Thursday 22 March 2018

Rainbow Six: Siege beta - Impressions

Rainbow Six Siege
Rainbow Six Siege
Frank Whelan

Frank Whelan

Over the past week, Ubisoft gave gamers a chance to test out the latest addition to the Rainbow Six franchise. took it for a spin.

The first thing to note about Rainbow Six: Siege is the complete lack of a single player campaign element. While previous Rainbow Six games were very mission orientated, with squads carefully moving through large levels, Siege only features multiplayer.

It's a move we're seeing more and more from shooters. Titan Fall tried to create a campaign vibe, essentially stringing a series of death matches together, but with popular games such as Evolve completely ignoring the single-player aspect, multiplayer only is becoming the norm.

The change of approach means Siege's multiplayer needs to deliver all the strategy and tactical depth that fans previously found in the campaign missions. Rainbow Six was always near the top of the tactical shooter pile, so the pressure was on for the beta.

Unfortunately for Ubisoft, the execution of the beta roll-out didn't go according to plan. Gamers were left waiting for days for access keys and the beta was extended twice to allow players a chance to play.

When access keys were eventually granted, the match-making was often glitchy, but such is regularly the way with a beta.

The closed beta offered two modes, a multiplayer attack/defend set of matches and a 'Terrorist Hunt'. Both games took place on a big suburban house map, complete with waterside access. Clearly the terrorists had expensive tastes.

Multiplayer is the core experience that will make or break this title. It's a 5 v 5 game with terrorists defending a biological weapon in the house and anti-terrorists charged with taking them down and defusing the bomb.

There's an initial phase where attackers deploy land-based drones for reconnaissance and defenders have time to erect barriers, set traps and reinforce weak points. While the action is restricted to the large house, there are enough tactical variations to keep every match interesting.

Defensive barriers and traps can alter the defensive choke points, while attackers can not only swing in through the roof, they can also blow holes in walls and make new routes.

Rainbow Six Siege
Rainbow Six Siege

The game's RealBlast tech means bullet impact physics can shred the scenery, affecting different textures appropriately. This destroyable scenery can completely alter a game, with an explosives pack blasting a hole in a wall and completely changing the flow of combat. The ability to shoot through holes in the walls is wonderfully evil, although I wonder at the massive damage capable from the butt of a gun.

While it may sound like the attackers can easily bring the house down around the defenders, it's actually very balanced. Holes in the wall allow for a perfect ambush, while an agile defensive team can erect barricades and set traps that completely counter the attacker's strategy.

Multiplayer is a fast paced affair, where twitch trigger skills are definitely of benefit but not king. Running at 60fps, the multiplayer match-ups feel fast and fluid. Particle effects - provided by Irish company Havok - take full advantage of the next gen power and lift the action. There are some great audio touches in the game too, making combat in the house feel realistic. You'll likely have ringing ears for large parts of the game.

It's still early days for Rainbow Six: Siege's multiplayer, in that players haven't had time to perfect an ultimate strategy, but the range of character styles combined with in-game options should keep the mode surprising and exciting for some time to come.

The second mode is Terrorist Hunt. Here you can play with humans or some AI, on a mission to take out a number of AI terrorists. The first thing you notice here is the frame rate drop to 30fps (on consoles anyway) in order to accommodate for the amount of advanced AI enemies running about. This frame-rate drop feels awkward when played after the multiplayer mode.

Having played a number of Terrorist Hunt matches blind, there were definite moments when I wondered was I actually up against humans. The AI did uncharacteristic and risky things that ultimately saw me dead. Further play will tell just how good the AI is, but certainly the beta gave a sense of above average bad guys.

Whether it's AI or human enemies, the game has a wonderful sense of tension throughout. The mansion house map has so many tight corners and possible attack points.

Overall, matches were great when they actually worked. The poor execution of the beta meant we didn't get as much game time as hoped, but there's huge potential in the game. At the moment the outlook is positive, but the map selection and ability to use the different classes effectively will be a major decider.

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege is out on the 1st of December 2015 for PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One.  Version played: PS4

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