The last time I played a Rainbow Six game? I mainly recall rappelling into a casino, lighting up a few slot machines with my UMP and being one-shotted by an AI terrorist hiding behind some bins. The suburban locales of Siege might have a more domestic feel, but if the beta’s anything to go by, being punished for your mistakes is still very much the order of the day.
Not that it’s a bad thing. Rainbow Six has been the hallmark for tense strategic shooters for some time, and in the considerably more claustrophobic arenas I’ve seen in Siege so far, that tension is more palpable than ever. You’ll be carefully checking every corner for signs of movement, but even then a myriad of doorways and entrances mean enemies can come from anywhere. Not only that, but players can use breaching charges to blast their way in if necessary, so going prone next to a weak wall is usually a one way ticket to being blown apart. Campers should leave now, if they can be bothered to move.
The first team to have everyone die loses in Siege, but in the fight to stay alive I often forgot I had another objective. Disarm Bomb and Secure Area both have straightforward names, but both require a lot of planning if you don’t want to end up watching an embarrassing killcam. You’ll start both out the same way. An attacking team of 5 will scout the map with remotely controlled drones, sneaking under doors and tagging enemies and the bomb/zone to be captured. Meanwhile the five defenders will set traps, put up barricades flail around anxiously in the corner (just me then).
When time’s up in the preliminary round, the game begins, and this is where things start to get interesting. The objective location changes every time, and the attackers first need to find a way to infiltrate one of the game’s makeshift fortresses. You could rappel up to the roof and smash through a skylight, or try to penetrate from the basement. Or you can breach from the front if you’re in a Rambo mood, although chances are that’s the point most assault rifles will be trained on.
Once in, it’s only a matter of time before contact is made, and that’s when you’ll need to be very careful. It only takes a couple of well placed bullets to be put out of action until the end of the round, and the time between seeing an enemy and a death screen is often milliseconds. There wasn’t a way to take cover against a wall as in the Vegas games, although most of the time it won’t help. Bullets will often penetrate walls realistically, with shotguns blowing full chunks out of your cover, and explosives being devastatingly effective and sending you flying. You don’t feel very safe in other words.
It’s for this reason that you’ll be relying more on your teammates than ever in Siege, and supporting each other doesn’t just count for revving downed players. Figuring out a good strategy for attack or defence really pays dividends. Once I had a teammate lure a bunch of enemies down a stairwell so I could blow it with C4. Another time, someone rappelled from a ceiling and gunned down a player who was about to kill me. He was upside down at the time, like something from Die Hard. Who says games can’t be as good as the movies?
With strategic shooting and gameplay that can turn on a dime at any moment, it only stands to reason that a micced up squad will likely be the winning one in most Siege standoffs. There are various ways to offer supporting roles if you are an instant “mute all players” kind of person; you can lay down markers for other players to follow, and as a defender you can continue to tag enemies from security cameras even after you’ve been killed (a nice incentive for potential rage quitters to stay). Still, there’s only so far going solo can get you, and chances are the players who talk to each other will be as successful in the real game as they are in the beta.
The same is true of the classic terrorist hunt mode, returning from prior titles to much elation from yours truly. Here, you’re dropped into multiplayer maps to wail on AI opponents rather than each other, but don’t get complacent. The close-knit interiors and predatory enemies, who won’t let up until they’ve peppered you full of holes, make each hunt as dangerous as the PvP game. AI aren’t just overwhelming (they’ll often flesh you out in terrifying packs) but they’re also smart, and will flank depending on your position. Don’t think you can just rappel up an outside wall and sit there, as enemies will run out and swat you off the property.
As well as the 3 maps shown in the beta, there’ve also been 14 operator styles to play with, each with their own unique load-outs that you can set up before the round begins. The weapons seem fairly balanced so far, with the possible exception of shotguns, whose accuracy and stopping power seems markedly more impressive than other FPS titles. Particular standouts at the moment include a Flash Shield, which allows you to stun enemies immediately in front of your bullet-blocking shield so you can pap them in the face, and a heartbeat sensor which will likely become a bread-and-butter for defending players. Most importantly, you’ll be able to switch out loadouts before each round begins. Adapting on the fly is a common motif here. Stick with one setup too long, and expect decent players to find a way to get the drop on you.
So far playing Siege has taken me back to the early days of the 360 with Vegas, and pushed things forward to 2015 in a pleasant mesh of old and new. The slightly drab but visceral realism of the game’s environments, plus the hardcore gunplay that will require a lot of investment, are really making me want to sink into the final version like a I would a decent book. Well, an Andy McNab book really, but hey-ho.
There’s a lot resting on Siege’s shoulders. It’s been a long time coming but, the beta provides a lot of hope it will blast it’s way into the FPS scene, at least where multiplayer is concerned. Until then it might be time to return to the casinos to practice. I know exactly the bin to avoid this time.