There’s a great big elephant in the room that we need to get over, before we can get to the good stuff. There’s an enormous campaign-sized hole in Rainbow Six Siege, that’s bound to lead to all sorts of disappointment. Fans of the previous games’ well thought-out, perfectly-structured tactical single player and co-operative narrative-driven campaigns will likely find little of value here, and it’s saddening, perhaps even maddening.

Rainbow Six Siege does away with the series mainstay dispensing with the single player and co-operative campaigns to be found in games like last generation’s excellent Rainbow Six Vegas, and going back further into the annals of Ubisoft history, ones like Rogue Spear, Raven Shield and Lockdown. The games have always been characterised by thoughtful planning, favouring that sort of slower, methodical strategizing that makes it play out like first-person chess more than a Call of Duty-like twitch-shooter. That still rings true, and the game is still all about planning and perfectly executing that plan, but the single player bits of that are almost wholly absent.

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Almost. There are 11 single player “situations” that do their best to teach you the basics, each increasing in complexity and difficulty as they introduce new operatives, and mechanics that you’ll use in your multiplayer quest for glory. They exist to get you ready for the multiplayer but stand up well enough as surprisingly robust single player levels, by having you do much the same sort of thing you’ll do in the competitive multiplayer and terrorist hunt modes; defusing bombs, securing hostages, protecting high value targets – all of that sort of thing.

Had Ubisoft tied these situations together with some sort of narrative thread, some sort of loosely-woven but connected experience instead of the disjointed one it is, it would have passed scrutiny as a single player campaign. The framework is there; they even have Angela Basset, motion-captured and ready to provide some sort of impetus for your counter-terrorist escapades. Instead, she’s barely used, spending mere minutes lathering about the team of operatives you’ve collected, from the premier counter terrorist units from across the globe. They’re fun and challenging and certainly worth playing – but they could have provided the framework for, at the very least, a half-baked campaign. The situations are also just about the only thing you can do offline.

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Without an internet connection, you’re gated off from everything else. Naturally, that makes sense for online multiplayer, but even the lone wolf, solo Terrorist Hunt is gated behind an online wall for reasons I’m unable to fathom. Thankfully it’s worth being online for. Whether you play with a team of five or go alone, Terrorist Hunt is as fun as its always been, pitting you as your chosen operative against a building – or aeroplane – full of terrorists just begging for a bullet between the eyes. It’s as fun as ever, even if it hamstrung by some frequently laughable AI.

Where the game really shines is in its competitive multiplayer. Though there are different objectives within the 5v5, they all really boil down to the same thing. Whether you’ve got a hostage rescue, a bomb defusal or location of some or other biohazard, just about every match ends up being a 5v5 team deathmatch. And honestly, that’s ok – because it’s such a smart, considered, and finely tuned multiplayer experience.

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Before each of the rounds begins, the attacking team gets to use its wheel-mounted drones to survey the area, casing the building in the hopes of finding whatever that round’s objective may be. Perhaps it’s a hostage, a bomb, or some sort of weaponised chemical. Should the camera toting drones find the target, the attackers’ job that round is a little easier; they’ll know exactly where to go. It’s never quite that simple though.

While they’re operating their drones, the defenders get to fortify their positions, laying down explosive traps, reinforcing walls, laying down barbed-wired and hiding away like sneaky bastards so they can pop out of absolutely nowhere and shoot you in the face later.

Rounds are won whenever the attacking team completes the match objective, or the defending team keeps the other at bay for long enough for the counter to tick down to zero. In my experience, that almost never happened, and no matter the situation, it all ended when five members on one team played catch with live ammunition. It sounds rather repetitive, but there’s a surprising amount of depth to it all, driven by the eclectic and varied cast of operators that make up each team. Each of the 20 operators (10 available for attack, and 10 available for defense) has an ability that’s tied tangentially to their names.

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Sledge, for example, is an SAS operative who carries a great big Sledgehammer, which he can use to tear up destructible walls with ease. Smoke, a defensive operator from the same CTU is able to detonate explosive charges that unleash a poisonous gas, incapacitating hapless enemies who’re unfortunate enough to be caught in its blast. They become more interesting and varied as you go on, unlocking more of them; Thermite’s an FBI S.W.A.T attacker who can use his exothermic charges to destroy even reinforced walls, while the oft-overlooked Doc, a GIGN defender is able to revive teammates from a distance with his syringe-gun. Each operative is unique, and each has a natural antithesis, making coordinating your team and its make-up an essential part of your step to victory.

The environments are fairly destructible with certain types of walls and many floors able to be smashed through, providing not just new strategic entrances, but also little peepholes through which to spot enemies, and shoot at them. It works both ways though, so standing behind some destructible terrain could – and frequently does – end in your own demise. With 10 maps from the onset, content is perhaps a bit anaemic – though it has to be said that each map is expertly crafted, never feeling like it favours one side over the other.

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Because of this balance that just about each match offers some of the most exhilarating multiplayer shooting I’ve encountered this generation – and in truth, with all the planning and strategy and tactics at play, there isn’t even all that much shooting. Each round comes to its conclusion after just a few rounds find their intended targets. As you continue playing and hopefully winning, you’ll earn Renown, Rainbow Six Siege’s in-game currency.

It’s this currency that you’ll use to unlock new operators, and outfit them with enhanced gear, customising the weapons with laser sights, suppressors and all other manner of baubles that don’t make as much of a difference as Ubisoft might like. Earning Renown is a slow process, you’ll obtain just a couple of hundred off a successful match, and as the game goes on your operators start costing quite a bit, so it takes quite a few hours to bag the entire compliment of bad-ass lads and ladies. It seems to be, once again, a measured and calculated choice; you’re likely to really get to grips with each new operative and learn how to properly utilise his or her special abilities before moving on to your next one.

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The more cynical side of me thinks it’s a clever way for Ubisoft to push its boosters; little stacking micro transactions that help you earn Renown just that little bit quicker. I dabbled with the boosters for a bit, and found that while they do help you earn Renown quicker, the difference isn’t enough to warrant spending real money on. They’re not nearly egregious and intrusive as I’d thought they’d be.

Because of the heavy focus on teamwork and communication, playing with a team of chatty friends is recommended, and sometimes, crucial. With teamwork being critical to success, sometimes playing with randoms on the internet can be a frustrating experience; some don’t seem to want to talk at all, others seem to think they’re playing Call of Duty and run off trying to shoot at everything that moves. Unfortunately, getting a team together provided me with more than a few headaches. The squad system which lets you party-up with friends failed to work, throwing up little more than error messages. It doesn’t seem to be an isolated situation either, with others – also sporting open NATS and forwarded ports – hitting the same wall. It’s a damned shame, because when the multiplayer comes together – and it often does, even when playing with strangers, it offers some of the most exhilarating, gut-wrenching, white-knuckled, other-bits-of-hyperbole multiplayer available at the moment.

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The servers, in this post-launch week have also been spotty, sometimes ending matches prematurely. Other times the servers would just be unavailable completely – leaving the situations as the only offline content available. And really, as good as the meaty multiplayer is (and I must reiterate, it’s really, really good), it’s hard to recommend Rainbow Six Siege to anybody, other than those who know, just know that they’re in it just for the superlative multiplayer.

Last Updated: December 8, 2015

Rainbow Six Siege
Summary
When it all comes together, Rainbow Six Siege offers some of the best multiplayer action you'll experience this generation, but the anaemic content and lack of a cohesive single player campaign mar what should be one of this year's best shooters.
7.0
Rainbow Six Siege was reviewed on Xbox One
74 / 100

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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