We went hands-on with Ubisoft's cooperative multiplayer title to blast some aliens and gather intel in hostile territory.
Three years ago, an alien parasite invaded the world of Rainbow Six Siege, leading to a limited-time event in which players fought off humans turned into rampaging extraterrestrial creatures. Rainbow Six Extraction fleshes out that idea with its own full-fledged multiplayer title, in which you and up to two other teammates venture into alien-infested facilities. As a cooperative shooter, Extraction is a change of pace from the competitive multiplayer of Siege, offering a fascinating, different take on a lot of Siege's ideas.
We recently played about two hours of Rainbow Six Extraction, exploring a facility set in Alaska that the alien parasite has overtaken. Each match, or "incursion," in Extraction sees up to three operator characters, brought over from Siege, heading into an alien-infested location to complete a variety of randomly assigned objectives. These objectives are almost all about gathering intel on the alien threat--doing things like collecting samples, capturing the twisted humans-turned-ETs called Archaeans, rescuing VIPs, and finding information on computers. The Extraction name comes from the main thrust of each of these activities, because it's not enough to go in and grab what you need, you also have to get out alive with the goods.
Extraction's sessions are made up of three interconnected sub-maps, with one objective on each one, and a 15-minute timer to go with each section. The best way to handle these objectives is to stealthily search the map, taking out enemies and avoiding conflicts to keep a low profile. Though Extraction feels a bit like Siege's take on a "zombie mode," it's not about gunning down waves of enemies. Instead, it's more of a careful jaunt behind enemy lines, with an emphasis on completing the mission and getting out alive.
"In a sense, that was one of the first, I won't say struggles, but one of the first challenges we had on the project early on," said creative director Patrik Méthé in an interview with GameSpot. "Because we know all the horde mode shooters out there, and they're fun, and we're playing a lot of them, and so we're having fun. And it would have been easy to some extent to just take this route, but we didn't feel that it was the right approach for a Rainbow Six game."
"When you think about what the Rainbow operators are, they're SWAT teams, and what these guys do, basically, they don't want to fight a fair fight. You don't want to be entrenched and shoot and mow down hundreds of enemies. You want to take them by surprise. And if--sorry for the expression--if s--t hits the fan, you want to retreat and come from another angle. And that's a bit of the spirit we wanted to create in the game."
Once you have your objective, you have to carry it to a certain location so it can be removed from the quarantine zone. At that point, you can either choose to extract yourself--another essential part of a match--or head through an airlock into a new area. The farther you go in the session, the more difficult your objectives and enemies become, but your rewards of experience points and progression are greater, too, creating a risk-reward scenario where you have to assess what your team can handle.
The risk-reward nature of matches affects a lot of things in Extraction, like your health and ammo. You're behind enemy lines, so if you take a hit, you're stuck with reduced health for the rest of the match--and the wide variety of Archaean enemies can be pretty deadly. Health pickups are few and far between, and while you can find medpacks to give you a boost, they only power you up for a short time, making stealth and careful play all the more important. The same is true with your ammo and gadgets; you only have what you brought with you, and it can be tough to find more supplies in the field. You can extract your team at any time, so all these factors play into the consideration of whether to go through the next airlock, or bug out with what you've already got.
"You don't want to be entrenched and shoot and mow down hundreds of enemies. You want to take them by surprise."
If you're familiar with Siege, you'll pick up on a lot that Extraction has to offer right away. Weapons, gadgets, and character abilities are all similar to what's on offer in that game, although many are slightly tweaked to be more useful in the player-versus-environment setting. A lot of the same mechanics are in play as well, like using recon drones to scout territory ahead and identify threats, reinforcing walls to keep enemies from smashing through them, or bashing walls down yourself to make different paths and lines of sight. There's also a big emphasis on moving quickly, carefully, and quietly so as to not draw a horde of enemies down on yourself. The alien infestation creates a black goo called "sprawl" that slows you down and makes it difficult to fight as well, so paying attention to the environment, planning your movements, and taking out enemies before they can react is essential.
While Extraction was born from Siege's Outbreak event and shares a lot of elements, it's a separate experience, though.
"Our goal here is to offer something different, something complimentary for people who are not necessarily inclined to play PvP, or for people who want to play something different, either alone, with a friend, or with two friends, or at matchmaking with people they don't know," producer Antoine Vumal de Monteil told GameSpot. "But the game is really different. It's really a new mainline Rainbow Six game. And yes, I would not say we reused, but we leveraged some of the key DNA elements of the Rainbow Six brand and some elements also of Siege itself. If you have played, you've seen that it's a really intense game in which collaboration is key to success."
To make that team collaboration possible, Extraction includes a ping system that helps you in identifying threats, marking locations and pickups, and completing objectives. A few require you to work together, like an objective that has you activating three computers in sequence in order to successfully analyze data, or saving captured characters by having one player rip them free from an alien overgrowth while the others shoot tentacles to keep that overgrowth from pulling back. While you can play with random teammates through matchmaking, this feels like a game where communication is going to be extremely important, especially on harder difficulties. The ping system helps, but you'll likely want to use voice chat to keep your team as effective as possible.
Picking which operator you play as in a map is also a big part of the experience. Each team can only have one of each character, and they all have different abilities and traits, incentivizing you to balance your squad. You might want Doc for his ability to heal teammates, or Alibi's decoys to distract enemies to keep from getting overwhelmed. One of the more interesting elements, though, is what happens if your operator goes down mid-match. Teammates have a short period of time to revive you if you go down in a fight, but if an operator's time expires or they're left behind at an airlock, they'll be captured by the alien enemies. But this is Extraction--so if you lose somebody, you'll have to go back for them.
When an operator is captured, they're no longer available for you to pick from your menu for a new match until they're rescued, which means you have to go back to the map you lost them in and complete a specific objective. Each player has their own personal batch of operator characters to choose from, so your loss doesn't affect anyone else, but you'll need the help of others to get your characters back. Playing another match on the same map will likely give you an objective to find and extract your downed character, which has you rescuing them from the parasitic overgrowth mentioned earlier. Once they're free of the alien goo, you can carry them to a safe point to get them out.
But the persistence of the risks and rewards remains even after you've saved your comrade. Characters remain hurt for a time after you save them, so while you might want to get your rescued Doc or Sledge back into the fight, there's a trade-off in bringing them back out with lower health because they haven't had a chance to recover.
All of these elements can combine to make Extraction feel pretty tense, although it must be said that our hands-on demo felt a bit on the easy side; we were able to run-and-gun our way through most of the threats very quickly. But Methe said you'll be able to choose the "contamination level" of the maps you play, and again, the bigger the risk, the higher the reward. And with so many mechanics to push the difficulty and amplify risks, it seems very likely that Extraction will offer significant challenges, which could make the choices it puts forth to you quite a bit tougher.
There's a lot we don't yet know about Extraction, with a particular emphasis on how you'll progress through the game. Each match ended with us earning experience points that seem like they'll be used to unlock new gear, REACT tech gadgets, and attachments for your weapons, but we don't have exact details. This is also a separate game from Siege, and while they share some common elements, don't expect experience or unlocks to cross over between them. Méthé did say Extraction will support cross-play and cross-progression on all platforms, however.
"...we've devised different, clever ways to feed the lore, to make sure the more the player plays, the more they will discover about the lore and the mysteries behind this threat...."
Much like Siege, Extraction is taking a live-game approach with changes coming over time after its launch. That could add some interesting wrinkles to how it progresses, especially with its narrative. Méthé said the developers are looking to use live-game events and the gameplay loop of gathering information on the alien parasite to provide avenues to continue telling Extraction's story.
"There's a lot of mysteries to be found in the game," Méthé said. "At the same time, it's the challenge we were facing because, at its core, it's a three-player co-op shooter. So we all know that more often than not, when we play with friends or with strangers, the story is not necessarily the most... I don't want to say it's not important, but it's much more about going around and having fun with the other players. So we've devised different, clever ways to feed the lore, to make sure the more the player plays, the more they will discover about the lore and the mysteries behind this threat, without having a necessarily classical approach to that."
Ubisoft said there's more information coming on Rainbow Six Extraction throughout the summer, so we'll likely get more answers and closer looks at some of its elements before long. We also don't have an exact release date, but we do know the game will be out sometime this year on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC, and Stadia.