For years, Ubisoft Montreal has been building a strong, formidable roster of tactical soldiers with Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege. To this point, those operators have focused their energy on defusing bombs, rescuing hostages, and fighting each other in team settings. Now that the gaming audience has come to familiarize themselves with these characters, it's time for them to come together to combat an alien menace. Ubisoft Montreal has gone from the PvP action of Siege to the PvE mayhem of Rainbow Six Extraction and the transition couldn't have gone any more smoothly.
The Rainbow Six Extraction story is a simple one. An invading alien force has landed on the planet, touching down in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The Rainbow Six Siege Operators have since come together to form the Rainbow Exogenous Analysis and Containment Team (REACT) and to combat this extraterrestrial menace. Operators will go on various missions, deploying for incursions that hold up to three players, completing different objectives, "Studies" tasks, and earning XP in order to improve the Operators' abilities and also advance the story along. While the invasion has spread worldwide, players will venture to domestic locations like New York, San Francisco, Alaska, and the aforementioned Truth or Consequences, giving them a firsthand view of the invasion's effects. The locations will all be covered in parasitic slime, with many of the structures abandoned and devastated by the invaders. Visually, this creates a haunting atmosphere and helps supplement the idea that players will have to approach these areas using a stealthier approach.
One major plus that Extraction has going for it is that players can essentially tackle whatever challenge level makes them the most comfortable. Each containment zone's three distinct locations have three different sub-zones with randomly generated objectives. Before going in, players are prompted to select a difficulty setting, which affects the number of enemies, the number of tougher enemy types, and the potential for the stage's enemies undergoing random mutations. Taking on a tougher setting means you're likelier to encounter stronger foes that can suddenly become tanks out of the blue, but it might be worth it for the additional XP rewards.
Speaking to the point of custom challenge levels, it's possible to simply complete one objective and exit the stage by requesting extraction from the designated area. However, going deeper into subsequent sub-zones through an airlock will amplify the difficulty with additional enemies and more formidable enemy types. This is where it should be noted that Extraction can be unforgiving in certain ways. There is no health recovery and any medkits you pick up will only carry overheal properties, meaning that extra health diminishes over time. It's very easy to bite off more than you can chew, especially given enemy behavior in this game.
The enemy variety also makes Extraction an intense experience. While the layouts for each playable location will stay mostly the same, enemy locations are randomized. Rather than run-and-gun and try to Rambo through the enemies, stealth is the name of the game in Extraction. Teams must sneak around, keeping noise to a minimum, making sure to take out any parasites and their nests without being seen. If anybody is detected, the nests will spawn endless foes and the numbers will quickly become overwhelming. If there's a criticism here, it's that it can be too easy to trigger enemy alerts. I've tiptoed through areas several times, only to have foes turn around at just the wrong moment and spot me anyway. However, acting quickly can help minimize any penalties for being uncovered.
Strategies will vary depending on the individual objective. Specific objectives can also influence which Operator is best suited for it, which is where good team composition becomes essential. I say "team composition," because Extraction quickly proves to be no game for lone wolves, as I'll get to momentarily.
No "I" in "Team"
Extraction's other big plus is the size of its roster. Putting aside that the Rainbow Six Siege Operators all have their own pre-established lore, having such a sizable selection of characters helps add variety to each outing. All of the Operators have their own unique abilities that fit into different play styles. Vigil, for example, has a cloak that helps enhance his stealth; Sledge has a massive hammer that can act as a melee weapon and as a way to bash through tough walls, which also doubles as a way to demonstrate Extraction's usage of Siege's outstanding physics engine; Rook can pass armor plating to his teammates; and Alibi can trick enemies by creating holographic doubles of herself. If there's a downside to the characters, it's that they don't have the most engaging personalities. While I'm not expecting Marvel quip fests, I would like to be able to tell characters apart by more than just the tools they're packing.
Extraction operates on an XP system, where each member of the roster must be leveled up individually. On the one hand, this is a good way to encourage players to use characters that they normally wouldn't use. I wouldn't have ever used Pulse otherwise and by the time this review goes live, he'll be the character I've used the most. The problem with this approach is that leveling can sometimes go at a glacial pace. This is especially true for those who are playing alone.
In fact, Extraction is a far less fun experience when flying solo. Because there are no teammates to revive solo players, missions become far more cautious affairs and there's much less of a margin for error. In fact, one slip-up and parasites will charge in droves, meaning the Operator will be lost.
That leads to another mechanic that feels less than desirable. When Operators are downed, they are no longer playable, at least temporarily. On top of that, even if Operators take hits over the course of the mission, they retain that damage after the session is over and must recover that health over time. They don't recover in real time, either. They must recover in play time, which means even a successful outing can result in having an Operator that you won't be able to use again for a while. Worse yet, the recovery rate is painfully slow and if the game didn't make you feel punished enough, losing an Operator results in a heavy XP penalty.
The one positive to this idea is that downed Operators must then be rescued by returning to that same location with a different character. The concept of finding a downed comrade and saving them from a parasitic cocoon is a cool one and adds some heightened tension to some already tense incursions. This is especially true after freeing the Operator, at which point the objective becomes to reach the extraction point with only one hand free to hold a sidearm.
Ready for Extraction
Rainbow Six Extraction doesn't scratch the same kind of itch that a Left 4 Dead or a Back 4 Blood does, but it satisfies a different sort of urge. It features many of the best elements of a team-based shooter, but instead of emphasizing different types of offensive weapons, the focus is more on individual abilities, team tactics, and stealth. The randomized objectives, different enemy placement, and potential for facing down dangerous mutations means that no two Extraction sessions will feel the same.
As long as you know that it's dangerous to go alone, Extraction is a blast. With Ubisoft Montreal looking to add more content in the future, I'll be ready to exterminate alien parasites for a long time to come.
This review is based on an Xbox digital code provided by the publisher. Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Extraction will be available on Thursday, January 20 on PC (via the Epic Games Store and Ubisoft Store), PlayStation, and Xbox for $39.99 USD. The game is rated M.
Rainbow Six Extraction
- Great variety of playable characters and settings
- Randomized objectives and enemy locations
- Siege physics engine works beautifully for this type of shooter
- Challenge gets intense, but is never forced on players
- XP leveling system can move slowly
- Operator health recovery goes at a snail's pace
- Solo play is no fun