Rainbow Six Siege: A man’s breach should exceed his grasp.

The trouble with the surprise press conference announcement is that it only works a couple of times before people start expecting it. Sort of like the story of the boy who cried world exclusive trailer.

This was the case with Ubisoft at last year’s E3, where the assembled masses were as certain of an encore as you are when U2 walk off stage without playing Beautiful Day or clogging up your iPhone with unwanted detritus. And sure enough, following in the distinguished wake of Watch Dogs and The Division , we were treated to six and a half minutes of taut, five-on-five multiplayer shooting and approximately the eight millionth consumer product to be branded with a Tom Clancy possessive. Tom Clancy’s Bitter Marmalade, anyone?


More surprising was the fact that Siege’s title also contains a Rainbow Six preface, seeing as the last time we’d glimpsed the series it was looking all tragic and wearing a Patriots badge. This is what that game has morphed into and it’s certainly an interesting proposition.

Teamwork is key, the small squad sizes and lack of respawns (at least in the one mode that’s been showcased so far) necessitating communication and caution. In Hostage Release mode, one side, Team Raven, plays the role of a SWAT team sent to retrieve a captive civilian. The other, Team Rogue, has to keep their human quarry out of the authorities’ gauntleted grasp until the end of the round.
Every wall can be penetrated, and every decision is a trade-off
Each faction has various equipment to help them achieve their goals. Raven possess such cool SWAT toys as breaching charges, ballistic shields, multiple grenade types, and remote-controlled drones. Rogue get the Team Badguy gear: they can barricade entrances, reinforce walls, lay down barbed wire, and tap into the surveillance cameras to keep an eye on the environment. As the maps are expected to remain small all that Ubisoft has demoed so far is a suburban home maximising the effectiveness of this equipment is crucial.

For both sides this is best done during the preparation phase. This is the 60 seconds before the action kicks off during which plans can be formulated and defences erected. Team Raven has to recon the area, locate the hostage, and decide on an approach and an insertion point. Rogue’s time is best spent moving the target into the most defensible position possible and then fortifying it.

The trailer that Ubisoft showcased at that E3 reveal may have been running in-engine, but it was also impossibly slick: unless you and your four closest friends just happen to be ex-Special Forces it’s unlikely that your combat communication is going to be as effective. It was also heavily scripted, resulting in a last-second standoff between the one remaining member of each team. Unsurprisingly my hands-on time with the game didn’t quite throw up the same results.

No respawns means that it’s easy for your participation in a battle to be over before it’s even begun and despite the ongoing success of Twitch, sitting and watching just isn’t as fun. That’s not necessarily a flaw as far as Siege is concerned, however: die early enough times and people will quickly learn to be more careful. What could be problematic is introducing players to how the various systems and gadgets interact, a process that the asymmetry of the game makes crucial. What’s the difference between a barricade and a reinforcement? Is it clear that cameras can be shot out? Barbed wire, for instance, behaves differently if an attacker walks through it than if a defender does. None of this is unfair each side is helped and handicapped in its own ways but it does need communicating.

The good news is that once you begin to get to grips with these things the game’s potential starts to become clear. The intimacy of the suburban home map means that you can never relax every step feels perilous, and so does staying still. The destructibility of the environment also means that options abound. Rogue have pooled all their defences in one place and locked the hostage inside? Why not drop in from above by breaching through the ceiling. Every window can be shattered, every wall can be penetrated, and every decision is a trade-off danger is 360°, and there is no downtime.

The shooting is solid. Although a couple of guns feel a tad lightweight, the audio effects, which boom like Zeus coughing, provide good feedback. And from a technical perspective the small scale should mitigate the potential for glitches and other troubles. Too little of the in-game content has been shown off for any bold predictions to be advisable, but  Siege  is a toybox as opposed to a sandbox, and its promise lies in how players learn to use, and counter, the toys that Ubisoft is giving them. Like 2015’s other asymmetrical multiplayer hope,  Evolve , much of the fun will end up resting on the team you gather to play with. Here’s hoping you won’t need any SAS training to make the most of it.

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