Each game of Rainbow Six Siege is an intense battle of cat and mouse. Everyone holds his or her breath, wondering who will make the first move. Then, a distant explosion goes off as a breach charge brings down a wall that you previously barricaded – do you run to investigate and reveal your position? Or wait… hidden. Ready to spring an ambush that you and the other two-man team have laid. Meanwhile, the last member of the team defends the hostage just in case the attackers make a direct assault. It’s a thrilling experience and one that can play out in any number of different ways – no game is the same, and things can go south very quickly if you don’t plan ahead and work as a team.
Each area can be attacked in multiple ways, and objectives will appear in different locations. An attack can come from any direction; there’s few walls, ceilings or floors that can’t be breached or shot through – although some must be bashed a few times to create a neat hole that you can place your gun barrel into – it’s the kind of destruction DICE would be proud of. As you creep through each of the ten locations, you can peer around to your left and right, twisting you gun and giving a whole new dimension to contend with while aiming. Repelling inverts this view adding a further chance of nausea and twisting your perception of what you might be accustomed to.
Both views create a tactical dimension to the gunplay of Siege, and are a fluid addition to the game rather than a mere gimmick. While attached to a grapple hook you aren’t restricted to going up and down either – the hook slides effortless across the surface it’s attached to making vertical firefights just as intense as those on the ground.
Each five-man team takes turns at attacking and defending. Teams are made up of elite soldiers from around the world. These Operators are specialists in a variety of tactics, from breaching charges and ballistic shields to weapon and trap specialists. Each soldier must be unlocked with renown points, which are earned by playing the game. There’s an operator for every playstyle, although only one of each may be selected per match, so be quick at selecting your favourite before somebody else does.
Operator weapons can be customised with scopes, grips, barrels and laser sights, and must be purchased with renown points. Each weapon handles distinctively different and damage, range, mobility, and shot spread make a real difference, so each should be considered carefully depending on how you play. It’s a shame there isn’t a gun range so you can try each one, or are able to tweak gun customisations between matches – you need to exit to main menu to do that.
The sound of the different guns isn’t like anything I’ve experienced before. They sound incredible. There’s depth and umph to them, with the LMGs in particular creating a crescendo of bullet noise when you unload a full clip – ideal for suppressing and taking down waves of enemies in Terrorist Hunt, which with three friends on normal can be a slight challenge, but five players make this difficulty a breeze. Hard is slightly challenging and Realism will really test your team and combat skills.
The superb sound engineering doesn’t stop at weapons either – explosions sound brutal and are muffled when a distant wall is blown to rubble. While hunkered down at an objective, footsteps can often be heard overhead, making your heart race as you attempt to place where the attackers are likely to be headed. This can work as a great tactic, using sound to misdirect an enemy team while the main bulk of your force sneaks in from behind.
Sound in Siege is both wonderful and chilling, and nothing is more chilling than hearing the breathing apparatus of a bomber in Terrorist Hunt. When you hear the deep labored gas mask breaths of a bomber, you know that any moment he could pop out and detonate his explosive vest. It instantly turns any situation into a tense moment of panic. It can also make for some hilarious moments – watching as a teammate runs (and screams) as a bomber is in hot pursuit.
This tension is only made more so by the one life you have in a Siege match. You can be revived if you get downed – but life feels more precious than it has done in any other shooter. As the odds stack up against you when your team gets picked off one-by-one, it only makes the tension worse. It’s a wonderful experience – but given, it won’t be for everyone.
Matchmaking is kept simple – multiplayer or terrorist hunt – and if you don’t like a particular mode or a map, simply change your matchmaking preferences so that maps and modes you dislike won’t appear. There is a single player campaign called Situations, but it serves more like an expanded tutorial. Each mission has a different objective with a different Operator; it’s a great way to get to grips with the game before you dive into the online modes.
While good fun, the single player does feel disconnected from the main multiplayer focus of Siege – you have to work as a team to succeed – but Situations places you as a lone wolf and breaks that need for cooperative play. It works. Just not well enough to cement the need for its inclusion in the package. Don’t overlook it though. There’s three difficulties and three challenges to chase, so you’ll be kept entertained for hours attempting to best the increasingly difficult missions – finish them all and you get to team up with four randomly matched players to take on the game’s final level – but shhh, that mission is a secret!
For the most part, servers held up well, but Siege does suffer from the standard connection woes that plague many other online titles – often you’ll feel hard done by with a kill that seems impossible and there’s the odd server disconnect.
Many online shooters suffer from matches playing out in the same way. Siege’s strength is how different each match can be. Some teams bunker down at the objective or split up to set ambushes as the attackers breach the area. When attacking I’ve seen some teams go in en masse with shield Operatives at the front and a defender bringing up the rear – even after 20 hours it’s yet to feel stale – and I still witness new things that make me rethink my tactics.
Rainbow Six Siege is a refreshing take on the FPS genre and easily the best tactical shooter I’ve played in years. There are not many games where you can lose again and again and have so much fun. It may lack the content of Call of Duty or Halo, but its well-worked multiplayer more than makes up for its lack of single player options. Besides… Terrorist Hunt will keep me hooked long into 2016.
Thanks to Xbox and Ubisoft for their support
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