We've met all the Operators and played all the betas, and now, Rainbow 6 Siege stands poised to deliver its distinctive brand of methodical action to PS4, Xbox One, and PC with its final retail release on Tuesday, December 1. But because the experience revolves primarily around online multiplayer--which, at first, will be locked behind a progression wall--GameSpot will be holding its review until we've had a chance to test server stability, evaluate the progression system, and gauge just how successfully Siege teaches players to embrace its team-focused setup. Even after spending eight solid hours with a final, pre-release build of the game, any of these untested factors could still impact Siege's score.
With so much at play, Siege is a house of cards: intricate, impressive, yet incredibly fragile. Its deeply strategic, deliberately paced approach to online multiplayer opens the door to a world of thoughtful shooter gameplay too often eschewed by the mindless run-and-gunners of the world, but it also hinges on a number of circumstances that won't always be within your control. If you're playing with friends who are familiar with the game and everyone has both a headset and a rock solid internet connection, Siege's intensity and tactical depth shine through. But as soon as you remove even one of those conditions, everything starts to topple, and the more you remove, the faster it falls apart.
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That's why I can't fully evaluate the Siege experience until it's out in the wild. Will matchmaking operate fairly and efficiently? Will the progression system keep players invested without handicapping newcomers? Will the community communicate or simply ignore team tactics? These are crucial questions that cannot be answered without thorough testing of the live retail environment.
For now, I was able to sit down with a final build of the game in a controlled setting last week. Though Siege wasn't secretly hiding a single-player campaign this whole time, it does offer ten solo training "situations" that emphasize real-world counterterrorist tactics while introducing the game's various mechanics. You'll also find the quintessential Rainbow 6 Terrorist Hunt, a cooperative mode that presents up to five players with a highly fortified (and highly destructible) environment, a set number of AI-controlled terrorists, and possibly even a bomb to disarm or a hostage to rescue.
But the real draw here--and the star of Siege's numerous betas--is the five-on-five, attack-and-defend online multiplayer. There are no respawns or regenerating health, and each round starts with a brief window for planning. Defenders can lock down their position with a variety of gadgets, while attackers can scout the area with remote controlled drones. Once that phase ends, the tension starts to mount as attackers coordinate and defenders grip their guns in anticipation.
Unfortunately, PvP will be locked until you reach a certain experience level in the game, which will force you to play the single-player situations and probably a good deal of Terrorist Hunt before you're even allowed to access the competitive multiplayer component. Judging by the four or so hours it took me to beat every situation, you'll need to invest a solid chunk of time into Siege before you can unlock PvP, but I can't confirm until I'm able to play the full retail release. Once I've had a chance to level my way through the progression system, test the game's servers, and gauge the community's approach to the experience, you'll see GameSpot's full review. Stay tuned.
Update 11/30/2015 -- According to Ubisoft PR, the retail version of Siege offers a “casual PvP” mode that will be available to all players as soon as they fire up the game. Only “ranked PvP”--which eliminates grenade indicators, kill confirmation markers, and other forms of in-game assistance--must be unlocked through leveling. Look for more details in our forthcoming final review.