The morning of our day-long hands-on with Rainbow Six: Siege was spent playing Situations in single-player (there appeared to be an option to play them in multiplayer, but we weren't able to try). This mode is a series of missions that each features a particular scenario that revolves around a specialist plucked from the roster of available characters. Each one is built around challenging the particular abilities of the specialist, and so a character with EMP grenades might find themselves using them to neutralise clusters of electronically armed explosives.
There's a really interesting selection of playable characters, and while they might not be a talkative bunch, they do express themselves differently in the heat of battle. The names might not be particularly imaginative - Sledge (has a hammer), Fuze (has grenades), Mute (jams comms) - but there is plenty of differentiation and they each feel unique. There's a healthy selection too (which is great in the multiplayer modes, but of little use when you're prescribed a character in Situations).
The five missions we played through each had an edge, all of them with multiple challenges to flesh out each attempt; so you'll get three stars for finishing the mission and completing each of the secondary objectives. As with the multiplayer modes there's a planning phase where the player must send out their remote-control drone to scout out the map (although here it's optional). The device scurries around the sandbox level identifying the locations of your targets, tagging them so they might be dealt with later. Then it's a case of utilising your assigned character's particular skills to complete your objective.
Of course these missions are not the main attraction when you think about Rainbow Six: Siege, but they are going to prove central to the experience of anyone who wants to play the game but prefers to stay away from competitive multiplayer modes. That said, there are also cooperative activities for players to enjoy. Speaking of which, in the afternoon we jumped into several games of Terrohunt, teaming up with others to take down maps filled with enemies.
As in the Situations, there's an optional planning phase, and while it's not mandatory to send in the drones first, we consider it highly advisable. We alternated between planning and rushing, to see how each action felt, and the assistance you get from tagging your enemies with the drone can't be underestimated. It can be painstaking work, rolling through vents and under doorways, dodging gunfire from the enemies that spot you, and scouring each and every room of every building, but it often pays to be thorough.
The downside of spending a long time scouting out the enemy stronghold is it gives your enemies longer to construct defences. Another negative that we fell foul of more than once; if you take your time planning, and then die in the first wave of your attack, you've then got to watch your buddies take down the rest of the building in your absence while you watch on. For the most part we enjoyed ourselves, though suicidal "bombers" charge you with no regard for their own life, and we didn't have much fun fighting them, especially when we were at the vanguard of the attack.
There's a selection of different enemy classes, but it was the bombers that were most prominent in our experience. The other terrorists you encounter have different weapons, construct defences and so on, but they don't have the same personality. That's not to say that we like the personality of the bombers, on the contrary, we didn't, but they do stand out from the crowd. We've likely not seen the full range of classes, so maybe we're going to get long-range snipers, or grenade-throwing terrorists, or perhaps the AI might start laying down more subtle traps (the ones we had to deal with were generally clusters of explosives decorated with flashing lights); all speculation on our part, but we're hoping to see a little bit more variation in the enemies we meet.
We wrapped things up by finishing off the day with several rounds of PvP combat. Rescuing hostages and defending bombs. Over five rounds players take it turns to attack and defend the objective. The target moves between rounds, which means that players need to scout if they're to get the lowdown on what their opponents are up to at any given moment. As with the beta and the alpha before it, we had a good time with the PvP element. The one strike and you're out mechanic puts this in the same ballpark as Counter-Strike, and as such each round is tense, but also snappy.
It's the healthy selection of character classes that's potentially the most interesting feature here. We tried as many as possible, and while some felt more natural to us than others, there's no denying that there's a decent range of options that should provoke plenty of different outcomes on a game-by-game basis. Each side can only select one of each class, a design choice that pushes teams into blending different tactics.
The levels that host the action also need mentioning. We played across some familiar and some new during the event. Each of the sandboxes we played in - Plane, Club House, Kanal, Oregon, and Chalet - were full of detail. Multi-floored. Destructible scenery. Vantage points. Bottlenecks. Alternate access points. There's so much going on, and plenty of opportunity to experiment with new tactics, whether attacking or defending.
Across all of the game modes we've tried thus far, Siege feels very different to the previous Rainbow Six Vegas games, and more in-keeping with the series' heritage, this thanks to tactical variation and the sandbox levels. Bolt on a raft of modern features to the gameplay, the UI, the progression system, and you've got a tactical shooter that in the current climate feels fresh. Whether it's fresh enough to put one in the back of Star Wars, Halo, Destiny, and Call of Duty, remains to be seen, but we think that Ubisoft's tactical offering might just have enough in its locker to give it a fighting chance against the big hitters also launching at the end of this year.