It’s been a busy season for trigger-happy gamers. Halo 5, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, and Star Wars Battlefront all launched within a few weeks of one another. If you like pointing virtual guns at things, you’ve been in kill/death ratio heaven.
That sort of leaves Rainbow Six: Siege out in the cold, but to be fair, Ubisoft’s long-running franchise has always been a different sort of shooter for a different sort of player. Characterized by thoughtful strategizing and methodical planning, it’s never really tried to compete with the charge-ahead-and-blast-everything-with-a-pulse vibe of more popular franchises.
In that sense, Siege is very much a Rainbow Six game. Emphasizing teamwork and tactical, heads-up play over quick-twitch running-and-gunning, it’s a smart alternative to the action-movie multiplayer hijinks in other games. But while Siege does a great job of grabbing your attention, it struggles to hold it.
Siege is sharply focused on five-on-five, team-based multiplayer: One side attacks, while the other defends a hostage or bomb. If that sounds a little like Counter-Strike, it should. The Rainbow Six games have always been the thinking man’s counterpart to that revered multiplayer shooter, and Siege is no exception.
By “thinking,” I really mean “doing.” Defenders have a wealth of gear at their disposal to lock down their location; the brief warm-up period prior to each match turns defenders into busy bees indeed, barricading windows, laying down barbed wire, and setting up traps to keep out the good guys. Attackers, meanwhile, use drones to scout the location in an attempt to locate the hostage/bomb and get a lay of the land.
Lending complexity is the game’s “Operator” system. Twenty different characters can be unlocked, each with specific offensive or defensive tools. The FBI Swat member Thermite, for example, can quickly melt through reinforced walls, while the SAS agent Smoke can detonate toxic gas grenades. Experimenting with the various characters gives Rainbow Six Siege its initial momentum, and the developers did a good job making each character useful (though I wouldn’t rush to unlock Twitch, the GIGN agent with the lame, underpowered taser drone).