By Scott Southard and Kyle Holmer. This is LOAD FILE, where some games just can’t be saved, even if you’re playing with your friends. This week Kyle and Scott take turns redecorating your house with explosives in Rainbow Six: Siege, developed and published by Ubisoft for the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Personal Computer.
SS: Full disclosure: I cut my nerd teeth in high school by power-cycling routers and troubleshooting video card drivers in scattershot attempts at basement LAN parties. The end goal was to get everyone’s computer functional enough to get a full team to play Counter Strike, and every once in awhile, it actually worked. We’d stay up all night doing the junk food and Mountain Dew thing, discussing AK-47 spread patterns and our barely existent love lives. This is all to say that I need your compassion and understanding when I see Rainbow Six: Siege through rose colored glasses.
KH: Unlike Scott, I don’t especially have any adoration for Counter Strike or its ilk. While he was setting up local networks to drop terrorists with his friends, I was linking together televisions to play four player multiplayer Halo. The impact of our experiences may be impossible to chart, but in this instance it means I see Siege, through my normal everyday glasses, as something that much more distant from contemporary shooters. The methodical pace and dramatic gunplay has been largely absent in my history with the genre, but despite its apparent newness, the mechanics aren’t exclusively enough to carry this alarmingly bare game.
THESE SAME DAMN DUMMIES GET KIDNAPPED EVERY SINGLE DAY
SS: Siege is very much the evolutionary ancestor of Counter Strike. The gameplay elements shared between the two are impossible to ignore: Online multiplayer shooter, bomb-planting terrorists vs. bomb-defusing counter-terrorists, variable loadouts chosen at the start of each round, heavy map-based strategy, no respawn, etc. And while Siege has smoothed out the corners and added interesting new facets to the gameplay, there are times when it’s very clear that such a simple game doesn’t need a bucketload of bells and whistles to be successful and compelling.
KH: The multiplayer suite is exactly as you’d expect from a modern shooter. The modes, although unique to this particular breed, aren’t especially uncommon, and what’s provided is just enough to carry the asking price. Beyond the main asymmetric multiplayer, the game also provides a co-operative terrorist hunter mode and a completely insignificant single player campaign that does a piss poor job of setting up the multiplayer for newcomers. Traditional in this breed of first person shooters, a single player campaign serves as an extended tutorial for newcomers to the series. While Scott was able to pick up the game much faster (due in large part to his time with Counter Strike), it took me some time to get acquainted with the combat, so the single player was an absolute necessity.
However, once we started playing online, I realized pretty quickly that the game described in the single player is wildly different than what’s actually happening online. Although the mechanics appear to mandate communication and teamwork, generally a team will rush into a location as quickly and aggressively as possible. Whether or not that’s actually a fault in the mechanics is entirely speculative, but it does mean that anything presented in the unbelievably short single player scenarios does a horrific job of letting players prepare for the multiplayer game, which makes almost all of the package.
WITH SO MANY OPTIONS, WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THAT NONE OF IT MATTERS
SS: Rainbow Six: Siege is built on a solid foundation of core gameplay that we’ve seen before and we’ll see again (and I’m not unhappy about it). Ubisoft Montreal has a very compelling mechanic of opposing squads playing out repeatable scenarios, allowing the players to make small tweaks in each run. As each round begins, you and your team of five are assigned as either attackers or defenders. The objective (be it a hostage, bomb, or biological weapon) is guarded by the defenders while the attackers attempt to infiltrate the facility and escort/disarm/nullify the objective at hand. Each player chooses from a cast of operators (each of which has a simple loadout and special ability) and plays a specific role within the team. Some operators are quick and destructive, while others are slow, strong, and tactically passive. The cycle of “operative select, attack, operative select, defend” is enjoyable, and compelling enough to continue for hours. Kyle and I spent an entire afternoon passing the controller back and forth, and that’s more than I can say about most games I’ve played this year. There’s something about the heart of this game that hits closest to the part of my DNA that’s been genetically altered by the aforementioned Counter Strike. The gameplay is objectively fun.
This is all well and good, but once we move past the inarguably entertaining center of Siege, things start to get a bit murky. The metagame involves a river of constant unlocking. First, it comes as a flood, as you unlock one operative after another, revealing new abilities and opening up aspects of gameplay that were unavailable. Very quickly, however, it slows to a trickle of tiny, mostly inconsequential upgrades and skins for your weapons. Who needs a silencer when the other people online can still hear it? What good does red camo do for your shotgun? It’s cute, but ultimately unnecessary and certainly not enough of an incentive to continue playing and leveling up. Top the frivolity of the incentives with a heavy quantity of tasteless, egregiously-advertised microtransactions for temporary boosters (like the ones you’d buy on a free mobile game) and the entirety of the metagame’s mechanics are just plain rotten.
KH: Scott’s exactly right: the core loop of this game is undeniably compelling. The shooting is precise, the movement realistic, and most importantly, the second to second gunplay is inherently tense. While we did indeed play for hours on end, the majority of that was spent in the single player, as that’s the only mode where you’re actually able to execute how you’d like. What’s even more interesting is the layers of complexity provided in the multiplayer; the ability to customize your individual weapons, load out, and character type, are completely absent in the single player which in turn makes you question its necessity in the first place. There are obviously benefits to playing as certain character types, but the amount of granular customizations, which I generally love in other shooters, is completely useless.
What’s even more unfortunate is the majority of the weapon options are specific to a character type. While the majority of the “classes” are different enough, you can make any character work in most situations, so you’ll most likely be choosing the preferred character based on weapon type, and not the assumed decider of special ability.
The actual problem, as Scott mentioned, is that the choices are meaningless. In some areas (weapon customization) your options are robust, and in others (character selection) they seem less significant. But ultimately the fact that the multiplayer moves much faster than you’d expect, your individual options mean very little. Players rush, get shot (or don’t), and the match ends almost immediately. That doesn’t end up being a problem in the co-operative mode, which ends up being the only portion of this game that makes sense. Because you’re battling AI and the time constraints aren’t as stringent, all the layers of depth that were previously obfuscated are actually given a platform for demonstration.
MAKES US LONG FOR THE DAYS WHEN ‘PATRIOTS’ WAS STILL A THING
SS: What bothers me most about Rainbow Six: Siege isn’t the flagrant money-grubbing or the lack of gameplay innovation, but the hollow feeling behind all of it. There’s no meaning to the success or failure of your matches and there’s very little incentive to upgrade your stuff. The end result is a game that feels dull, barren, and gutless. An online shooter is what it is, but if I wanted one without context or meaning, I’d stick with what I’ve loved for the last 15 years.
KH: If I’m being completely honest, I don’t find the inclusion of boosters/micro-transactions as aggressive as Scott does. In my head, there’s a ripple of gameplay (which is admittedly completely unnecessary) where you’re forced to spend a portion of your money on boosters. It’s dumb, but the currency is rolled out at such a clip that it’s something you’re just going to do, and luckily you likely won’t have to spend any actual money to keep up with the rest of the online community.
But that doesn’t excuse the rest of the game. There’s something very obviously wrong with Siege and it’s difficult to parse what changes need to be made to fix the game. The single player is lacking, but that alone wouldn’t rectify any of the other issues that exist in the multiplayer suite. Most of the time you spend with the game, it feels like the mechanics don’t support the actual structure; that this game would be better as an exclusively single player game, or perhaps the multiplayer should require different rules to function with the current community. Instead of having any individual part working successfully, Siege is a mixed bag of ideas that don’t ever fit together properly.