04 December, 2015

Review – Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege

Did someone say FAMAS? Not to spoil my review that I would encourage you to read in full, but I was tempted to make the argument that the FAMAS (the gun I force myself to use in every game) is the only redeeming element of Rainbow Six Siege. In all fairness though, even that’s not fun.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege banner

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege

I can’t think of a single game that has given me a worst first impression, not even Fallout 4 which took me literally an hour to get running on my AMD PC, no Rainbow Six Siege is almost certainly the worst, and somehow it managed to convey that same impression through two betas and full launch. While its problems are legion, the truly irksome and immediate issues stem from the feel of the gameplay; the core movement, shooting, and item interactions – that said the hard crashes and network disconnects don’t help either. The game simply feels wrong; the act of turning a corner, aiming down the sights, and snapping a round off is a chore in Siege. It’s more than just the questionable framerate and junk networking, the aiming is sluggish and unresponsive. I frequently find it easier to sidestep to take a shot, than wrestling with aim, because doing so inevitably descends into a hellish spiral of overcorrections and adjustments.

You might dismiss my gameplay-feel complaints as me not being ‘hardcore’ enough for this kind shooter experience,  that Call of Duty turned me into a ‘casual’, as if that were a negative thing. But the truth is the Clancy games have been my jam for years, I was all over Rogue Spear and when ninety per cent of Xbox Live was calling in care packages and going akimbo in the Modern Warfare days, I was angling incendiary grenades onto the roof of Vegas 2’s Villa map – Villa was, no is, the only map that matters in case you were wonder. Siege isn’t weighty and deliberate in the same manner as say the Killzone titles, nor particularly technical like the Clancy games of yore, it’s far more like the Xbox 360 version of Battlefield 3; an unresponsive train wreck. For reference I played on the Xbox One.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege shootout killhouse

Siege is for all intents a purposes a multiplayer-only game, there is a set of solo ‘Situations’ that fill a weird middle ground between tutorial and challenge mode. Playing through them you’ll experience all core aspects of the gameplay, but I wouldn’t describe them as informative, you’ve got to figure it out for yourself. The most important and hardest to learn lesson is not dying, I’d actually recommend starting off online against other players, because most real life players can’t shoot as well as the AI and you won’t be outnumbered eight-to-one. Along the way you’ll learn that Siege is a game with exponentially more inaction than action, whether that be loading screens, or watching teammates run around after your death. Health doesn’t regenerate and you don’t respawn, though there is a down-but-not-out system that allows you to crawl to an ally for revival.

Regardless of what mode you play there will always be two teams; attackers and defenders. The defending team starts inside a building in one of a handful of rooms, they erect barricades, lay booby-traps, and prepare other defences to protect their objective. Meanwhile the attacking team tries to locate the defenders and their objective using cameras drones, before laying siege to the building with breaching charges, rappel lines, and whatever else they bring with them. Door barricades (there are no actual functional doors in this game), some walls, and sections of floor can be destroyed to open up new avenues of attack. Defenders can reinforce these areas to slow or indeed restrict the attackers breaching capacity.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege upside down rappel

The objective may be a hostage that needs escorting out of the building, an area to be secured, or a pair of bombs to be disarmed. These objectives are the same whether fighting real players in the standard 5 versus 5 multiplayer, or AI in terrorist hunt – though in that version there are far more terrorists than players. Terrorist hunt can be played solo or with online teammates, but even the solo option is only accessible when connected to the Ubisoft servers. There is a terrorist hunt classic mode, in which the only objective is to wipe out the terrorists. Naturally, killing the entire enemy team will also grant victory in any of the objective modes, which is how almost every one of my matches has resolved. Because of that Siege feels extremely one note, despite the apparent flexibility the map destruction offers. While shooting people is the primary goal of most multiplayer shooters, different game modes usually shift and alter the cadence of the action, they tweak the experience in a meaningful way; this is obvious in large scale games like Battlefront or Battlefield, but also noticeable in tighter experiences like Call of Duty or Halo. But not in Siege, it is the very epitome of a one-trick pony.

The map selection doesn’t help much either, there are eleven in total, with day and night variants though the time differences are as superficial as the maps themselves. They are with very few exceptions, extremely similar in design; it is all corridors and potential breach points. One map is bathes the environment in thick chemical smog that obscures vision, while another is a grounded plane, which is obviously extremely narrow, but they are the only ones that stand out, all others are buildings with few notable features. Once you learn the maps, or even just get a feel for how beach-able areas are assembled, so much of the apprehension you should feel when storming a building full of terrorist’s simply evaporates.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege chemical university map

The best matches are those that keep the defenders on edge and see the attackers exploding into rooms from multiple directions at once. Most of the time, it comes down to defenders crouching in corners, fingers on detonators, while the attackers split up to try to pick off targets through splintered doors. In Rainbow Six Siege you don’t just benefit from being part of a well-coordinated team, it almost a requisite in my experience, at least if you want to have fun.

Equipment and progression is centred around the Operator’s, named characters possessing no real character, just like Call of Duty: Black Ops 3’s specialists. Each has their own special equipment and selection of available weapons, varying in application depending upon whether they are an attacker or defender. Unlike Black Ops 3’s, the abilities actually matter to the outcome of any given match; one offensive operator can breach reinforced walls, while a defensive one can unpack a heavy machinegun turret, for example – no I don’t recall their names, they left no impression what so ever. As such players must choose different operators from one another, or the base recruit. Each operator is drawn from one of the following organisations; SAS, FBI SWAT, GIGN, Spetsnaz, or GSG 9. They cannot be customised in any way, though there is a small amount of gun customisation, allowing sights and suppressors to be swapped out and camos applied. Operators and gun customisation options are unlocked using one of two currencies; the in-game Renown, or real money R6 Credits. There’s a whole store of microtransactions, but honestly with the exception of the gun camos that can cost a lot of in-game cash, there’s not a ton to unlock, and certainly nothing I want that would warrant spending real money. If you do choose to, there’s purchasing options ranging from a few pounds, up to the price I paid for a physical copy of the game.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege blood spray effects

Siege looks fine, mostly, though perhaps not as grand as you might expect for a game that only renders one building and ten people at a time – the blood effects are laughably appalling, and the menus are a usability nightmare. Surprisingly the performance is not fine, in fact it’s quite awful at times, I suspect the inconsistent framerate is a major reason I dislike the shooting. The average framerate varies depending upon the game mode you’re playing, with the ten player multiplayer trying to hit 60fps, with terrorist hunt trailing at 30fps, despite all modes being set on the same maps. The animation is generally pretty poor, an issue that becomes particularly apparent when dealing with the AI terrorists.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege review badI’ve experienced numerous bugs, mostly visual or at least too small to really matter, but more problematic are the handful of hard crashes to the Xbox One’s desktop. However I’ve been disconnected from games and loading screens far more often due to server errors, even when functioning matchmaking has been slow and match latency high. It’s a bad state for a game that is almost entirely online to launch in.

There are few things positive I can say about Rainbow Six Siege, my favourite matches were those I shared with patient, communicative teammates. As such, Siege relies on playing with friends to a much greater degree than most other multiplayer shooters. Of course, all the teammates in the world wouldn’t change the part where the entire game is basically one mode, played on overly similar maps. Oh and the shooting is trash.

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