Operators are locked from the off and if you don’t unlock any or your multiplayer teammates pick the ones you have, you’ll be stuck with the lowly Recruit. You’ll need to be somewhat choosy with who you unlock. If you try to unlock a second Operator within the same organisation, you’ll have to pay more. The process of earning renown is painless enough; in fact, watching the tutorial videos will get you a “free" Operator, while a few hours spent playing Situations, completing challenges, and hunting terrorists will earn you a couple more.
Terrorist Hunt lets you go it alone or team up with a squad and take down a number of AI terrorists in a given location. This is really your only chance to take the Lone Wolf approach and you quickly see why it's ill-advised. It's often tense as you slowly sweep around a location, systematically clearing rooms of threats. But there's a great sense of satisfaction in completing a round, particularly if you haven't been caught on the hop by a terrorist or had your health drastically reduced in a firefight.
Situations offer a variety of challenges, including rescuing a hostage, disarming a bomb, taking out a number of terrorists on a plane, and defending a hostage of your own. They introduce players to the various Operators so that they get to grips with their unique characteristics and abilities, and find out which ones they'd like to unlock first. And each Situation offers three additional objectives, so there is quite a bit of replayability here.
Veterans of the Rainbow Six series may be disappointed to see a single player campaign omitted from Siege. The Situations contain story incidents of sorts, introduced by Hollywood’s Angela Bassett, but it’s scant consolation to those who want to play their own game free from the pressures and skill ceiling of online play. But then again, the online action more than makes up for it.
As it’s an online title, there are things that can impact your enjoyment of Siege, including connectivity issues and the skill or willingness to communicate of your teammates. There are also some quirky bugs, including some clipping issues, which unfortunately can impact how games play out.
If you prefer working on your own or like to charge around and shoot from the hip, Rainbow Six Siege is not the game for you. And it never pretends to be. But if you embrace Rainbow Six Siege for the tactical shooter that it is, it is a tense and enjoyable game.
4/5 – Mark O’Beirne