With a few weeks to go until launch, we've spent some more time with Ubisoft's cooperative shooter.
We're getting very close to the official launch day of Ubisoft's cooperative FPS Rainbow Six: Extraction, a game that sees a host of the Operators and characters we've come to know over the years of Rainbow Six: Siege working together to face a lethal, invading, and quickly evolving alien threat. While Extraction plays similar to Siege, using the same characters with the same kit and controls, this title steps away from the tactical shooter element that the PvP game excels in and instead favours a stealthier approach. Needless to say, it's a little different to the way we are used to using these characters.
While launch is coming up soon, I have previously had the chance to check out Extraction, with my main takeaways from that preview (which you can read in full here) revolving around the stealth element and the challenge being underwhelming, a lot of the Operators feeling useless in the grand scheme of the experience, but with this being said the gunplay is, as you would hope, still fantastic. Now, after a final preview session, I can add that the prior two points have been addressed with the latter remaining, although this lengthier session did bring up a few more alarming issues that make me a little uncertain about this game and its future.
Just to be clear, the idea of Extraction is to head to a location that shows a significant proportion of alien (Archaean) influence, to complete a variety of objectives without being overwhelmed by the parasite's forces before finding a place to exit that said level. These objectives can be anything from rescuing an MIA Operator who fell in a previous mission, to eliminating Archaean high-value targets, or destroying vital alien instalments, i.e. a particularly resilient nest. The catch is of course that each level is crammed with various different kinds of Archaean forces (be it creatures that can fire projectiles at you, or explode to leave a cloud of poisonous gas), and you'll have to complete each objective without alerting the Archaeans, else they will overwhelm and cause you to fall in a mission.
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Accomplishing each objective requires teamwork and strategy, as the best way to handle a level is to go around, removing nests that spawn Archaeans, while eliminating the alien creatures, so that you can tackle an objective without having to deal with being swarmed by them. It's a style of gameplay that is quite enjoyable, and now seems to be quite the challenge at times. Previously, I felt like the stealth was far too strong and that you could blitz through a level with silenced weapons and never get attacked, but now this seems to have been toned down, as Archaeans will be alerted more easily and will act more aggressively. What this makes for is a game where you will die a lot, if you don't take your time and use your abilities to their strengths.
Take Vigil for example. He can use his ERC-7 stealth ability to hide from Archaeans, allowing you to recon for your team more efficiently, while everyone else uses the two-wheeled drones to gather more information. Then to add to this, you can have Sledge on your team so he can use his hammer to open new ways to move within a level where there are destructible walls, and then to round it out, you can have Alibi on your squad, so that if all hell breaks loose, she can drop her Prisma holograms to draw the attention of alerted Archaeans. And since there are 18 Operators coming at launch, this is just an example of the team play you can expect in Extraction.
Yet, a previous issue does still remain. I mentioned that an Operator's ability does feel more valuable and usable in-game, and they really do, but with this being said, I still went through periods of never needing to use an ability as the silenced weapons are so strong. At the same time, on harder difficulties where there are more foes to have to face, lacking a character who could heal was basically a death sentence, making Doc and Finka truly crucial characters, which in itself limits the variety of Operator combinations you can take, without feeling truly at a loss.
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This isn't the most alarming issue I've seen so far however, as during the preview session, I reached a moment where four or five of my Operators were MIA and unusable due to a previously failed mission, for one reason or another. As Operators have to heal over time after a mission, this meant that there were times when I had maybe two or three realistically playable characters for a new mission, and this stretched to my squad mates, who were in a similar boat. The really frustrating part is that Operators who are MIA need to be saved in a mission, in the same place where you lost them, meaning you have to put another character at risk to save another, which severely limits the way you can play this game. And this is elevated by the fact that the more challenging mode, Maelstrom, which asks you to move through nine sub-sections of levels (a typical level contains three sub-sections) requires a host of healthy Operators, essentially meaning it is locked and you cannot play it without having a healthy, available crew.
But this also goes one step further, as the progression in Extraction can be regressed. If you fail in a mission you can lose XP, which becomes an issue as you need to rank up to earn new Operators and locations to visit. Granted, once you unlock something you keep it forever, so there's no sense of loss, but there is a real feeling of the game becoming stale as you struggle to move forward, despite being a PvE cooperative experience. It's a truly exhausting design that I can't imagine will sit well with a lot of people come launch.
I was previously under the impression that Extraction would serve as a great way for players to get the general gist of Siege, without having to just dive into the competitive tactical shooter, however now I struggle to see that either. This is not as easy a game as it previously was, and you will need to have a basic understanding of tactical FPS strategy to stand a chance, as the Archaeans are unforgiving and highly lethal. This is a game that seems to be suited to Siege players looking for something a little different, and I can't quite figure out why this is the case, as a lot of PvP players are content with the evolving PvP experience that Ubisoft already has made widely available.
I don't believe Rainbow Six: Extraction will be a bad game, as it has the core mechanics and gameplay of Siege at its core, and that is, and remains, top-of-the-line for an FPS. But, I'm still not sold. In my eyes, this is shaping up to be a game that will entertain for a few hours, or days, but will struggle to see you coming back for more after that. While it may seem harsh to say this, I've played just shy of ten hours of this game at various different preview sessions in 2021, and it has failed to really draw me in still, which is disappointing, especially considering how big a Siege fan I am.