Rainbow Six Siege Year 2 Review: Genre-Defining Tactical Shooter Never Stops Evolving

  • Playstation 4
  • Windows
  • Xbox One
  • Action
  • Combat
  • Shooter
Rainbow Six Siege
Rainbow Six Siege completely redefines the tactical shooter. Ubisoft

Come December, Rainbow Six Siege will be two years old, or just about the time most games begin to get stale. However, despite rather quiet reception back in 2015, this tactical shooter has received consistent updates with significant new content to become one of the fastest growing games in esports. We're very late to the party, but Ubisoft's groundbreaking Rainbow Six Siege deserves our review.

I've been a fan of first-person shooters ever since Counter-Strike and have moved on to games like Battlefield 1942 as well as the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series. Straightforward boots-on-the-ground shooters are easy to understand and, 360 no-scopes aside, showdowns simply come down to who has a better combination of accuracy and map knowledge.

Still, after a couple years of consistent releases, the genre needed something fresh. However, studios including Activision struggled with sequel syndrome and got way too fancy –  the application of rocket boosters, laser rifles and other weird gadgetry cause Black Ops, Advanced Warfare and whatever outer-space bullshit they're up to now feel like they're straying farther and farther away from the point. Shooters needed something fresh, but no one knew was able to identify the missing ingredient.

Enter Rainbow Six Siege. The tactical shooter from Ubisoft embraced several daring fundamental game designs to distinguish itself from the current generation of shooters.

(YOLO) You Only Live Once

First of all, unlike Battlefield or Call of Duty's style of vast map layouts, multiple spawn points, and medium to large-sized game lobbies, Rainbow Six Siege has opted for a smaller 5-vs-5 setup with a more deliberate map design that makes the fighting feel much more claustrophobic. And akin to Counter-Strike, there is no respawn in Siege whatsoever.

At first glance, the more minimalist approach makes Siege seem inferior to the sensory overload that Battlefield delivers. But in fact, what Rainbow Six architected is real terror. Being the last man standing on your team is a gift (you're still alive) and a disheartening burden (the opposing team just massacred your brothers and it's up to you to stage a comeback or accept the same fate).

Becky, Can I Smash?

But Siege does adopt one particular game-changing element from EA's shooter: destructibility. In Battlefield, EA uses destruction to depict the chaos of war – artillery fire crumbles barricades while massive tanks will level buildings. But in Siege, destructibility is applied more like a surgical knife than a jackhammer. Drywall can either be melee'd to create a tiny peephole to stealthily take down unsuspecting enemy, or completely smashed down to create paths for rotation in order to flank for a better position on the map. Even more thrilling are moments when a camera reveals the location of an enemy a floor above for a player to unload shotgun blasts or a C4 toss at the ceiling below to take out the enemy's feet.

Silence Is A Virtue

Continuing the surgical knife analogy, Siege's sound design is equally deliberate. You won't hear fanfare when a player gets a Mo-mo-mo-mo-monster Kill. There aren't a selection of taunts to choose from. Instead, every creak on the floor and every rustle in the carpet can betray your approach. An ominous metal rattle can be heard from the footsteps of a heavy-shield user.

Your gadgets will make a sound. Reloading will make a sound. Even leaning around corners or moving your rifle to aim-down-sights will make a rustle.

Furthermore, certain primary weapons are designated to only a particular operator. Depending on the volume, pitch and rate of fire, you can actually identify what operator is doing the engaging.

Game music only comes in the form of portable radios strategically placed in certain rooms, which will either hide your position or distract you from hearing an enemy that may be lurking in the same room you are in.

And finally, when the timer of a secure-the-objective match winds down and the room is contested, players will hear the rhythmic thump of a heart racing as the final surviving players prepare for a showdown. Both teams already know they're sharing the same room, so the need for aural situational awareness is not as critical. It's all about instincts from here and the dramatic pulsing definitely does an incredible job at racking up the adrenaline.

Squad Goals

And if the constant evolution of a destructible map doesn't already add a new level of complexity to an FPS game, what about the periodic addition of new, distinct operators on the roster?

Firstly, Siege ops fall into three main categories: 3 Speed, 1 Armor; 2 Speed, 2 Armor; 1 Speed, 3 Armor. Whether you're the type of player that needs quick flanks to get kills or prefers to hunker down and hold a position, Ubisoft has designed a character for everyone.

Unlike other shooters that only provide characters with different skins or loadouts, Ubisoft designed every operator in Siege to possess a unique trait that offers a substantive and distinctive contribution to the game. Sledge can use a hammer to quickly breach holes through walls, but defenders can reinforce them to make certain structures unbreakable. Thermite could follow up with a metal-cutting breach charge to take down defender reinforcements, but Bandit's batteries can electrify the reinforcement and disable any electronic gadget that touches it. Meanwhile, Thatcher is armed with EMP grenades that can disable Bandit's batteries. Strategy and counter-strategy evolves from one operator to the next and it's up to the team to find the perfect combination against the opposition. Assuming players on the teams are equally well-versed with all operators, the round may be won or lost on the selection screen alone.

Ready Or Not (I Play My Enemies Like A Game Of Chess)

Cementing Siege's identity as a tactical shooter, the gameplay has one more trick up its sleeve: the preparation phase. Defenders have 40 seconds to set up their objective with reinforced walls, traps and defensive gadgets that can stop grenades. Meanwhile, Attackers can send robotic drones with cameras to roam a building in order to identify and tag the defending team. One particular operator, Twitch, possesses a modified drone complete with a taser that can shock to injure defenders or to disable electronic gadgets put down by the defenders.

Drones may seem like mere pests, but if used properly, constant tagging will not only provide the attacking team with precious intel, but also distract and severely affect defender morale.

War. War Always Changes.

When Rainbow Six Siege first debuted, players appreciated the sophisticated nuance in its gameplay, but were not impressed with the shallow operator selection and limited map options. This factor is perhaps the key reason for Siege's modest sales figures out of the gate. Thankfully, Ubisoft's willingness to continue its long-term investment in Siege also propelled its growth.

With the exception of the latest Operation Health update, Siege promised players a pair of new operators and a new map in every season DLC. As I mentioned before, we're not simply talking about new character skins – every operator offers a unique ability that has the potential to completely transform the Siege meta. A team's operator combination and offensive strategies may be built around an op's new gadget alone. 

Best of all, the DLCs are free and not dangled behind a pay wall. Sure, Season Pass members will benefit from early access, but all DLC operators will ultimately be available for a total of 25,000 renown (Siege's in-game currency). It's a great system and it ensures all gamers enter battle on an equal playing field.

First World Problems

Despite the truly brilliant gameplay Rainbow Six Siege delivers, the game does suffer from one particularly troublesome Achilles heel: bugs and issues. From the occasional poor hit registration, to map glitches and server outages, the game can feel extremely unrefined for what's otherwise supposed to be a meticulous product.

Ubisoft hopes to actively tackle these issues with a new series of patch updates. Known as Operation Health, the updates will address one-step matchmaking, make servers faster and more stable, and expedite gameplay bug fixes. Ubisoft warned game stability will be a long work-in-progress, but Siege definitely needs the maintenance if its number of active players continue to balloon. 

Final Verdict: 9/10

With a combination of map design, object destruction, specific operator abilities, and an emphasis on team strategy, Rainbow Six Siege redefines the tactical shooter. Oftentimes, your team's ability to plan ahead against the opposing team is more important than your individual talent on the trigger.

If you're looking to unwind, have a good time, and get a little drunk and loose while playing a video game, you can enjoy your Call of Duty, Overwatch, or Splatoon.

In Siege, the consistently high level of focus necessary to perform at a high level will leave you curled up and crying in a corner by the end of the night. Hard-fought wins are euphoric and losses are equally soul-crushing. Rainbow Six Siege is for masochistic gamers, and I'm struggling to understand why I've found myself returning to it every night for the past year.

Rainbow Six Siege is available now on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

  • Action
  • Combat
  • Shooter
  • Ubisoft
  • Playstation 4
  • Windows
  • Xbox One
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