Almost exactly two years ago, my friend and I were getting comfy in the audience at a theater in Los Angeles, waiting for Ubisoft's conference to begin during E3 2019. There was a lot going on then – Assassin's Creed soundtrack concerts were announced, Watch Dogs: Legion was shown for the first time, even Jon Bernthal appeared to talk about his role in Ghost Recon: Breakpoint. I'm sure there was also something about Just Dance too, wer’re talking Ubisoft, after all. Fans of the Rainbow Six series, however, have probably taken notice of the rather unusual trailer and subsequent title: Rainbow Six Quarantine.
Two years later, that game no longer exists – instead, we’re getting Rainbow Six Extraction, which I even had a chance to play for about 1.5 hours. It’s another installment in Ubisoft's Tom Clancy universe, which is going further and further in its search for a perfect setting –this time, the creators from Ubisoft clearly binged on Stranger Things before they started working on their newest game. What is Extraction, and should Siege fans try this game? Let’s find out.
Special forces vs. the Parasite
We associate the Rainbow Six series in its modern iteration primarily with Siege, a competetive tactical shooter in which two teams of five Operators defuse bombs, set traps, and use fancy gadgets on elaborate, maze-like maps. The world in Extraction, however, has other problems than terrorism. During an interview with Patrik Méthé, the creative director of the upcoming production, I asked about the game's story background:
Three years ago there was a small event – a meteorite crashed on Earth and it created strange events. They sent in a few operators and they thought that the threat was dealt with. But now there's apparitions of a mutation, an evolution of the Parasite that they thought they had eliminated and it's appearing in different places. They're a bit caught by surprise because they very quickly realize that the Parasite is evolving and they have no clue about the right way to fight it. So as a player, it's up to you to gather the operators, send them on incursions to gather as much information about this threat to be able to counteract the threat.
Patrik Méthé, Creative Director
As you can see, the plot is rather a pretext and just gives us a reason to complete these missions. We won't see a full-fledged single-player campaign here, although over time, we'll unlock more information in the codex, which will shed some light on the whole situation.
All right, but what is the game really about? In Rainbow Six Extraction, we go on regular missions to areas infected by the Parasite. As members of the elite Rainbow Six squad, we'll traverse maps consisting of three sub-areas – in each of them we'll have to complete a task assigned by the game from an entire pool of possible objectives after completing which we'll be faced with a choice: evacuate the area or go through a lock to the next section offering better rewards, but also another objective and harder opponents.
In the end, everything will be focused on regular grinding of successive maps on increasingly higher difficulty levels in order to earn experience points for all Operators. There will be 4 difficulty levels available – or at least that's what I inferred from the interface, as we played on the standard difficulty, with no way to change it. The game is played in teams of up to three players and there are no bots available for our side, which doesn't surprise me at all since I can't imagine the AI in Extraction being able to do anything other than annoy the player in the occasional tricky situations.
Interestingly, the idea of Extraction itself was actually tried during a temporary event in Rainbow Six Siege. Those who played Siege in March and April 2018 may remember the Outbreak, in which R6 Operatives dealt with an epidemic that was ravaging a city. The team at Ubisoft Montreal decided to take this well-executed alternative gameplay idea and build an entire game on top of it, which is supposed to be something completely new on the one hand, but on the other is concieved as similar enough to Siege to encourage players of the ever-thriving production to try something new.
What is the difference between the subsequent playthroughs?
Extraction will consist of repeating the same maps over and over again, but the rotation of objectives, which I mentioned earlier, is supposed to be a way to cope with possible boredom of the concept. Sometimes we'll be faced with the task of killing several enemies of a specific type in order to summon an elite Archean and slaughter it; other times we'll have to take samples from several enemies, which will require a silent approach. One of the tasks was also to bring three packages from around the extraction points to the... organic alien gate found on the map? Rather nasty, just saying. After delivering all three, the devices fired up and shut down the unsettling thing. We can get a task of planting charges on the nests of monsters, which we will then have to defend against enemy waves. One of the tasks is also something that ties into my favorite part of Extraction – having to rescue the captured Operators.
Since Extraction is a reiteration of Siege, we'll meet units featured in the previous game. Thermite, Alibi, Lion or Fuze – those familiar with the game know what I'm talking about. So when we start the game, we choose one of the available operators, each with their own unique skills and equipment (main weapon, sidearm alternative weapons, and other gadgets). And then we launch the mission. It may happen that we fail to complete the objective because the Archeans will be too strong, and our operators will simply fall. However, this does not mean instant death – the Operator is taken out of the game and rescuing themcan become one of the objectives during the next approach.
Then we get a special task in which we first have to rescue our friend from a cocoon, and then take them to the extraction point – even if we do not plan to leave the map at this stage. In the next round, we will again be able to select the rescued Operator, but they will then only have half the life points. This is also one of the elements to pay attention to – if we receive an injury during a mission and are unable to heal it before returning, our character will set off on the next mission with the same number of health points. Only waiting out the mission (which simply means playing as another Operator) allows you to renew your HP.
The Operators issue is just the perfect incentive for people coming from Siege. On the one hand, we have many characters to choose from, but on the other, their handling is almost identical. Although special skills and gadgets have been adapted to the new gameplay formula (for example, Lion's scan works much longer and also tags enemies standing still), their basic actions work in the same way. I'm not that familiar with each operator's equipment, but it also seems their weapons correspond to those they use in the "original.” To the fans of reinforcing the walls – you'll find that in Extraction, too. In fact, some objectives justify adapting the location to defend against Archeans, so thet preparation phaze will be full of cooperative drywall covering again.
The enemies in Rainbow Six Extraction are Archeans. Importantly, there will be quite a few types of enemies – during the show I managed to count 7 types and two additional types of mobs derived from the ubiquitous Parasite. Enemies also vary in the type of threat they pose: some just charge at the player, while others come close and blow up to take operators down. It’s a good idea to learn the distance you should away from a killed monster.
Call of Duty: Zombies Rainbow Six Extraction
During my 90 minutes of playing Extraction, I couldn't shake the feeling that I knew this gameplay formula from somewhere else. And while I haven't played CoD’s Zombie mode a lot, I can feel there’s a lot of similarities here. I asked Patrik about this during our conversation and here's what he said:
Right from the get-go we wanted to make sure that we would stay true to the Rainbow Six legacy, in terms of making sure that it's a tactical game and it's not a horde-mode shooter. There are many great games like that out there, but we wanted to come up with our own identity and really lean on the foundations of Rainbow Six.
Patrik Méthé, Creative Director
It's fortunate that I had a chance to check out the game myself, because I can agree... but only to some extent. Playing on the regular difficulty (described as moderate) is not much different from horde-shooters, especially with the objectives, which have us protect a bomb. There's little finesse, little planning – you just run from opponent to opponent and shoot. It’s just too easy, and I wish we were given the opportunity to test something more difficult (because, you know – HAHA – difficulty level: gaming journalist) – some planning will definitely be required and the tactical approach Patrik talked about will be necessary. However, it's hard to compare Siege matches to this, as instead of 5v5 PvP, there’s just three of us against dozens of opponents to beat in a single sub-section.
What if I don't have friends?
Extraction is obviously a game intended to be played in close-knit teams. However, it's definitely easier to assemble a 3-person team for this game than it is to get five to play Siege, so the developers are making it a little easier for those of us who are dependent on friends' schedules. What's more – you don't have to play in a team of 3 at all! Ubisoft's new game also allows you to play in a team of two, or even alone. There's no typical campaign that we would complete in steps, so jumping into the game with a smaller (or just different) squad doesn't hurt anything and won't spoil the progression. And as I mentioned earlier – you won't see any bots here.
When we were doing tests and playing the game ourselves, we realized that playing the game on your own has much more potential in terms of creating tension than having bots with you. You can play as a 3-player squad and then later you come back and you play a few games solo.
Patrik Méthé, Creative Director
Who is this game for? Well, mostly for people who just want to play with friends and like to shoot. While it is possible to play solo, I am not convinced that it would be satisfying in the long run. At this point, I've only played the practice map and one of the maps available at launch. After three games, I already recognized the layout of some of the rooms (despite the fact that they are not always the same), yet we were not given specific information about the number of maps available at launch and those planned for post-release support. My concern at this point is that this game could be too repetitive with too little variety of locations. I'll be pleasantly surprised at launch, though, if it turns out that the game has more locations, and that playing on higher difficulty levels is actually challenging enough to force us to pay attention to many of the smaller details that are so pivotal in games of Siege.
Extraction looks visually very nice, but I'm not yet convinced about transfering the tactical, quasi-realistic gameplay of Siege into a sci-fi area where the threat is a space parasite. At this point, it's a game of moderate interest to me, though I'll probably follow up with more information about it. We don't have to wait long for the release, as Ubisoft is releasing its new installment of the Rainbow Six on September 16, 2021. So, do you plan to unravel the mystery of the alien organism in a few months or do you think the game has gone too far to still be a part of the Rainbow Six series?
Mike Manka | Gamepressure.com