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Break the walls down

Over the 10-year period of 1998-2008, the Rainbow Six franchise released 16 different titles or expansions, by far the most of any single brand under the Tom Clancy umbrella. Then, there was nothing. The series disappeared from Ubisoft’s lineup of huge blockbusters post-Rainbow Six Vegas 2, and fans were left wondering when they could get the squad back together. There was a glimmer of hope when the Patriots project started being shown off, but as quickly as hype started to build, the game was shelved. From its ashes, however, has risen the first Rainbow Six game in seven years, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege—and it looks to bring tactical multiplayer gameplay back to the masses like never before.

The key word there, though, is multiplayer. Something that we need to get out of the way is, yes, Siege is a multiplayer-focused game. There is a single-player mode called Situations, but it’s really nothing but a glorified tutorial. While it does a nice job of helping players become familiar with the game’s modes, maps, and operators, Situations offers little value to the product as a whole in the long run. Especially if you’re a fan of Rainbow Six as a franchise, it’s hard not to miss a more dedicated single-player mode, given how important they were to previous entries in the series.

In fact, on the surface, there’s not really a lot of multiplayer content either. The online component of Siege is comprised entirely of two modes: Terrorhunt and Versus. Terrorhunt pits a team of five people against AI opponents in varying scenarios, including saving hostages, defusing bombs, or eliminating all the enemy terrorists. Meanwhile, Versus is your classic five-vs-five match, where each person on a team has only one life to live—with the twist that objectives similar to those in Terrohunt can also be achieved as an alternate path to victory.

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There are Casual and Ranked versions of both modes, but in order to unlock the Ranked options, you have to grind until you’re level 20. That’s a pretty lofty barrier for entry, even if you are trying to appeal more to the hardcore audience—although the journey does go rather quickly if you and your team keep winning in either Versus or Terrorhunt. Ranked changes the game somewhat by turning off all major HUD options and giving players a more true-to-life experience, giving you a carrot to at least to pursue the unlock. However, you can purchase XP boosts through microtransactions if you don’t have the patience.

Although it may sound like there’s not a lot to Siege, it makes up for it where it counts: in its gameplay. When you look past its lack of options and single player, this might actually be the best multiplayer game to come out this year. Siege has forgone all the bells and whistles that other similar-styled releases try to beat you over the head with, instead giving you the sleekest tactical shooter we’ve seen since Rainbow Six first hit PCs nearly two decades ago. Enemy AI is smart and ruthless, and when playing against other people, the emphasis on only having one life makes every decision a potential game-changing one, amping up the stakes alongside your adrenaline.

Siege features 11 of the best-designed close-quarters combat maps you’re likely to find in modern games. Maps may look small from the outside, but each location is filled with plenty of nooks and crannies that will have you checking every corner twice, just to make sure your rear is constantly covered.

The best part of each map, though, is how much you can destroy them. As long as it’s not a load-bearing wall, chances are you can punch a hole through it with a variety of devices depending on your operator and playstyle. This means sightlines are constantly changing, and that no match will ever play the same way twice. As well, the game looks absolutely gorgeous—how it’s able to chug along at a steady framerate considering the metamorphosis each level is constantly undergoing is phenomenal.

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There are also the operators, the unlockable special forces agents players can use. There are 20 different characters to play with that not only feel unique due to their specialty gadget, but who also are perfectly balanced so that no matter how your team is comprised, or how you customize them, no matchups are better or worse than any other. The game has a character option for almost everyone on both offense and defense to suit your needs, and each brings with them their own strengths and weaknesses.

Like on offense, I love using Sledge, the SAS point man who, as his name would imply, carries a giant sledgehammer to punch holes in as many walls and floors as I want, but it also leaves me vulnerable and directly in the line of fire if I don’t have a buddy ready to clear the hole after the smoke clears. Meanwhile, on defense, Kapkan is my man, as I can set up booby traps in entryways that serve as a deterrent or a funnel to push enemies where I want them to go—but I’m limited in how many homemade devices I have. I know others, though, that put everything on guys like Tachanka, the stationary machine gunner on defense whose rear is vulnerable after he hunkers down, or Ash, the quick on her feet FBI agent with a special bullet that can breach barricades from a distance on offense but who really can’t take a hit. And those are just four of the 20 that you can play with.

Siege is also an enjoyable multiplayer experience because it does away with the “Lone Wolf” concept frequently seen in most other FPS multiplayer games. You have to work as a team to succeed in this game. Learning how the different operators work and developing a rapport with teammates so that you can most efficiently conquer the objectives actually becomes a large part of the fun, and pleasantly much of the burgeoning Siege community has headsets of some sort. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many enjoyable conversations in an online experience—ever—and it’s because Siege encourages objective-oriented people to come together for a common cause.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege lacks content—there’s no doubt about that—but what is there is absolutely stellar. With the promise of Spectator mode, more maps, and more operators down the line, this could develop into a really special game and community. As is, its exemplary gameplay is carrying the day, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the lack of content turns a lot of people off. But if you’re dying for a new Rainbow Six game like I was, or the idea of a hardcore tactical teamwork-based shooter sounds like your thing, Siege is worth a look.

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Developer: Ubisoft Montreal • Publisher: Ubisoft • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 12.01.15
7.0
What Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege lacks in content it makes up for in intense, fast-paced, heart-pounding action and tight gameplay. If tactical multiplayer is your thing, there may be none better. If not, though, you’ll likely find the experience to be a bit bare bones.
The Good Great balance between the 20 operators; amazing destruction, map variety.
The Bad Matchmaking issues persist, lack of a single player campaign.
The Ugly We miss you Ding Chavez.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Ubisoft for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.
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