It’s hard to believe it’s been three years, but the time has come and gone since the Outbreak limited-time event for Rainbow Six: Siege. For those that missed it, it featured levels in the spirit of Left 4 Dead, pitting the operators of team Rainbow against an alien threat.
- Polished cutscenes and assets;
- It’s got Rainbow Six’s operators,
- Guns and gadgets.
- Lazy level design;
- Uninteresting missions;
- Grind for higher difficulties/modes not worth the effort.
And it was good, a solid bit of fun with more tactics and gadgets than your average zombie-shoot-em-up. Apparently the response from players was strong enough to convince Ubisoft to spin the game out into its own release rather than just make an expansion of Siege. But is the final result worth the time and money?
Not Siege at all
The answer is, sadly, no. What could have been a refreshing take on the zombie genre – basically a SWAT team versus the undead – mostly falls flat. While it borrows some of the elements that have made Siege iconic, it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Which is a shame because this really could have been something more than an asset-flipped game – the tragedy of Extraction is that almost no thought went into the execution.
Extraction’s problems are all about gameplay. The engine, assets, artwork, weapons, gadgets, all that stuff is there. Heck, you can even board up windows and barricade doors (though you will literally never need to). You can see so much of Siege here, but you can’t feel it. There’s never the tension of breaching a door, rappelling down a wall, or surviving an intense gunfight. It could all have been translated, quite easily, but for whatever reason it wasn’t.
This is a real head-scratcher because Outbreak was great by comparison. Roughly following the same structure as Left 4 Dead (or Back 4 Blood) it put operators on a roller coaster ride of highs and lows, giving them sets of objectives – rescue someone, plant a bomb, defend a building – and it worked so well you don’t mind playing the same scenarios over and over again. Aliens: Fireteam does this well enough with a solid upgrade system and weapon unlocks to tackle higher difficulties.
Extraction has upgrades, unlocks, and character progression, but it all feels very hollow. For starters, one gun isn’t really better than another and any standard SMG or AR will get you through any level. You also quickly get access to one of the best pieces of equipment early on: the impact grenade. With resupply boxes generously sprinkled throughout the levels, you can carry like 20 grenades and just chuck them at enemies willy-nilly.
You can absolutely clown enemies with these grenades as the explosion sends them sprawling; following up with a quick series of headshots as they lay stunned makes for easy work. There are four difficulty modes in Extraction and certainly the challenge gets amped up at every level, but in a very crude sort of way – more enemies doing more damage.
It doesn’t help either that almost no imagination went into the design of the enemies. It feels like a bunch of department store mannequins, all wearing black leotards, have come to life and decided their greatest wish is to punch you in the face.
Even on the lowest difficulty you can be surprised by an overpowered enemy or an exploding bad guy. One exploder can take out almost all of your health, so you’re in for a few unfair deaths when one catches you turning a corner. This will lead you to one of the best, and worst, mechanics of the game.
When downed by an enemy, your operator (rather than you as a player) is captured and must be rescued from that level before they can rejoin your roster of playable characters. And if you take too much damage on a mission, your operator will be benched for a while till they can recover from their injuries. Both of these mechanics are a nice way of getting you to play as different operators, but the problem is there isn’t a significant enough difference between operators, their weapons and abilities, to make this something worthwhile and truly exciting.
At its best, it makes you think twice about plowing ahead into the next area of the level with low health; bugging out and calling it even is sometimes the best call to avoid getting captured and having to mount a rescue. It’s also tedious to have to go and get your operators if several of them have been captured. Rarely did I feel like I’d lost an operator due to my own error. The usual case was either I’d get KO’d by an elite enemy I needed to kill to complete an objective, or I stepped on one too many exploding enemies.
A step back
Stealth, which the franchise is synonymous with, is totally dispensable here. You can roleplay as a super sneaky spy using only silencers and surgical headshots to advance, but it’s never really necessary. The enemy AI, for a super-advanced alien race, are about as bright as an old flashlight on depleted batteries. You can be standing a feet away, laser pointed at their face, and not alert them. Moments like these do a lot to dispel a sense of being on enemy territory and having to stay on your toes.
Again, I could point to the original Outbreak event, where the more noise you made, the more enemies you brought down on you. Coordinating with your team to be sneaky actually mattered and a blend of marksmen to clear the way and heavy hitters for boss fights and horde attacks was crucial to the makeup of your team.
Gadgets are likewise mishandled – despite them making such a big fuss of how Rainbow has to “adapt” to meet the alien threat. Most gadgets and operator abilities are a complete afterthought and it feels like almost no effort went into thinking how these could have been reinvented to enhance the gameplay.
And unlike the roller-coaster structure of other games in the genre, Extraction dumps you in its different environments and has you complete a randomly generated objective – take out a target, gather samples, rescue a scientist, etc. This unfortunately makes things feel like just another day at the office rather than a dangerous mission you’re unlikely to survive.
There’s also little to no story. There’s a snazzy cut scene at the beginning of the Statue of Liberty getting destroyed by aliens, a few vlogs from operators, and… that’s it. The mission structure doesn’t revolve around story beats and there is no overarching narrative – just show up in the different environments and complete tasks. That’s it. This also would have been a great opportunity to learn more about the operators and their backgrounds, but besides text bios, there’s zero personality or character development in your rogues gallery of operatives.
The maps themselves are all identical mazes of rooms – the only thing that changes is the setting – a bar, a casino, Liberty Island – with no set pieces or story beats to make them feel like anything more than shoothouses. The brilliance of Left 4 Dead was that it required memorizing and strategizing around the lay of the land – Extraction ditches the more successful approach of the Outbreak to simply have players wander around a few bland environments completing menial tasks.
Siege takes three-dimensional thinking about space to play, both offensively and defensively. You need to know where to hide and where to ingress if you want to get the better of your opponents. Sure, you’re not playing against other humans here, but it would have been easy enough to adapt the game to integrate these elements – Ubisoft simply didn’t bother.
A step backwards from what was an enjoyable experience with Outbreak. At least then your operators fitted into the rough categories of soldier, medic, or heavy. Extraction is a mess by comparison, with operator abilities, gadgets, and guns never coalescing into something that makes any real sense gameplay-wise. The whole thing is a missed opportunity.
There are two more modes to unlock and I’m sorry to say they’re not worth grinding up for the privilege. Wall-To-Wall is basically just a horde mode that throws endless waves of enemies at you. The other, Maelstrom, is just the regular game but with nine levels instead of the usual three. Added challenge, sure, but not exactly worth the hours you need to put in to unlock it. I forgot to mention this earlier but losing operators actually subtracts from your experience level, artificially inflating the time it takes to level up.
When I covered Ubisoft’s E3 presentation last year I called it an “era of rehash” and I’m sorry to see that prediction come true. It’s actually worse than I expected, since Extraction is a step backwards from what was an enjoyable experience with Outbreak. At least then your operators fitted into the rough categories of soldier, medic, or heavy. Extraction is a mess by comparison with operator abilities, gadgets, and guns never coalescing into something that makes any real sense gameplay-wise. The whole thing is a missed opportunity.
Our reviews are featured on Metacritic.
If you want to try it for yourself, I recommend you get the game either through Ubisoft’s subscription service or Xbox GamePass. There’s no way on Earth I can recommend you pay full price for this, or for the skins you can buy via microtransactions. You’re much better off playing Back 4 Blood, World War Z, GTFO, Deeprock Galactic, or Phasmophobia for your four-player co-op kicks.
Alexander Eriksen | Gamepressure.com