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Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: Dec. 1, 2015


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Xbox One Review - 'Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege'

by Redmond Carolipio on Dec. 10, 2015 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Inspired by real world counter-terrorist organizations, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege puts players in the middle of lethal close-quarters confrontations.

One thing I've learned about myself as a player of video games: I'm a sucker for story. I'm addicted to narrative. Give me protagonists, antagonists, some common goal held together with dialogue, twists and character development, and I'm ready to roll. I'm the guy who creates a QB in Madden and starts building a backstory for him in my head.

It's not just about satisfaction, though. Narrative elements in games remain the most organic way to let players into whatever world a designer is trying to create. Done well, or even competently, good story can lead to players becoming invested while learning how the game works, where it wants to take them and whether they want to stay there in the first place.

Rainbow Six Siege bears the name of the late Tom Clancy, who wove together tales of espionage that exhibited chilling attention to technical detail and complex characters. Literary and movie fans will always remember Jack Ryan, while gamers have Sam Fisher.

However, there's no such inkling of a traditional story arc or unifying character to be found in Siege. It's a little unnerving: The game that carries the name of a storyteller actually doesn't have a story. Instead, players are loosely given a playing field and rules to engage in a form of tense, weaponized death chess, with archetypes of the world's counterterrorism agents serving as the pieces. It's on you as the player (and the ones you find online) to determine whether the art of defeating your opponents is enough.

This is far from the first time a major shooter has relied on multiplayer as the sole engine that drives the experience. The most recent example that comes to mind for me is Evolve, which banded together players to hunt a player-controlled monster. The creativity wasn't in the story but in the characters you could choose. All of them had different abilities that, when skillfully used, blended together to create a sense of team-based combat. Siege boasts a lot of that as well, except there's no monster, only other people.

Actress Angela Bassett (whoa) sets the tone of the game in the opening, calling on counterterrorism units of the world to fight a faceless, nameless group of well-armed bad guys. There's no sense of agenda, other than knowing that these guys are awful, and you have to shoot them.

Such is the vague narrative backbone behind Situations, which is Siege's single-player mode. The name says it all: a series of independent missions that put the player in a variety of scenarios to get a feel for the game. The scenarios range from simply clearing out a building to hostage rescue. Each scenario puts the players in the boots of a counterterror operator who represents an agency from the United States (the FBI), France (GIGN), Germany (GSG 9), Russia (Spetsnaz) or the U.K. (SAS). It's like the Anti-Terrorism Olympics. It's also where the game grabs you.

To say Rainbow Six games play differently from other first-person shooters is a gross understatement. While titles like Call of Duty and Halo feature a kind of chaotic, fantastical bounce to their brand of action, Rainbow Six Siege and its predecessors wrap chains of suffocating tension around the experience and then cover it with a blanket of realism. You can die in one shot. You can wait for 20 minutes, take one wrong step down the wrong hallway and get blown away by a booby trap. Someone can pick you off silently from the vent above you. Or you can rack up a few kills and place a wall-clearing breaching charge in the wrong place and kill the hostage, costing your team a round, if not the match.

The Situations missions capture the basics of everything you can do with your agents, including some of their special abilities. Take a step back, and it's an impressive package of moves. The most visual one is being able to rappel up and down walls and change your positioning (you can even flip upside-down) while on the rope. In theory, you'd place a breaching charge on a barricaded window or door, blow it out and be able to shift out of the line of fire and/or pick off people like some action hero — before you got shot off the rope, at least. The old Rainbow Six games featured a trigger-press cover system, which was actually tactically unrealistic. In Siege, you can aim and click the right or left thumbstick to "tilt" your gun sights to the left or right, allowing players to grab a few precious inches of cover while checking corners. It works; I managed to gain a small half-second advantage on someone waiting for me before I shot him/her through some flimsy wooden cover.

Ah yes, there are destructible elements. You can shoot through weak walls or barricades. During multiplayer, some creative bastard punched a hole in a wooden wall big enough to put his rifle (and scope) through to end me from another room while I was sitting in what I thought was a decent spot. Didn't even see it coming. While Situations teaches you the basics, multiplayer remains the truest way to explore the game's powers.

The five-on-five multiplayer is split into two aspects: attackers and defenders, with each team switching sides each round. There are a total of 20 counterterror operators to pick from, with 10 attackers and 10 defenders. You have to "unlock" a large chunk of these operators by gaining experience points either through matches or expert showings in Situations missions. The more you unlock, the more you can choose. A large chunk of fun can be found in exploring the different special tools and weapons of each operator. One of the FBI agents can breach through barricades from a distance, while another one can blast through floors. There's a Russian sniper (of course there is) as well as a guy who can set up a mounted machine gun. Another operator uses deadly gas grenades, while another hauls around a giant shield.

Finding the right pieces to comprise the ideal attacking/defending mix is the kind of pre-game tactical thinking that's become a little harder to find in other shooter experiences. That, coupled with some semblance of communication or chemistry, can lead to interesting and dynamic matches for hours at a time. Some matches blow by fast, while others can be gut-wrenching tests of patience and frustration. One particular match felt nearly perfect, as my teammates used a group of wheeled drones to find where a hostage is kept and mark where some of enemies were. Then, we formed a plan of attack (some going high, others breaching low) and executed it. When it's done right, Siege multiplayer can be as fulfilling an experience as any.

And yet, it sometimes doesn't seem like enough. As intricate as the multiplayer is, the lack of a true campaign or other content beyond terrorist hunt leaves the entire Rainbow Six Siege package of offerings feeling somewhat light, especially in comparison to something like Call of Duty: Black Ops III, which has a campaign and zombies to go along with its signature shooter experience. The same goes for the Halo series, which was built on the backbone of a space odyssey while also forging a multiplayer identity. It's not a question of quality with Siege but a question of value, and for players like me, sometimes the question is harder to answer than it should be.

Score: 7.0/10

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