Rainbow Six: Patriots is never to see the light of day. In its place we have the multiplayer-focused Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege, which made its surprise debut at Ubisoft's press conference at E3 2014. The even greater surprise came later that evening, when Ubisoft invited me and other members of the games press to play the game for ourselves. The three-round competitive match I played was not as smoothly paced as the highly choreographed battle on display at the press conference, but it was tense and thoughtful, a careful and slow-burn staredown in a world of high-octane shooters.
Watching Ubisoft demonstrate a multiplayer game is always a bit surreal. Players communicate in calm, strategic sound bites, and gunners prowl the corridors in ways that lend themselves to perfect displays of action. Most actual online matches I've ever experienced were far messier, and that difference played out during my time with Rainbow Six Siege. But truth be told, I'd take the barely-controlled chaos of the real match I played than the carefully directed one I watched during the conference any day.
As it happens, typical matches are probably even more enjoyable than the slick demonstration let on. I spent my first round as a defender on the Rogue Spear team. Each round starts with a phase during which teams prepare. As a defender, this means choosing a room in which to hunker down--a bedroom, or a workshop perhaps--and then reinforcing windows and walls with barricades that force assaulters to breach them in order to gain access. There were three classes to choose from; the one I chose granted me use of a proximity explosive as well as the ability to place clumps of barbed wire to obstruct enemies.
My four teammates and I thus set about erecting barricades, which was as easy as approaching a wall or window and holding the A button. It makes sense to obstruct a window--but why would you need to reinforce a wall? Well, walls do not provide full protection as you may be used to. Instead, your bullets will penetrate walls and create holes that open a line of sight to your targets. Meanwhile, the assaulting team searches the house using ground drones, looking for the hostage's location as well as spying on your setup and relaying locations back to teammates. Once the countdown is complete, the match begins in earnest.
Defending was stressful. I could hear the explosions when the Raven Squad team performed a successful breach, but I couldn't tell where they were coming from. Luckily, you can take command of the cameras strewn about the house with the press of a button, and I was able to determine that the attacking team had breached a window on the ground floor and were swarming to the second floor bedroom where we were protecting the hostage. My team spread out to cover the oncoming shooters, and I tossed out a remote explosive hoping to catch an opponent unawares. Sadly, I'd forgotten that friendly fire is always on. My explosive was successful in taking out a Raven Squad gunner--but it took a teammate out in the process.
Now, four-versus-four, the battle was about filling the wall with bullets and firing at the enemies that dared pass behind the holes we created. I was the next to fall, riddled with lead as I rushed into the nearby kid's room to flank an assaulting duo. We lost the match as defenders our final two comrades falling victim to yet another explosive. Oops.
When the roles were reversed, we identified the hostage using our drones, and decided to breach through the garage, taking care not to fall victim to any gunners peeking out from the windows above. We moved carefully as a unit, breaching the garage door and then tossing flashbangs to distract the enemy as we circled around to the kitchen. Raven Squad had already prepared by tearing holes in a wall to open up a line of sight, but I used the same holes against them, taking down two foes in a row and allowing my teammates to rush in and collect the hostage. It was a quick round, but a satisfying one.
The tiebreaking round had Rogue Spear once again on the defensive. This time, we holed up in the kid's bedroom, and I vowed to stay alive a lot longer this time. My barbed-wire obstacles slowed the enemy down just enough to allow us time to retreat when Raven Squad descended upon us from the rooftop windows, but one by one, players began to fall until my squad was made up only of me and a teammate. I took a bullet as I attempted to land a shot through a wall opening, and fell to the ground, bleeding out. At the same time, the hostage also took damage, requiring revival. My remaining teammate valiantly resuscitated both me and the hostage, just before succumbing to an enemy's bullet. I was now the last remaining Raven squaddie, but I didn't even have time to rise before I was shot down and the match ended.
Rogue Spear may have lost the match, but I was still left with a strong desire to play more Rainbow Six Siege. Sadly, Ubisoft escorted me out the door, leaving me with no choice but to wait for another games event before I could once again prove my worth to a competent fireteam. I don't yet know exactly when Siege will become available to the public, but I consider the wait to be like the game's preparation phase, allowing us to ready ourselves for the life-or-death conflict to come.