Editor's note, May 4, 2020: As Rainbow Six Siege has changed significantly since its original release, we have produced a new review to reflect the current state of Siege. We have left the original review in its entirety below.
The average Rainbow Six Siege multiplayer match contains a surprisingly small amount of shooting. Gunplay is, of course, still central to the Siege experience, but there's so much more to it. You'll spend just as much time strategizing with your teammates, carefully laying traps, reinforcing destructible walls, and feeling your heart race as the dull, distant rumble of your enemies' breach charges suddenly gives way to intense and immediate chaos. And that's just on defense.
Few modern shooters can match the heart-pounding exhilaration and immense strategic depth Siege achieves with its asymmetrical PvP. With no respawns, no regenerating health, and only five players per team, every life suddenly feels meaningful and precious (though you can still monitor security cameras and communicate with your team in death). Running-and-gunning will almost certainly land you on the sidelines, so you're much better off using your drivable drone to scout ahead or coordinating with your teammates to ensure all sightlines are covered.
Not only does the intense one-life setup encourage players to approach every encounter thoughtfully and methodically, it also fills a long neglected gap in the FPS genre. While shooters that emphasize twitch shooting over tactics can grow tiresome, Siege's seemingly endless array of viable strategies makes every round memorable and organically begets the kind of brilliant, unpredictable moments you can't wait to tell your friends about.
In any given round, you could repel from a rooftop, smash through a window, and flash the room with a stun grenade, or just lie prone in a dark corner waiting for enemies to wander past. Maybe on defense you'll fortify four team members in a single room but send the fifth out into the wild in hopes of catching the other team off guard. You could also play some mind games by remotely detonating an explosive purely as misdirection before infiltrating through another point of ingress. All these mechanics breed creativity and allow the game to evolve as players develop (and react to) new strategies.
All these mechanics breed creativity and allow the game to evolve as players develop (and react to) new strategies.
Unfortunately, there is a campaign-sized hole where Siege's single-player should be, and while a carefully crafted, story-driven experience would have further solidified the game's position as one of the year's best shooters, Siege still manages to compensate in other ways. Franchises like Halo and Call of Duty have set the bar for the amount of desirable content you can cram into a game, and Siege clearly falls short of that mark. But consider a game like Rocket League, which has delivered serious longevity with a single game mode. Siege, to me, feels like Rocket League or even Team Fortress 2 in that its pure, competitive nature makes it eminently replayable.
Even outside of its natural competitiveness and deep well of mechanics, Siege's PvP provides enough variables to keep players engaged. There are multiple match types, over a dozen maps, randomized objective locations within those maps, differing times of day for every stage, mixed mode servers that automatically scramble all these options together, and, most importantly, 20 distinct Operators, all of whom open new gameplay avenues. Even characters whose unique gadget seemed useless at first inevitably proved me wrong. I assumed Doc's remote revive dart would never come in handy given that allies are far more often killed than wounded; then I saw someone punch a tiny hole through a wall to revive a fallen teammate pinned by gunfire on the other side.
And while Siege may not contain a campaign, it does offer 11 singleplayer "Situations" that are both legitimately helpful and surprisingly robust, considering they're essentially training missions. Each situation features three difficulty options and three optional objectives--which enhances their replayability--and each one focuses on a different aspect of the game like bomb defusal or destructible cover. They lack the cohesion, polish, and narrative drive of a campaign, but they're at least diverse enough to prove worthwhile.
You can also choose to tackle Siege's Terrorist Hunt mode alone, though it's definitely more approachable as a cooperative experience. As with the competitive multiplayer, each player gets one life and only a finite amount of health, but here you must hunt down a preset number of AI-controlled terrorists or disarm bombs while an infinite number of enemies attempt to interfere. Being so outnumbered while having no way to heal turns every round into an intense war of attrition; even if the first guy doesn't kill you outright, he might shave off enough of your health that the next guy can easily take you out. When you make it to the end of a 20-minute round with only a tiny sliver of health remaining, finishing off that final terrorist provides such an incredible high I found it nearly impossible to hold in my reflexive "Hell yeah!"
Despite all this excess adrenaline, Siege still suffers a few rough edges. The progression system, for example, feels slightly empty and metes out experience too slowly. Thankfully, Casual PvP will be available right out of the gate, but you'll have to accrue enough XP to reach level 20 before you'll unlock Ranked PvP. It makes sense the game would gate Ranked matches given that they remove much of the in-game assistance that makes Casual PvP accessible (a fact the game fails to explain, unfortunately), but grinding all the way to level 20 takes far too long. Why not set the limit lower and let players decide when they're ready?
In addition to XP, players also earn Renown--Siege's version of in-game currency, which can be used to purchase new Operators, weapon attachments, and weapon skins. Again, forcing players to slowly earn new Operators makes some sense: it creates a sense of connection and ownership while encouraging players to really explore and capitalize on each character's unique skills. I was also able to unlock two attackers and two defenders in roughly three hours (thanks in part to some generous boosts early on), and that collection of four Operators proved substantial enough to enable my enjoyment despite limiting my options.
However, I still encountered situations where my operators had already been selected by other players, which forced me to play as the generic "recruit" stand-in. And more importantly, customization options are extremely limited. You can buy custom sights and scopes or equip your guns with various stabilizers and silencers, but these attachments only marginally impact gameplay, and because you're only outfitting one or two Operators at a time, you'll earn every upgrade with very little effort. This undoubtedly preserves the balance of the game, but it's pretty difficult to feel like you're progressing when there's so little to work towards.
Everything from the strength of your internet connection to the makeup of your team can impact your enjoyment of Siege, but importantly, Siege itself does everything it can to ensure you're able to enjoy the game in spite of these variables.
Being an always-online game, Siege also comes with it's fair share of minor annoyances that, while mostly unobtrusive, are still worth mentioning. Map rotation could be more consistent. Console players could use more in-game communication tools beyond the temporary marker icon. Matchmaking needs to be just as smooth on PC as it currently is on consoles. Purchasing and equipping new gear shouldn't require players to back out of matches. There needs to be an easier way to kick and report disruptive players.
Everything from the strength of your internet connection to the makeup of your team can impact your enjoyment of Siege, but importantly, Siege itself does everything it can to ensure you're able to enjoy the game in spite of these variables. Across all the hours I spent online, players were consistently cooperative and communicative, and to some degree, I have to credit Siege's tutorials and situations for adequately conveying how the game is meant to be played.
My experiences weren't always perfect, but when Siege works, there's nothing else like it. It's not designed to appeal to all players, and that's exactly what allows it to be something special. With so much strategic depth, those periods between firefights actually become some of the most rewarding, while firefights themselves are made all the more intense by the knowledge that you're fighting for your life, not just your kill/death ratio.