Ubisoft is no stranger to making shooters, having produced games in the genre since the 90s. With the upcoming Rainbow Six: Siege, however, developer Ubisoft Montreal has a different take on the genre that places more importance on teamwork and strategy than it does skill. I played an early build of the game for two hours and spoke to Rainbow Six: Siege level designer Benoit Deschamps about why the studio has developed such high hopes for the game.
My introduction to Rainbow Six: Siege placed me in matches against the AI with four other teammates. While completing mission objectives in this scenario was well within our abilities, it wasn't until we were pitted against another team that I felt the game truly tested us. Rainbow Six: Siege features friendly-fire and permadeath by default, and the combination of the two made sure I was fully focused for the entirety of the playthrough. Every position I took up was crucial, and every bullet fired had to be accurate, lest I blast my teammates out of action and onto security camera duty.
As we booted up the final round against our human opponents that would make or break our victory, my palms tingled--a tell-tale sign of the sweat that was beginning to prickle in my hands. It was a feeling that I had not experienced since my early competitive match-making days in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a comparison Deschamps also acknowledged.
"We think we have something good that's going to appeal to Counter-Strike or other first-person shooter gamers. The level designers on the team, we're all fans of Counter-Strike, and the first time we ever played [Rainbow Six: Siege] we had just the same kind of feeling. But then we focused on making the game more unique, more appealing to the fantasy of a counter-terrorist unit," he said.
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Like in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive's competitive mode, Siege accounts for body collision in addition to friendly-fire and permanent death. The similarities veered away from there, however. For all my experience gained from fragging in CS:GO, it quickly became apparent that skill played second fiddle to strategy and teamwork in Siege.
"First-person shooter skill, in this game, doesn't really matter that much," Deschamps had warned me before we started, "It's really about organisation, and teamplay. The way you have such little time at the beginning and you're like okay, what's going to be our strategy? You have someone think about it, and the other person to apply it, and you have to remember small rules, and exceptions, and little things here and there. The people who play that well, they will win. Of course, if on the other side you've got this awesome, first-person shooter pro lightning-reflex team, they've got an edge with their guns, but that's it. But if they ignore the other details of the game they will be handicapped, and I'm sure the organised team will win, even if they are not super awesome at first-person shooters."
Fortunately, communication was a strong point in the team I was playing with. Most of us were familiar with each other and had little hesitations in speaking orders and providing status updates over the microphones. The constant back and forth made all the difference, as we timed simultaneous wall breaches and flanked our opponents like the well-trained counter-terrorism unit we were playing as to secure victory.
Teams cannot double up on classes, which means each group of five possesses a variety of abilities. Even for players where shooting wasn't necessarily a strong suit, there was plenty to do; from laying down barbed wire, reinforcing walls, setting up traps, to planting explosive mines, Siege's assortment of classes each come equipped with different ways to contribute to the game. Outside of using abilities, there is value in providing strategic insights to the team, too.
"At E3, I saw what you could call casual players. I saw a girl who played and maybe she wasn't good at shooter games, but she was good at strategy games. In just one session, she learned all about the rooms and the landmarks and because of that, she could buff her team to kill the other one so many times. Just because she was the head of the team, it worked so well," Deschamps said.
The appeal to an audience that extends outside of the most hardcore of FPS players is part of why Ubisoft hopes that the game will become its highest-selling shooter. Earlier this year, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot dubbed Siege as having the potential to be more successful than Far Cry 4, which has sold more than seven million units. When asked about the high expectations set for Siege, Deschamps agreed with Guillemot's sentiment.
"When you think about all the good shooters we make at Ubisoft, including Far Cry, which I worked on, it's a great game. We have fun playing it. The thing is, for [Rainbow Six: Siege] we've got 5v5 for our game, which we hope will gather a lot more people. We hope everybody will want to become the best in a competitive league together, that they'll want to achieve that together.
We think that people will look at that and be like, oh man you play that game, oh you're good? I want to be a part of that team, I want to be with you. This way, the game is going to grow by itself, and we really think there's big potential there. So that's why we think Rainbow Six: Siege might be able to beat the other shooters we have."
Based on my experiences with the game, it's an expectation within reason. Siege's class-based gameplay and hardcore mechanics have left me curious to play more. I look forward to seeing how well I fare online when the game launches in December this year for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.