For years now, the Tom Clancy books have insprired dozens of games by Ubisoft. Among those games is a series called Rainbow Six. Ever since the first games, Rainbow Six games have always been about team play and being part of an elite squad. The past few years, Rainbow Six Siege has been a massive succes for Ubisoft. Despite the game going into it’s seventh year of content, Ubisoft thought it was time for a new Rainbow Six game. Enter Rainbow Six Extraction.
As with it’s predecessors, Rainbow Six Extraction is all about teamplay. Where Rainbow Six Siege was completely based on Player vs. Player combat, Rainbow Six Extraction is all about taking on AI opponents. The game takes place in a modern day setting, where the world has been invaded by aliens called “Archaeans”. Not much is known about these aliens, besides them being deadly parasites. In order to learn more about them and to stop their advance, your team of elite Rainbow Six Operators is called on to investigate and exterminate them through various missions.
Regarding the story, it doesn’t really get deeper than this. Rainbow Six Extraction’s focus is clearly on creating an effective gameplay loop. And Ubisoft can’t be blamed, considering this worked exceptionally well for Rainbow Six Siege. If you’re looking for your next story heavy adventure game, this definitely isn’t the right game for you. That doesn’t mean there’s no story at all though. While you’re progressing through the game, there are various collectibles to be found which offer some background on the setting. However, the downside? This only works when you’re playing solo. If you play the game with friends, as the game is meant to be played, you won’t be able to interact with them.
As you start the game for the first time, you’ll be forced to play through a tutorial, explaining the game’s mechanics. In it, the basic gameplay loop is explained to you. You and up to two friends enter a specific region in the game, such as New York or Alaska, in order to complete some objectives. Every time you enter a region, a map consisting of three sections is randomly generated with a specific objective per map. Starting out, you’ll only get a small selection of objectives but as you progress to higher difficulties you’ll unlock many more objectives. The variation is pretty good here, although some objectives eventually become simply chores once you know how to easily deal with it.
Before you actually enter a map and after seeing the map layout including objectives, you’ll be selecting an operator or character to play as. Every operator has it’s own personality, skillset and weapons to choose from. Do you want to go full stealth or guns blazing? Or something in between. The choice is yours and you can plan it out based on your objectives. There is some variation in weapons, however after a few hours in-game it basically boils down to a few archetypes. More variation in terms of weapons would go a long way to make the game more interesting. However, this may come in future updates.
The game is designed to be a stealth game mainly, with combat as a last resort. This is reflected in some of the objectives, as plenty of them can be done without alerting enemies and performing stealth takedowns. On easier difficulties, stealth doesn’t really matter at all. You can go in guns blazing with three players, and wipe the floor with the enemy and simply complete your objectives. However, as you progress into tougher area’s and higher difficulties, you’ll find stealth being essential to make it easier for you. Because once you’re discovered, the game turns into a horde mode survival game with tons of enemies swarming you. Without proper teamwork, you’ll easily die. It’s worth noting that even the weaker aliens can kill you in a few melee hits, so coordination is essential.
Spread across the map are nests, which are initially dormant while you’re stealthed (And can be taken down while in stealth). Once your enemies are alerted however, they keep on spawning enemies until either you or the nests are defeated. Spread across the map are various consumables such as ammo, health kits and reactor tech which recharges your signature skills. They are scarce however, making every pickup a tactical decision.
Once you enter a map and complete one of the sections, you’ll be faced with a choice. A tactical retreat through an extraction point or go through the checkpoint and activate the next section. Through multiple converging gameplay mechanics, the game has created incentive to keep rotating operators. Damage your operator sustains during a mission, is carried over from mission to mission. If your operator is heavily damaged, picking up medkits along the way serves as temporary health which you’ll lose upon leaving the mission. Recovering health happens while you successfully complete missions with other operators.
Additionally, once one of your operators is defeated during a mission, he or she is captured by the Archaeans and unavailable to use. Occasionally you’ll get an opportunity to rescue the operator, as a mission objective. If all else fails, eventually the operator will return to avoid a situation where players are left with no operators. It’s worth noting that each operator has their own progression and rank, unlocking new weapons, gear and perks along the way. It’s a clever way to ensure gamers don’t stick to specific operators or avoid a meta from forming.
One thing Rainbow Six Extraction does right is it’s onboarding of new players. Despite the tutorial being way too long, once you get to play the game you’ll be given certain challenges or tasks to complete. Completing these tasks doesn’t just get your bonus experience, they’re also great at explaining what you can do during the game. It basically serves as the real tutorial, explaining to you how to fortify walls organically or how to best deal with certain enemies while rewarding you in a suitable manner.
While the game can already be challenging from the start, the true challenge comes later in the game, once you hit the later tiers and increase the difficulty. Higher difficulties come with mutated aliens. Mutations are basically stronger enemies with specific perks, which provide a high challenge. You’ll need better gear, more health and a lot more teamplay to pass this challenge. Every now and then, time-limited events arrive in the game which offer a chance to unlock new cosmetics. It’s Ubisoft’s way to keep things fresh.
It should be noted that while Rainbow Six Extraction can be played solo, the game is definitely made for a group of three people. Not only does the game get really repetitive, really fast when playing solo, but everything is balanced around teamwork and co-op gameplay. As I played through the game with three friends, as can be seen in the stream below, I can only confirm the game is really fun and tense at the same time with friends. There’s just something about sneaking around the map together and huddling up when things go south.
The gameplay loop seems solid, at least for the first few hours. It should be noted however that it does get somewhat repetitive at some point. Every mission has a set structure and while it’s really fun trying to survive together, more variation would have been nice. Despite interesting mechanics, in the end it feels like just another co-op survival shooter. And while this isn’t bad persé, the question remains how Ubisoft plans to keep things fresh for the coming years. Rainbow Six Siege was mainly addictive because of the PvP aspect. Enemy players are mostly unpredictable. AI is a lot more predictable. The latest time limited event for example was interesting for about one evening, before it became a chore.
VIsually the game is not only stunning in 4K, but does a lot of things right. Visual cues are all around you, showcasing the location of enemies or what to expect. And even then, sometimes the game can give you a right scare. The same can be said about the sound design. It’s excellent, giving you the right amount of cues regarding enemies being nearby or not. It’ll keep you on your toes more often than not, hoping the enemy is not just around the corner.
In the end, Rainbow Six Extraction is an entertaining game. It looks great, sounds great, has interesting mechanics and is simply fun. However, after a while it does get repetitive and lacks depth in the endgame content. If you’re a solo player, the game may even not be that interesting at all. Ubisoft is no doubt hoping the game matches Rainbow Six Siege in success, with years to come. I personally doubt this will ever happen, as it lacks the tension PvP combat brings to keep it fresh. It’ll all come down to what additional content they plan to add.
Pros / Cons
+ Well thought out operator mechanics
+ Excellent audiovisual design
– Lacks depth in the end-game
– Becomes repetitive after a few hours
Review Score: 7