games / Previews

E3 2014: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege Multiplayer Preview

June 18, 2014 | Posted by Liana Kerzner

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If ever there was a preview where I just wanted to write “It’s really fun! Go play it!” and leave it at that, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege is that preview. But of course I have more for you guys, so here goes.

Rainbow Six: Siege is a return of a series that helped define the tactical shooter genre. It was known for its difficulty, and required patience. There was also an emotional strain on the player because it dealt with the rescue of hostages… at least I felt a strain. I felt really bad every time a hostage got killed. I see Rainbow Six as one of those “acquired taste” franchises, and it’s another Ubisoft property that is quite happily not for everyone.

We haven’t seen a Rainbow Six game since 2008, despite a core fanbase of stalwart supporters. However, with the Call of Duty franchise venturing more and more into futuristic territory, I’m guessing Ubisoft was thinking the time was right to bring back a first person shooter franchise with some difficulty. It doesn’t stray much from the Rainbow Six formula, but it does pick up the pace significantly. The big drawback to previous Rainbow Six games was the slow pace of the surveillance portions of the missions, with limited range on snake cameras, and very static gameplay. Each mission was extremely short, and the actual shooting portions even shorter. In the age of the run-and-gun FPS, it challenged many players attention spans a little too much. Thanks, however, to the addition of super speedy mouse drones, this is an issue no more.

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The multiplayer demo was set in a house in Boston, where one team had a hostage they needed to defend, while another team had to extract the hostage alive. It was fast, exciting, and challenging, and there’s something to do for players of all skill levels. It was also decidedly co-operative and tactical, which, for me, significantly added to the fun” because there’s a level of both personal skill and team planning, everyone feels included, and victory is highly satisfying.

The first minute of the RS: S five-on-five multiplayer session was a frenetic flurry where the breach and extract team worked together to locate the hostage, and plan their route to her, while the defenders rapidly reinforced doors, windows, and stairwells to keep them out.

On defense, the mission is simple: defend the hostage. The most important decision seemed to be right at the beginning of the match: where to locate the hostage in the house. This is done by team vote, and you only have so much time to make a decision. Both ceilings and windows can be breached – actually, pretty much anything can be breached — so placing the hostage in a location you know how to defend is critical. My team screwed up big time there, and although I knew the other team was going to come in through the ceiling, there wasn’t much I could do to stop it. It was kind of funny, and It felt like a fair loss.

Defense currently seems more difficult than offense, but since the game isn’t out until 2015, I’m sure they’ll keep tweaking that between now and then. The biggest issue with controls on defense was the fact that you have to hold down the button the entire time you’re putting up a barrier. If you let go even the slightest bit too soon, you have to start all over again. Seconds count, so this was annoying. That being said, a single button press wouldn’t be a good alternative either, because then it would be too easy to put the reinforcement panels in the wrong places.

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On offense, however, we did much better. There are two victory conditions: kill the defenders, or get the hostage out of the house. You can’t just go in firing wildly, however, because if you kill the hostage, you lose. Working as a team is essential, communication is a constant requirement, and you even need, dare I say, people skills. I spent most missions doing the things no one else was doing, and ended up being extremely useful because of it. Even if you’re not the world’s greatest FPS player, you can still scout and play look-out duty, and that’s actually extremely important because of the pace of play. Even when you die, you’re still tagged to a player on your team so you can watch his or her back. You’re constantly engaged.

Because everything is destructible, you have to evolve your tactics on the fly. In my second turn on extraction, I intentionally went off on my own, intending to serve as a distraction. I punched sniper holes through a window barricade in the room with the hostage to exploit the defenders’ false sense of security. This tactic was intended to give the main squad an opening to storm the room, but it led to two kills in pretty rapid succession that won the match for my team. It was a nail-biter of a standoff though, and aiming at the well-armored defenders while dangling from a grappling cable on the side of a house was pretty thrilling.

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There are, of course, tricks, choke points, and locations of interest in the map we played, so I felt there was a good balance between rewarding experience and accessibility for new players. It’s not one of those multiplayers where you just die a lot, because you’re working as a team. All in all, this brief, but intense, look at Rainbow Six: Siege showed a lot of promise and a much faster pace of play for this revived Ubisoft franchise. The game will probably be back at E3 next year, so I’m looking forward to seeing it develop further.

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Liana Kerzner