The Rainbow Six property has had an interesting time in the last decade. After the single-player game titled Rainbow 6: Patriots was canceled Rainbow Six: Siege rose from its discarded ashes. A rough launch turned into a massive success story as Ubisoft stuck by the game and turned it into one of the most successful of the generation. I confess that I had did not play that much of it though as I found the community in it to be full of some truly toxic habits. Originally titled Quarantine, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Extraction is finally here and surprisingly it’s available day one on Game Pass for console and PC. It’s a slow-paced, up to 3 player co-op PVE experience featuring 18 of the Operators from the main game. How does this procedurally generated run-based alien-infestation-filled FPS fare? Surprisingly well, happily enough.
A Soyuz capsule has crash-landed in the New Mexico desert. After a very smart man brings it back to his home a potential world destroying alien species known as the Archaeans begins to infest any and everything. With a name worthy of adoration for just how terrible it is, the US government responds by creating the Rainbow Exogenous Analysis and Containment Team (REACT). There are 18 operators from Rainbow 6 Siege in the mix here. Each has their own 10 levels to earn as you progress through the main story. There is quite a bit of world-building and pre-rendered cutscene work. None of it is great, but it is far better than the recently released Back 4 Blood and I didn’t immediately hate every single character here.
This is not a horde co-op shooter in the same vein as B4B either. Deliberate is a proper word to describe every part of this game, at least on controller, and especially as the difficulty increases. Your operators cannot heal their base HP mid-mission and can go down incredibly quickly after only a few enemy attacks. Missions are known as incursions and contain procedural generation for how the map is laid out on each run. You can extract at any time but choosing to go for extra objectives can earn you far larger experience rewards. It’s a solid risk/reward setup that lends a feeling of accomplishment every time you are able to complete all three objectives in a single incursion. Each sub-section of an incursion also features a “time to swarm” clock, which you want to pay attention to. It will reset as you move zone to zone, but once it hits zero if you aren’t already at or right next to the extraction zone you’re as good as dead.
Getting back to that healing situation, this game features a persistence to the damage you take to your base (white) health. The only way to gain it back is to run another incursion with a different operator, which is a successful way to encourage you to try out different people. For fans of Siege, you’ll find plenty of familiar faces and abilities. Certain abilities operate on a timer and others require a restock before they can be used again but are generally more powerful. One such ability is Doc’s health boost pistol. There are medkits as well that can give you health boosts, which are a blue bar added to your health on top of your base white bar. This does not persist and will be lost when, well if, you extract.
The Cost of Failure
While you can potentially extract at any time you will lose operators which results in them going M.I.A. To get them back you must run a mission in the same level with “Rescue M.I.A.” becoming one of your three objectives. It’s a harrowing experience, especially when it is the 3rd objective. If you are playing co-operatively your teammates can carry your foam infused body (foam stops the parasite from consuming you right away) to an extraction point as well, which thankfully in one of the few matchmaking incursions I got into during the review period happened for me after I got a little too aggressive.
You are given two opportunities to rescue an M.I.A. operative, and if you are unable to they will lose any experience they had accumulated during the mission they had been incapacitated on. Along with your operator skills on the right bumper you have access to REACT gear on the left bumper. There is a wide variety of consumables that give you a fighting chance against the “Archies” including various grenades, revive stims for KO ’ed teammates, body armor for damage taken reduction, and more. All of this is tied to a leveling system, and every incursion you run and challenge you to complete can help unlock both more REACT gear, new Operators, and the aforementioned 10 level upgrade path for each individual Operator.
This is a grind game, focused on giving you a lot of reasons to keep running these same levels over and over again and it worked well for me. There are at least 4 locations; New York, San Francisco, Alaska, and New Mexico. Each of these features multiple locations, and there are 4 difficulties to keep things as tough or less tough (it’s never really easy) as you want. The Maelstrom Protocol is an endgame mode for seasoned players who have leveled themselves and their operators up near the max. This is an extended incursion that will change week to week. Three different Operators will be available at a time for it, another system designed to encourage leveling up everyone on your team. There is a lot of content here for a $40 product, but none of that would matter if it didn’t feel good to play.
Trigger Fingers on the Pulse
At 60 frames per second in the resolution mode, the controls feel great, though the default turn speeds are quite slow. Thankfully there is a 1080p/120Hz mode available as well, and things felt smooth as butter there for me. On a 27 inch, 1440p monitor with variable refresh rate on performance was excellent (true for both modes). Gunplay is snappy, and I never felt cheated if I missed a shot. Most of the tougher or higher-ranked enemies feature carapaces that are highly bullet resistant. You’ll want to go for spots on their weak shots which can be the head, a giant glowing red or green explosive sac on their back, or many other wonderful and disgusting spots.
The REACT gear and Operator abilities are well balanced, and each fills a particular role well. I found myself greatly enjoying the characters who can put down mines or explosives to protect areas as many of the game’s objectives require you to defend a spot for a set period of time. Taking your time and using the lean while aiming system (a click of each stick for the two directions) is absolutely necessary if you want to take out as many enemies as possible before they can yell to the nearest giant red sac which will start continuously spewing out reinforcements until it is destroyed.
This game can be quite tough, but it never felt unfair to me. It simply cannot be played as a run and gun, and if that doesn’t sound appealing then this will not be the game for you. There are a lot of various primary and secondary weapons on hand, and they all feel excellent. Possibly even better than I remember in Siege itself. You can kill just as quickly as you can be killed, and, thanks to all of those wonderful toys, more often than not you’ll have the drop on a wide variety of kinda dumb-looking alien enemies.
Rainbow 6 Siege is an Esports game, which means at its heart it is meant to run on the low end of hardware while still looking good “enough” and at as high a framerate as possible. This is a rather nice-looking title despite those origins, and Ubisoft has done a great job here of building a world that looks appropriately disgusting and horrific after what is essentially an alien invasion. One area that doesn’t always hold up is just how boring the initial alien designs are. The base grunt alien quite frankly looks really dumb. This is annoying as you’ll be seeing a lot of them early on in your play. As I progressed through the levels and difficulties a solid variety of enemy types emerged, and my frustration was greatly lessened.
A lot of the classic tropes of the cooperative horde shooter genre are lightly represented here. Thankfully though I never encountered one that took control away from my character, though at least half of my playtime was solo as matchmaking wasn’t very active pre-release. Ubisoft was kind enough to provide us with multiple review codes though and playing with my Xbox Era colleagues was a really fun time, well after I finally convinced them just how slowly you need to take each run.
Getting back to the graphics, the Operators models look really darned nice. Guns, abilities, and react gear have satisfying effects and real oomph behind them. I went into this expecting something that looked ok as Ubisoft rarely put out an ugly title, but I have been pleasantly surprised at how good the game looks while running at a steady feeling framerate.
Solid Pre-Release Server Performance But Will It Hold Up?
Even when playing solo this game always requires an online connection. This was a source of frustration as multiple times during the pre-review period I went to play and could not as the servers were unavailable. This also poses an issue with the game being available on Game Pass day one for both console and PC. I do not know if the servers will hold up, and you literally cannot play if they go down. Full cross-play is available as well utilizing the Ubisoft account system, so if you’re planning to play with friends on other platforms you’ll need to make sure you know your friend’s Ubisoft account name beforehand.
Music-wise things are very muted and completely forgettable. That goes for the story as well. You might have noticed that I haven’t brought it up in a while, and that’s because it’s a bit of window dressing to explain why you’re going and clearing out rooms. It doesn’t get in the way, but I never once found myself caring about it. It’s definitely better than Back 4 Blood’s though, which actively pushed me away from the game with how annoying its characters were during missions. Sound effects are great though, which makes sense with how many years they’ve been fine-tuning things in Siege. I did not encounter a single bug in my entire time playing through the game, which may not mean anything, but it was nice to experience as that is almost never the case nowadays.
Options wise the game continues Ubisoft’s recent trend of having a lot of options on hand. The only area this truly falters in is that difficulty selection. Easy is not really easy, and as a seasoned FPS veteran, I still felt incredibly weak at all times. This is not a game for people who do not like or are unable to handle a lot of constant challenges. There are also a large number of cosmetics on hand, and it is all optional. We were given deluxe editions which retail for $60 and offered up a large number of various Operator skins, weapon skins, and weapon charms. Some of the skins in the store pre-launch are really goofy looking, like a cat head, and feel out of place with how incredibly serious the story takes itself here. It is what it is though, modern gaming monetization.
I remember seeing the initial coverage for this title and thinking, “That looks interesting, but I doubt it holds my interest long without a good story”. I was really freaking wrong there, as this story is not good, but the gameplay loop is so satisfying that I could see myself playing this with members of the Xbox Era team and our community for a long time to come thanks to it releasing day one on Game Pass. It’s an interesting take on what is normally a very surface-level genre. Instead of focusing on giant set pieces and massive enemy counts TC’s Rainbow Six: Extraction asks you to take your time, watch your corners, and leave no one behind.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Microsoft Windows, Playstation 4 & 5|
|Release Date||January 20th, 2022|
|Rated||M for Mature|