Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege Review (PS4)
In 2014 and 2015 it’s been Ubisoft’s critical failures that have been more interesting than their commercial successes. Watch_Dogs, Far Cry 4 and the newest Assassins Creed have all been safe, conservative, unambitious titles that have provided decent open world thrills. In particular, Assassins Creed Syndicate has been lauded for getting the series back on track. All three of those titles are fundamentally less ambitious or, ultimately, interesting than the more conflicted games like The Crew, or indeed Rainbow Six Siege. However, while The Crew was a surprisingly fun game once you adjusted to its idiosyncrasies, Siege is a much harder game to love. Easy to admire, but hard to love.
The biggest issue is the lightweight nature of the whole game. It’s hard to shake the feeling that Siege could have been free-to-play. The paucity of maps (only eleven) and the lack of a real singleplayer campaign are early warning signs. The micro-transactions aren’t prominent, but they are omnipresent. Only a few tabs away from the title screen, you can purchase faster leveling with real money. As those levels translate to more unlocks, the incentive is clear. Pay for experience boosts, get access to more characters and weapons, and get an edge over your opponents online.
Worst of all, Ubisoft Montreal manipulatively leverage peer pressure into experience bonuses. If you’re the only player in your team boosting, you get a moderate experience multiplier, but if all your teammates are dropping real money into the game, you all get a substantial boost. “Come on Jimmy, we all spent five quid and you didn’t so you’re holding us all back!”. Gross.
It’s sad that I have to discuss the nasty payment model of Siege first, because although it’s shit, it has been tacked on to a pretty innovative and interesting – albeit limited – game. As the name suggests, Siege is all about defense and attack. When you’re reinforcing a position with makeshift barricades, traps, barbed wire and mines, it can feel like a rather clever mash up of Counter Strike and the zombie mode from Black Ops. Broken panels alert you to enemies breaking in to your base, security cameras keep you updated on where your opponents are planning their entry and the games destructible environments offer unique gameplay options unseen in any other FPS. They are the one genuinely brilliant feature. It’s invigorating to storm a room by blowing a hole through a wall, while bullets penetrating thin wooden panels lend the gunplay a lethal, realistic feel. The creative opportunities to use the environment are huge, and they make you appraise situations completely differently than other FPS games. You might be able to hunker down behind a balsa wood panel in Counter Strike or COD, but in Siege you have to be able to appraise the quality of material you’re using to shelter your soft, vulnerable body from hard bullets.
And the toys at your disposal are great too. Basics – like bared wire – are available to everyone. They’re useful, but the really fun stuff includes trip wire explosives, bullets that bore through cover and riot shields with built-in flash panels to blind enemies. Each special item is tied to a particular character. You unlock the characters through play, and to some extent they work in-game a bit like the character choices in a MOBA. Each of your five team members will have particular skills and abilities, and team success will depend greatly on your balance of characters and those of your enemies.
While playing against human players is dynamic and thrilling, playing with human team mates against the AI (Terrorist Hunt Mode) feels far less interesting. It’s very easy for one poor player to disrupt the whole team. I was often (constantly in fact) shot in the back by my own team mates or flash-banged by my team just at the worst possible moment. The AI of the enemies oscillates wildly from ruthlessly efficient to wildly dumb, almost from moment to moment. There’s no real variety to the opponents either, with the only unique enemy – a suicide bomber – being a frustratingly dumb enemy type. And confusingly, the enemies seem to represent some generic terrorist organisation with motivations that are never defined, but they all look a bit like members of Anonymous with their funny masks. I would guess that I – along with many people who play games – might find it hard to identify them as antagonists while allying ourselves with a militarized police force who shoot to kill, never take prisoners and are considered the default “good guys”.
And though I praised the multiplayer mode above, there’s real issues with it too. When you die early on in a long mission, waiting for the rest of your teammates to inevitably wipe means the desire to quit becomes very strong. When you have to disarm two bombs and you die before finding the first one, there really is no point in hanging around unless you enjoy watching other people play for ten minutes. You can’t get resurrected in any way, and with you already dead, your teams chances of success are probably already pretty low.
And of course any time you quit out of a game and head back to the title menu, there’s a pretty good chance you might not feel like searching for another session to join. Should you decide to take on some solo missions, you are still put into a random map and encounter, and you still have to wait for a counter to tick down while everyone chooses their character and load out. Even if the only character is you, and you just want to get on with shooting people.
There are good ideas in Siege, and when you’re in a good team and everything goes well, it’s a lot of fun. But that’s rare. Most often, it’s a clumsy experience. The gunplay is heavy and takes a long time to get used to, while the visuals won’t wow you either. Perhaps the games destructive environments constrain it’s visual appeal, but Siege is a one average looking game. It’s also bereft of interesting art design, with generic characters in generic settings – which is especially sad because the Rainbox Six Vegas games (as well as being excellent FPS’s in their own right) had evocative settings.
Occasionally thrilling, always tense, it’s a game that you would probably quite enjoy dipping into for a few games once or twice a week. But as a full price game that’s also aggressively pushy about getting even more money out of your pocket, it’s pushing its luck. Star Wars Battlefront was harshly critisized for what it left out, but compared with Siege it is a veritable banquet. Selling this as a full price game is like serving mousse as a main course.Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege Review (PS4),