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Rainbow Six: Siege Closed Alpha Impressions
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to try the Rainbow Six: Siege Closed Alpha on the PC. It’s safe to say that after eight hours of playing, I was hooked and wanted more.
What makes Rainbow Six: Siege unique from other shooters is the amount of strategy layered into the player decisions. The mindless run-and-gun tactics of military shooters will quickly get you killed. This is a game of patience, nerves and tense moments.
In the multiplayer modes of the most popular shooters, there is usually a hardcore mode where damage is heightened, health is lowered and respawns are disabled. Ubisoft seems to have taken this concept and built an entire game around it. There are no respawns in Rainbow Six: Siege. The gunplay is tense, quick, and deadly.
Tactical precision and palpable tension typify the classic Rainbow Six games, and the spirit of that series has been adapted for the modern shooter. Those of you expecting a complete throwback to the cold cruelty of the military shooters that populated the early-to-mid 2000s may be disappointed.
In comparison to its contemporaries, my time with the Rainbow Six: Siege alpha indicates that the developers at Ubisoft have a solid grasp on what kind of game they wish to make. They are reinventing a classic series with a modern spin based off old-school concepts.
The alpha featured one game mode—Hostage Rescue—and two maps: a suburban house; and a grounded Air Force One. Two teams of five players are pitted against each other. One team defends, the other attacks. Each player picks a class with unique abilities and each team has different classes to pick from. Players can also forfeit their class ability for a broader selection of weapons, including a riot shield.
Many of the classes balance each other out. For example, the defenders have a class that can lay down explosive-proof barriers, while the assault team has a class that has extra strength explosives that can cut through said barriers.
Each team gets 30 seconds to prepare. The defenders have the opportunity to set up their defense. They can board up doors and windows, reinforce walls, and/or lay down barbed wire. The attackers send in small recon drones to scout ahead and hopefully locate the hostage (which places a marker to help orient newcomers). Then the attack commences. Each game lasts three minutes, though that time goes by very slowly. If either team eliminates the opposing team, they win. If the timer runs out, the defenders win; if the hostage is rescued, the attackers win.
Players on the assault team have access to breaching charges, which change how one looks at a level. Going through a wall or a barred door isn’t just an option, it provides the opportunity to cause chaos for the defending team. Likewise, it can completely spell disaster for an uncoordinated attacking team.
The matches are structured in a best-of-seven series though, the rewards for victory (outside of bragging rights) are minuscule. You get more experience points for winning than losing, but it all seems an arbitrary imitation of the progression bars from Call of Duty and Battlefield. Rainbow Six: Siege hasn’t yet answered why I would want to level up in the first place.
Each map is layered with multiple paths of attack, and the destruction physics foster creative strategies. It’s not uncommon to be attacked from above and from all sides. Sometimes it can prove effective to pepper a wall with bullets, exposing holes through drywall and wood and allowing both sides to peep into an otherwise locked room.
Teamwork is vital to success and running off on your own is a surefire way to get killed. However, the emphasis on cooperation results in the game running headfirst into a concerning issue. Certain games, such as Left 4 Dead and Evolve, naturally encourage teamwork, but Rainbow Six: Siege forces you to rely on the skill of your allies. This means that if you’re playing with inexperienced players it can potentially lead to frustration.
The myriad of legitimate strategies is enough to keep things fresh for a few hours, but the true test will be the final release. While Ubisoft has promised that Rainbow Six: Siege will have a single-player campaign, I can’t help but worry for the longevity of the multiplayer, at least from what I’ve played of this early version of the game.
I also must mention that even for an alpha, Rainbow Six: Siege runs into far too many technical issues. The game crashed to desktop frequently; my longest continuous play session was 45 minutes. I wouldn’t normally mention this given the game’s early stage of development, but considering Ubisoft’s recent history with buggy releases, it merits mention here. The technical issues and bugs will need to be fixed before the game releases.
It’s difficult for me to fully recommend Rainbow Six: Siege unless one has a dedicated group of friends to play it with. That being said, I would hesitate to recommend any game this early in development. There’s potential in the game that Ubisoft is trying to make. As Rainbow Six: Siege nears its release date, we will see how close the game comes to that vision.