Rainbow Six Siege is out. As in, right now. I know, I was surprised too. But it's actually a solid team-based shooter, and the ability to blow through walls and floors is a game-changer.
Functionally speaking, Rainbow Six Siege feels like a midpoint between Call of Duty and Counter-Strike. The shooting is straightforward enough and you're not necessarily down for the count if you eat a few bullets, but cautious, tactical teamplay is still your best bet. Lone wolves can do some damage, but they can't (usually) bring down the house.
Each game unfolds as a series of relatively brief rounds. One team attacks, the other team defends — sometimes with a bomb as the centrepiece, other times a hostage, other times a location. Attackers focus on finding The Thing (first with wheeled drones, then as frail, disease-prone flesh golems otherwise known as Men) while defenders fortify its position with all manner of barriers, barbed wire, and traps.
Then things go all topsy-turvy. Players can rappel up and down most buildings, and they can blow holes in many walls and floors. The end result? A shooter where you never actually feel safe. Enemies can descend from above or rise from below. Also walls are a lie. Check out this moment I had while on defence to see what I mean:
I should probably cut back on the swearing. But also, Siege's destructibility opens up all sorts of cool possibilities. In this case, the other team figured out where I was hunkered down using a drone, and then — instead of flinging squishy, wet bodies into my line of fire — they blew down a wall and took me by surprise. It was this sudden burst of frightening drama, a perfect example of what Siege is all about.
In another excellent moment, the enemy team used explosions from multiple directions as a diversion, then they picked off my team one-by-one until I was the last person left standing.
Again, it was a legitimately scary moment. And yet, briefly, I still felt like I had a shot at turning things around. The game's levels — of which there are 11 — support all of this quite nicely, too. Most of them are ridden with verticality, open areas, and tight corridors or debris. A little bit of everything. That said, the limited selection of gametypes renders them functionally same-y. So far, I haven't felt like I've really had to vary my general approach much for any given level.
Defenders are most certainly not helpless. Barricades and other defensive items give them a rainbow palette of options. For instance, check out my makeshift door cover:
I AM NATHAN, DESTROYER OF SHINS.
After a few hours of play, I'm digging Rainbow Six Siege — for the most part. I do have some concerns, though, and they're not small. For one, it's a drastically different — and better — game if you're playing with a team that actually coordinates using voice communication. If not, it's a total crapshoot. Like Counter-Strike, Siege is a game of positioning and misdirection. If you don't have people calling out enemy positions and generally working together, you'll probably get picked off. Or, if the other team is also employing the Fuck It, Let's Just Shoot Some Dudes gambit, you might win by sheer luck. In-game tools — for instance, the ability to mark enemy positions with drones and cameras — help somewhat, but Siege finds itself trapped in that awkward gulf between forcing players to work as a team (potentially alienating casuals in the process) and letting them go their own way.
Either way, Siege is a markedly less interesting game when people play it that way. The game's level design, destructibility, and verticality offer a sumptuous buffet of tactical options. It's hard to take advantage of many of those when you're trying to herd cats. But if you hop into a random matchmaking game, that's probably what you'll end up getting. I'm hoping players will start strategising a bit more once they have acclimated to the game. We'll see. If they don't, I could see this game getting boring in a matter of days or weeks rather than months or years.
I've also seen evidence of some possible balance issues. Riot shields, for instance, are pretty monstrous — but also players (myself included) seem generally bad at using their natural deterrent, grenades, at this point. Perhaps it's just a sign of an early and evolving meta. Again, we'll have to wait and see.
I intend to play a lot of Rainbow Six Siege and write more about it in the coming days and weeks. Right now, though, I'm digging it. Each match offers its own surprises — shrapnel blizzards of player creativity and eternity-milliseconds of white-hot terror. That said, it hardly has anything in the way of non-multiplayer options, and there are only a few main modes. And yet, it's going for $69. That's a tall asking price for a game of this sort, let alone one that may or may not have much lasting value. If you absolutely need a new tactical shooter right now, this one's definitely fun. But if you're a cautious and tactical sort with your wallet as well as in video games, I'd say probably hold off — at least for a little bit.