When Ubisoft first teased what they called Outbreak back at the Rainbow Six Pro League finals in Brazil last November, a content drop coming instead of a map as part of Year 3 Season 1 on March 6, the whole tone of the teaser raised a few eyebrows. The quarantine symbols, the spooky atmosphere, and the hint that this would be something very different made people instantly jump to 'zombies', but alas, they were all wrong, as Outbreak will instead feature aliens... with a lot of the qualities of zombies.
Yes, Outbreak is a limited four-week event coming to Ubisoft's tactical shooter that takes the realistic tone of the game so far, throws that out of the window, and goes wild with this strange new idea. Here you need to take one of 10 operators, including the two new ones coming with Operation Chimera that we detailed here, and you take on one of three story-driven missions that require you to investigate an alien infection that's posing a threat to humanity while also taking down these monstrosities as you do so.
We played two out of the three campaigns during our time at the Six Invitational esports tournament in Montreal recently, as you can see below, and each has different gameplay avenues. The first we played, for instance, saw us navigate around neighborhoods with very open lines of sight, meaning we could sneak past enemies if we wanted to, and take long shots on their unsuspecting heads, but the other campaign we played was a lot tighter, seeing us move through a hospital with narrow corridors and little room for escape - the perfect place for close-quarters combat.
These enemies come in a lot of different varieties, all of which are based on some sort of sinister alien infection that mutates their bodies. First up are the grunts, the common and numerous baddies who are the easiest to dispatch, but there are also a number of other special enemies like in other 'zombie' games like Left 4 Dead, including ones that explode when close, ones that can root you to the ground so you can't move, one that charges you, and another called the Apex that can summon a ton of other evil creatures to cause you grief. Each has their own weakness and tactics for dealing with them, such as the weak spot on the charger's back, so tactics are key for taking these guys out.
It's also worth noting that just running and gunning isn't quite the message here, as stealth is still favoured, much as players will be used to seeing already in the main game. The normal grunts will be much easier to kill when they don't detect you, for example, as once you're seen or heard they mutate into stronger variants, and it's also worth noting that stealth is vital to deal with the exploding nuisances too, as killing them from a distance means you don't have to deal with them up close and personal.
The operators won't be exactly as you know them either, as each of the 10 available has been slightly tweaked compared to what you see in the normal game. The 10 you get though are chosen due to their usefulness in a Left 4 Dead-esque situation, such as Doc, since he can heal allies, and brand new operator Lion, who can detect enemies using a drone. What's more is that the other new operator, Finka, can provide tactical buffs to health when things get really bad for you and your team, which can include up to three people (and trust us when we say you'll need three to survive).
You might have notice us name-drop Valve's Left 4 Dead a few times already, and that's because there are a lot of things here that really remind us of the game. For instance, there's a hospital campaign you can play which is very similar in style to the same setting in Valve's shooter, and the fast-pace of the infected enemies is just another comparative point. There's a reason Left 4 Dead was so popular though, and here Ubisoft is deploying the same appealing gameplay elements, except this time changing their previously slow and methodical game into a chaotic and frantic zombie-fest (okay, alien-fest).
It's nice to see Siege get a bit more narrative as well, since all there's been so far has been little cinematic sequences and voice lines, with a few extra details here and there for operators. Since release the community has been the main source of storytelling for the game, really taking to the characters and producing fan-created content like artwork and more to celebrate them, so now Ubisoft has taken it upon themselves to actually give us more story, as each campaign sees us work through a series of objectives, one of which is to rescue a doctor from a hospital, since she is the only one that can save humanity. Throughout you'll hear other operators on the radio, like Thermite and Bandit, who will work with you in the Rainbow Six team to eliminate the threat and give you objectives.
Even on the normal difficulty, it's damn tough too. Oftentimes you'll find yourselves having to defend a certain position while a door opens or a charge detonates, and these are the times the difficulty will really show itself, since the enemies require precise shots to the head to get downed quickly, and they can easily make short work of your defences via the destructible environments. Making sure you're all well-equipped is the key to survival, then, as is efficient communication and making each shot count - aiming for the head, as you might've guessed. It also provides masses of enemies we're not used to seeing in Siege, and so those sprayers out there will probably find more success here than in the base game.
All-in-all though we were left impressed with Outbreak, as it brings three specially-designed unique maps, all catering to individual campaigns (three of them in fact, split into two parts), along with reworked operators and a ton of new enemies, which leaves just one question: why is this a temporary event? Ubisoft are actually releasing only two new maps this year to the main game as part of their Year 3 content, but here there are three maps alone, and with a campaign that is no doubt the product of many months of labour, it's baffling to us that this would only be around for four weeks. It's disruptive and not exactly lore-friendly, sure, but we'll be interested to see if it stays a temporary event in the end.