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Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Stadia, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: Jan. 20, 2022


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PS5/PC Review - 'Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Extraction'

by Cody Medellin on Jan. 20, 2022 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

In Rainbow Six Extraction, assemble your team of Operators to face an always-evolving alien threat. Keep one goal in mind, make sure no one is left behind.

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six was released in 1998, and it was the start of what would become a long-running line of Tom Clancy-associated games for Ubisoft. While the brand would explore things like group-based outdoor tactics, single-person stealth, real-time strategy and air combat, Rainbow Six took its tactical roots and emphasized the action element, culminating in the PvP-only game, Rainbow Six: Siege. That title had a limited time mode where you fought aliens, the first time the series has strayed from its semi-realistic setting. That mode eventually became the basis for the latest title in the series, Rainbow Six: Extraction.

According to the game's lore, a Russian space probe that landed on the moon decades ago has crash-landed in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. It didn't take long before a parasite emerged from the craft, infecting the town's inhabitants with an alien virus and overrunning the town with creatures and spires. An offshoot of Rainbow known as REACT was formed to deal with the alien outbreak, but three new cities have been infected with the "Parasite," and the creatures that spawned from it are called the Archaeans. The team's goal is to gather as much intel as possible from the hot zones so REACT can learn how to eradicate the threat.

Players jumping in from Rainbow Six: Siege will find some of the core mechanics from that game present here. You can select from a pool of operators for each mission, each with access to a small set of weapons and abilities that are unique to them, such as dropping turrets or scanning for enemies beyond walls. Choosing an operator locks the abilities for anyone else on your three-person team, a reduction from the five-person team in Siege. Everyone has access to a general pool of tools, like smoke grenades and small ground-based drones, so it's possible to have everyone armed with revive needles.

The levels are mostly malleable in that you can break down most walls and some floors and ceilings, or you can create barricades. The game also follows the rules established by the original games when it comes to damage, so all it takes is a few good hits to knock you down, and the same applies to all but the strongest of the Archaeans you encounter. The game has also returns to the tactical stealth elements popularized by the original. Loud firefights mean braving loads of rushing and exploding enemies who can easily break down walls and barricades; it can lead to a quick drop in your health if you aren't careful.

Beyond that, the other game mechanics are wildly different from what the series has done before. This begins with the XP system, which carries over some of the traits from Siege but with a few added twists. Your overall profile XP leveling is still responsible for opening up new mission areas and new modes for higher-level play, but it also unlocks new weapon cosmetics and attachments and grants tokens to unlock new tools. The XP system is also responsible for unlocking new Operators, and that's done in small batches as opposed to having individual Operator unlocks. Each Operator also has a separate XP track that unlocks things like new guns, buffs to special abilities, and increases to speed and armor. Even if you decide to play on the easiest difficulty level, the XP feed is good enough to get your profile leveled up to unlock lots of things; the feed for each Operator isn't as rapid, mostly due to switching out the playable Operator.

Speaking of which, Extraction has adopted some roguelike traits. Pick any of the 12 hot zones spread across the four cities, and you're given a random selection of three missions. One mission may ask you to kill specific Archaeans with takedown knife kills, while another asks you to trap it for analysis. Another mission asks you to hold your position while they are scanned, and the next could task you with planting and defending charges until they explode. Each hot zone is procedurally generated, so you'll have to switch out which Operators are dispatched, since no two runs are the same. The only thing that remains static are the Stories, which are side missions. The tasks for the Stories are easy to finish over time, and that if you're playing with someone who has unlocked an area that you haven't yet, you can still accomplish future Stories in that area during your play session.

The alien bestiary takes a few pages from the zombies from Back 4 Blood or Left 4 Dead; some can root Operators in place, some rush out to melee, and others can explode. There are a few original ideas, like spores that blind you after some time or creatures that leave behind mines or cloak other Archaeans. Nests constantly spawn more Archaeans and, at the higher difficulty levels, more advanced Archaeans (Proteans) can mimic your Operators. Even if you never encounter aliens, there's the sprawl: a black substance that significantly slows you down while leaving the other Archaeans unaffected. They're all formidable at basic difficulty levels, but if you bump up the difficulty, you risk giving them mutations, like having the sprawl become poisonous or letting all Archaeans in the area become cloaked.

As if that weren't enough, Extraction messes with your ability to heal by making it act differently from other games. By default, you enter an area with 100 units of health. Picking up health acts as an overcharge of sorts, where the extra health dwindles away over time. Things get tricky when you get hit and your health falls below 100; the new level becomes the cap for the rest of the run. For example, if you get out of a firefight with 65 health and you pick up a med kit or get healed by a teammate, you may return to 95, but those 30 units that you gained are treated as temporary health that dwindle away until you reach 65 or less, depending on how hurt you get. The only way to return to the normal cap is to get extracted and have your Operator rest at the base, slowly recharging health as you use other Operators on missions.

Death is also handled differently, as any Operators who fall on the field don't die. Anyone can carry the fallen Operator back to the extraction point so they can return to base to recover, but it means playing the rest of the run shorthanded. If no one is recovered, the next run includes a rescue mission where you pull the fallen Operator away from the alien cocoon while blasting away at pods to weaken the structure's hold. Failure means that the trapped Operator is still MIA, and the XP gained from their last mission diminishes with every failure. If everyone is injured or cocooned, the oldest trapped Operator returns to your lineup, but the XP loss is a big hurdle.

Reading all of the above, you may get the impression that the game is out to punish you — and you'd be correct. Play on the lowest difficulty with a full crew of three, and unless you're running with Operators at a decent level or luck out and get the right layout with the right objectives, it's a monumental task to reach the final section intact. Start playing on the higher difficulty levels, and even with the XP boosts, the whole thing becomes even more insurmountable. The desire for just one more run keeps coming through because the encounters provide a nice balance of fun and tension, and there's great satisfaction in hitting aliens in their weak spots.

The game provides a way to make each excursion worthwhile. While you can fail any of the objectives, doing so doesn't incur an XP penalty or fail the mission. At any point, you can return to the extraction point to bank XP from completing objectives or killing aliens. The ability to leave at designated points and still get something out of it works very well for all skill levels, as it ensures that teams of rookies can still make some progress as opposed to being carried by more experienced veterans.

The 12 randomly generated zones and randomized layout and objectives are enough for people to keep playing; playtime can be lengthy if you're trying to hit the XP cap and max out every Operator. Beyond that, the game has a few modes at launch to retain players' interest. Maelstrom is a hardcore mode, as you have nine objectives to complete amid a drop in resources. The scenarios last for a week, and the pool of Operators is limited, but the static environments and objectives mean there's a better chance to complete a full run. Wall-To-Wall has a copious amount of Archaeans in the area, and all of the safe zones need to be unlocked from remote security stations. According to Ubisoft, more events are coming up after launch, but if it's anything like Siege, the game is going to have content for some time.

We also got some hands-on time with the PS5 version of the game. From everything we experienced, it is an incredibly solid port. It ran smoothly and without any serious issues. The controls were easy to work with, and even PC gamers should find it an easy swap from keyboard and mouse to controller. The real star was the smooth PC/PS5 cross-play. All we had to do was connect as Ubisoft friends, and then it was no different than any other multiplayer matchmaking. There was no noticeable lag or issue, and if I hadn't known that I was looking at cross-play, I wouldn't have even suspected. PC gamers are likely to have an easier time with the keyboard and mouse, but since it's a cooperative game, it isn't less fun for console players.

What should pique the interest of series fans is the return of a single-player mode, which is essentially an offline version of the multiplayer game with a few tweaks. All of your missions are done in a lone wolf style, so you don't have teammates who are controlled by the AI; it makes character choice more interesting, since some of the special abilities are more beneficial in a team setting. Everything else, from enemy count to mission objectives, scales accordingly, so things don't suddenly become impossible even though the game maintains its high level of difficulty. What's great is that your online and offline progress for character leveling, profile leveling, and the related missions and unlocks aren't kept separate. That seems like a minor thing, but considering how titles like Back 4 Blood locked some of the progression to the online mode, the change encourages players to play however they want, without feeling like they've wasted time by choosing one mode over another.

It should come as no surprise that the graphical presentation matches up with Rainbow Six: Siege quite well. The human character models are highly detailed, but the same could be said of the Archaeans. There's a lot of detail in those models, even though they only sport a shade of gray with some occasional colors. The environments are also packed with lots of clean textures, and the destructible bits are neat in their application, but the game is susceptible to screen tearing even with V-Sync turned on if you are in an area that's heavily covered with the sprawl and turn your camera at a decent speed. The only other time you'll run into graphical issues is when you see smoke while transitioning from one area to another, as it has a tendency to flicker when viewed at a distance.

The audio remains as good as ever. The voice work is delivered convincingly, without any lines that sound corny or out of place. The music creates a sense of dread but plays sporadically enough that it is just as impactful as the silence that blankets the battlefield most of the time. The effects from gunfire and tools sound excellent, while the same can be said of the guttural sounds produced by the Archaeans, but you'll wish that those screams sounded more distinct so you can tell what kind of creature you're going to be up against without necessarily seeing them.

Once you start playing Rainbow Six: Extraction, it's difficult to stop. From the XP feed to the randomized nature of the levels and objectives, there's enough to keep players coming back for quite some time, especially with the constant opportunities to pull off nice saves amidst the chaos and tension. It is a great alternative for Rainbow Six fans who crave PvE after playing PvP for so long, but it also gives single-player fans a solid opportunity to experience some elements from Siege. It's still early in 2022, and a bevy of other co-op PvE games are still on the way, but Rainbow Six: Extraction provides enough variety that it needs to be played.

Score: 8.5/10

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