Rainbow Six Siege Review (2020) - Breaches And Cream

  • First Released Dec 1, 2015
  • PC

More than four years after the game's release, Rainbow Six Siege has evolved into not only a compelling shooter but one of the best examples of the genre.

In Rainbow Six Siege, small tactical choices always lead to big consequences. Every round is a new lesson in what you could have done better, with your mistakes acting as a stern teacher. Taking these lessons to heart and adjusting your team's strategy accordingly keeps each match feeling fresh and exciting, and a drip-feed of new operators, loadouts, and abilities constantly introduces new considerations. The thrill of seeing your plan succeed--whether that's a collection of traps that stops the enemy in their tracks, a well-placed breaching hole that sets the stage for an ambush, or two operators' abilities working together to pull the rug out from the opposing team--is what makes Siege not only a compelling shooter but one of the best examples of teamwork, tactics, and crack shooting out there.

Despite its evolution over the past four years, Rainbow Six Siege has always been a battle between attackers and defenders over a single objective. There are five operators per team, each with their own special gadgets that can be used to slow the attackers' assault or poke holes in the defenders' fortifications. Every round, attackers need to move in on a specific objective; depending on the mode, they'll need to sneak in and extract a hostage, create a pathway to secure a specific room, or strategize carefully to defuse a bomb. Bomb is the quintessential Siege mode, as it makes every operator feel viable and balanced. Pushing the objective, finding an opening to plant the defuser, and then protecting said defuser gives the attacking side a steep, rewarding climb to victory, and it's the defenders' job to knock them down and keep them from reaching that summit.

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Playing video games with friends is usually more fun than playing alone, and the benefits of communicating and working together make Siege a more enjoyable experience when playing with people you know. Thankfully, solo-queuing isn't an entirely lost cause, as it's not uncommon to find like-minded players interested in coordinating as a team, but you will inevitably come across players more interested in taking the objective on their own. Siege incentivizes teamwork, and when a group of players executes a coordinated assault on the garage in House or top floor of Kanal, it results in some of the most exciting moments you can experience in a team-based first-person shooter.

Siege isn't all about shooting; there's also a large focus on learning and utilizing each operator's unique gadget to assist in taking or holding the objective. The attacking side's abilities range from breaching reinforced walls and creating new doors to dismantling defender gadgets and using cameras to reveal enemy locations. Choosing the right operator and creating a good team of operators whose abilities work well together can make a heavily fortified room much easier to breach. For example, using Thatcher's EMP grenades to destroy signal disruptors can give Thermite's breaching charge the opportunity to create a door into the objective. Meanwhile Fuse's barrage of explosives can force defenders into triggering Lion's motion-detection drone.

On the defending side, operator gadgets consist largely of tools that slow the attackers' pursuit of the objective or prevent it altogether. Mute's signal disruptors cut out the use of any electronic gadgets, such as the recon drones and Thermite's charges. On the other hand, there are gadgets that can incapacitate an attacker altogether. A well-placed welcome mat from Frost can trap an unsuspecting attacker, serving them up for a free kill shot after you hear that unmistakable clamp.

Siege does a great job with its gadget audio, with distinctive sounds that alert you to who you're up against--Zofia's impact grenades make a very distinct, almost hollow sound and can't be mistaken for Ash's breaching rounds or any of the other explosives. The gadgets are what make Siege's combat distinct from other shooters, and while you'll likely get into at least one firefight per round, using your gadget effectively to slow the enemy is just as rewarding as nailing that clutch headshot.

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While gadgets are what you'll want to take full advantage of to achieve your goals, guns can't be put by the wayside. Some firearms, like certain shotguns and LMGs, are powerful enough to take down barricaded doorways and create kill holes into the objective. Assault rifles and SMGs are capable of taking out barricades as well, but they're often better suited for taking out the enemy. Each gun feels appropriately powerful for its type and size. This is particularly true for marksman rifles, which are capable of dropping an enemy in just a couple of shots. The recoil and sound each one makes fits the damage it deals on the other end--loud and lethal. Each gun has its own distinct power and handling, making the customization of your loadout as important to your overall strategy as your gadgets and approach to each situation.

Things don't always go as planned since there's a team trying to subvert your expectations with their own tools. There are multiple ways for both teams to pressure each other, and those who aren't ready for it will be upended and eliminated. The attackers could be moving toward the objective cautiously, while the defenders plan to rush them, catch them off guard, and force them to slip out of this slower, more comfortable pace. The regular shift between slow-and-steady and heart-pounding immediacy is exhilarating, especially when just a few seconds can change the momentum of a match. The quieter moments require a calm hand; taking your time and waiting for the right moment can be nerve-wracking, but patience and proper execution with your teammates makes for exceptionally satisfying gunplay and teamwork, as you take out your opponents one by one and pull out a victory.

The regular shift between slow-and-steady and heart-pounding immediacy is exhilarating, especially when just a few seconds can change the momentum of a match.

No matter how prepared one is, a talented team can always pull the rug out from under their opponents' feet. This constant uncertainty makes each round tense, exciting, and--in some cases--stressful. It's like a horror movie in which you know there's a monster in the house, you're just not sure where it's hiding or when it's going to show up. However, if you know all of the places the monster could be hiding, then you'll be ready to take your shot once it makes its move. In a horror movie, the protagonist is always better off in their home, a place they're intimately familiar with and know the ins and outs of. Siege is the same way: Shooting is a crucial part, but learning each map, and the hiding spots that can conceal operators and traps, is as, if not more, important.

While you're devoting time to the intricacies of each character, you're breaching and defending different rooms across the game's various maps, slowly learning their layouts: where the doors, cameras, and windows are, as well as where each wall and floor hatch leads to. You learn each map almost unintentionally, just by playing. The subtlety of Siege's idiosyncrasies makes personal progress feel profound; knowing that you can see the top of a staircase from a certain window--likely learned from being shot from that same window--can give you the edge over a distracted team. And with Siege, everything you learn pays back in dividends, as knowing a map's layout makes it easier to pick up new operators and put their gadgets to use on that map. Siege's learning curve is not small, but it's not particularly steep either. You'll need to spend a long time learning the particulars, but it's an outstanding journey with rewarding moments that'll make you feel like you're improving every match.

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Each operator is well-defined in their appearance, personality, and abilities, and while the game isn't about their stories and interactions with their Rainbow Six squadmates, Siege characterizes its operators incredibly well, thanks to smart writing and in-match dialogue that gives you a peek into their world. Simple in-game lines that inform you of the match's events also give you an idea of who the characters are--for example, Thermite letting his teammates know that he's about to make a "big fucking hole" as he activates his breaching charges. Similarly, you understand the relationship between sisters Ela and Zofia, as the latter plays the role of a motherly sister, letting Ela know she's not trying hard enough if Zofia happens to take her out during a match. These animated voice lines paint a picture of who each operator is and the world they're a part of--Hibana even mentions her friend, Thermite, as she activates her X-Kairos pellets to make her own "big fucking hole." Siege's writing delicately balances the line between informative, colourful, and humorous, without being distracting and taking away from the match at hand.

Siege's character development has been built over the past four years, as Ubisoft has improved its tactical team-based shooter from something that had a great base to start with into one of the best multiplayer experiences. Each new season has brought new reasons to keep playing Siege without it ever feeling stale. The introduction of new operators obviously brings new abilities to use or contend with, but it often changes how previous operators are viewed and approached as well--older characters have been given a new lease on life by becoming excellent counter-picks to newer DLC operators.

Siege has had its fair share of missteps, though the game we have today has ironed out many of them. Ubisoft has proven itself receptive and expeditious when it comes to dealing with the game's issues, at times having removed entire gadgets--and the operator Clash--when gamebreaking exploits were found and abused. While it was disappointing to be without deployable shields for an extended period of time, it helped create an environment where cheaters couldn't prosper and ultimately resulted in Siege becoming a stronger game.

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The operator balance is always being tweaked as well, which can cause certain operators to go in and out of favour. Weaker operators have received buffs in the way of damage increases or a change in gadget utility, making them more viable options than they once were. Alternatively, strong, highly-picked operators have seen the exact opposite. It can be frustrating when your favourite operator gets nerfed, but a lot of these changes have made overpowered characters fall in line without completely diminishing the satisfaction you get while playing them. When IQ's frag grenade was removed from her loadout, I could no longer bounce her grenades off walls towards a crowd of electronic gadgets. This was disheartening at first, but their removal gave me the push I needed to learn and grow as a player, as I was encouraged to evolve my strategy with a new set of tools--now I don't even miss them.

Several maps have also received updates, from slight changes to complete overhauls. Nearly all of Siege's maps are excellent--except for that dang Favela--and these reworks have only improved their layouts. Like operator nerfs, it can be disheartening to see your favourite map lose the hallways you fell in love with, but it doesn't take long to warm up to the changes. Some of the reworked maps are now among Siege's best maps--Clubhouse and Kafe Dostoyevsky are a lot more enjoyable to attack and defend on since their interior renovations.

Ubisoft's constant battle with toxicity has yielded some good results, and while it's not perfect, it's become a much more manageable issue that you no longer have to feel trapped by. In Siege's text chat, racial and homophobic slurs, overzealous trash talk, and petty insults can make new players feel unwelcome. Thankfully, Ubisoft has been proactive in removing toxic players from its game with its own moderation and introduction of new tools that improve the overall experience. Friendly-fire reversal has caused a significant decrease in team-killing, as players are now able to police themselves, decide whether a specific instance of friendly-fire was intentional, and prevent a toxic player from causing any further damage--two team kills, intentional or not, also removes the player from said match. Chat filters have made it easy to avoid cross-team communication altogether, and as someone who enjoys his fair share of trash talk, the ability to turn off text and voice chat--per player or per team--makes Siege a less frustrating, healthier, and better experience, especially when playing alone. Nights that would end in anger and frustration over what another player said are now completely non-existent.

Ubisoft has proven itself receptive and expeditious when it comes to dealing with the game's issues.

Of course, you can't have a multiplayer game in 2020 without an in-game shop. Siege's store has a deluge of cosmetic items of varying types, in addition to its roster of operators. Most headgear, uniforms, and skins can be purchased with the in-game currency, Renown--which isn't difficult to earn, though it does take a fair amount of time. Operators can be purchased with Renown as well, with older operators costing less than newer ones. There are also some items that you have to purchase with real money, such as the annual operator pass and Elite uniforms that come with a bundle of unique skins, victory animation, and operator card. The cosmetics are beautifully designed, sometimes changing the entire motif of a specific operator. However, limited-time cosmetics and the recently implemented battle passes can cause you to play or pay more than you initially wanted or intended to. Thankfully, there's nothing in these microtransactions that affects the gameplay or enjoyment thereof--Siege is rewarding enough on its own that you don't need the satisfaction of cosmetic progress to keep you going. However, it's still an unneeded carrot-on-a-stick that comes off more obnoxious than anything else.

Rainbow Six Siege has always been a game about making tactical decisions and dealing with their consequences, but with every new year of operators and changes, the options have been refined and increased to make for firefights that are as engaging as they are unpredictable. Learning the various operators and how to breach or protect a room with them can be a slow crawl, but Siege makes it easy to understand what your mistakes are, thanks in part to seeing both sides of every match. It rewards patience, persistence, and teamwork, and over the past four years, Siege has not only become Ubisoft's crown jewel of multiplayer action but also one of the best first-person shooters ever made.

Rainbow Six Siege is featured as one of the best PS5 games.

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The Good

  • Vast tactical depth allows for numerous offensive and defensive strategies
  • Every match feels like an opportunity to improve, the progress of which feels profound
  • Each operator is distinct in their respective playstyle
  • Incredibly well-designed maps that reward layout knowledge
  • Excellent shooting mechanics make guns feel lethal
  • Ubisoft has made smart changes to improve Siege over time

The Bad

  • The addition of a battle pass on top of the annual operator pass feels egregious

About the Author

Mat has spent around 850 hours in Siege, creating doors with Zofia's grenade launcher and catching overly eager attackers in Frost mats. He has spent an overwhelming amount of time dressing up his operators in the finest clothes Renown and R6 credits can buy.