Rainbow Six: Siege PC Review: Tense, Tactical Shooter

Rainbow Six: Siege PC Review: Tense, Tactical Shooter

Ubisoft's asymmetrical multiplayer series returns after a seven-year absence. Has it been worth the wait?

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Launch Day

I've been playing the PS4 version of Rainbow Six: Siege today, and my initial reaction wasn't favorable. Aiming feels very different to the PC version, and it took a lot of fiddling with the dead zone and X and Y speed settings to get the gun into a place that felt comfortable for me. It's just very light and wafty, and I initially found I constantly over-aimed and couldn't center the gun reticle on the targets I was trying to hit, which was frustrating.

Your mileage might vary of course, and you may like the general feel of aiming, but for me – and perhaps it's because I've spent the last week putting many hours into Call of Duty: Black Ops III and I'm just used to the incredibly accurate way that game feels – it's taking me a lot longer to get used to Rainbow Six: Siege's gunplay than I'd like. After a few hours, I'm finally in a decent place where the gun feels just about right, but it's still not 100% perfect.

What I can't quite understand is that I had no problem picking up and playing the PC version – I used an Xbox One controller at the review event, and aiming with that was great. Why the PS4 version is different I have no idea, but it just doesn't feel quite as good as the PC game.

The speed at which you earn renown is fairly slow and steady in single-player mode. I'm sure if there wasn't a renown booster available for purchase, I probably wouldn't think about it too much, but that it's available means I'm always aware that I'm earning renown at a sub-optimal rate. To be absolutely blunt, I just find it annoying that I'm playing a full-priced game and can pay extra to earn renown and unlock things quicker. Like I said yesterday, I can understand it in a free-to-play game like World of Tanks, but in a premium game it just seems incongruous. I guess that's the downside of the game's upcoming DLC maps being free – Ubisoft is looking to make money elsewhere. Still, in both online modes, renown is earned quite quickly, so assuming you're happy playing online, I don't think the booster is a necessary purchase.

Speaking of playing online, the other thing I was surprised to find, and maybe I'm wrong here, but try as I might I couldn't find a way around it, is that the game requires you to have a Uplay account to play online. I tried to play without signing up, but every time I hit cancel, I ended up back at the select screen. So I signed up – which is something I just found irritating I had to do. Sure, it's only an email address, and I can always unsubscribe to the inevitable marketing messages I'll get, but being forced to sign up for something that I'm not really interested in just so I can play online feels like a bit of a liberty to me.

Those annoyances aside, the PS4 version of Rainbow Six: Siege basically plays the same way as the PC version, odd gun feel notwithstanding. Going back to the single-player mode and playing through Situations again reinforced the feeling that this is definitely the weakest aspect of the game. While there are some cutscenes to tell you what you need to do, there's no real story to the game – surprising considering its Tom Clancy heritage – and Situations ultimately feel like glorified training missions to set you up for the "real" game, which is essentially the two online modes. Like I said yesterday, working through Situations, especially the tougher later missions, often feels like a case of trial and error as you attempt to find the optimal path through them. I just didn't find this mode particularly fun or compelling.

Terrorist Hunt and Multiplayer PvP are like night and day comparatively: they both offer action that's tense, exciting and fun. Playing online today was a bit hit-and-miss. I had a few games plagued with lag, but I eventually hit a streak where everything worked fine. What's interesting playing online at home is that very few people are communicating, so in most games, the "team" was just working as individuals. This is definitely a different experience than the review day, where we were all on voice chat and constantly talking to one another about what we were doing, but I think it's probably how most people will play the game.

What I initially found is that people aren't really playing to their operators' strengths yet – which again is part of the lack of teamwork. I had one game where one player had a shield, but nobody except me stuck with him. Fortunately we ended up taking out three enemies while the rest of the team dispatched the other two opposing players, but it's just an example of how most people are playing this game: a little less tactically as a team, and more seat-of-the-pants.

Fortunately, while there is definitely a lot of fun to be had working as a team and communicating properly, the game doesn't lose too much when everybody is silent. It's still a very tense game of cat-and-mouse, with the attackers slowly making their way to their target while the defenders lie in wait. Like I said yesterday, only having one life and no respawns definitely helps raise the stakes, and while you play, you tend to move forward quite slowly, checking around corners carefully to ensure there are no enemy players present. This slow, more methodical approach to the game definitely helps it stand apart from most run-and-gun FPS titles, and gives it a unique feel.

Conclusion

Rainbow Six: Siege's single-player mode isn't particularly compelling. Situations feels like a series of training missions that exist only to prepare you for the multiplayer main events: Terrorist Hunt and PvP. Fortunately, those two latter modes are excellent, and offer a great deal of tactical depth. Playing as a team is a lot of fun, and while the experience can vary greatly depending on who you're grouped up with, what's clear is that when everything comes together, Rainbow Six: Siege is a really tense, thrilling and exciting first-person shooter that has a very different approach and style to most other FPS titles. It's a truly strategic game whose very well designed environments facilitate some terrific encounters, from intense firefights in close quarters to protracted games of cat-and-mouse as individuals sweep rooms looking for one another.

Graphically, the game is solid. It's not quite up there with the likes of Call of Duty: Black Ops III in terms of its lighting and detailing, but it's definitely good enough. The environments are well rendered and the motion capture of the operatives is great, however.

A special mention should go to the sound, which is absolutely top-notch. From muffled explosions heard through walls to the sound of people making their way through the buildings, you can really use the audio to your advantage. It's incredibly realistic and very well designed so that listening to the game is just as important as watching it. Indeed, the sound can really ratchet up the tension as you hear the other team approaching your location.

That tension is one of the key elements of Rainbow Six: Siege. The destructible environments add a whole new dimension to the game, and make you think very differently about how you can approach both attacking and defending a position. Add to that the single-life/no respawn element of the gameplay and you have a truly high-stakes game that can deliver some very exciting action.

On the downside, the game only has eleven maps, so its content does feel a little on the slim side. Still, with four sets of free maps promised over the next year, Rainbow Six: Siege will build out to feel a lot more substantial than it does today. It's not like it's super-limited at the moment, but there's definitely some repetition when you play.

Ultimately, Rainbow Six: Siege is a really solid and enjoyable tactical shooter that doesn't play like an average FPS game – it's far more tense, thoughtful and tactical than most run-and-gun games. Like I said in the review day takeaway, this helps it carve a niche out for itself and makes it a worthwhile purchase if you're after a shooter that's a little different to the norm. It's especially recommended if you have a group of friends that you can play with, but even on your own it can be a lot of fun.

Interface
Smart-looking screens get you around the game with ease.

Lasting appeal
The game has a limited number of maps at launch, but there are four sets of free content scheduled for the next twelve months.

Sound
Truly excellent sound makes listening to the game just as important as watching it.

Visuals
Solid. The environments are nicely rendered, and the operatives are very well detailed.

Although the single-player side of the game is weak, Rainbow Six: Siege's multiplayer modes are a huge amount of fun. Tense, thoughtful, and tactical, they play very differently to most run-and-gun shooters. While the game's content does feel a little slim at launch, there's no denying it's highly enjoyable to play - especially when you have a team of players working together.

4/5

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