That’s right, Tom Clancy’s newest iteration is back! This time under the guise of house demolishing, siege experts. Tactics have been planned (and a lot of the time bungled, spectacularly!), barricades placed, team mates have been subjected to fratricide and……WHAT!….silencers have been unlocked!?! It’s back ladies and gentlemen, but not as we know it. This is my beta journey.
The Rainbow 6 Siege Beta has just finished on PC, Xbox One and PS4. After a rocky start, with code distribution, things finally settled down and more and more players had access. Ubisoft extended the beta too – I’m sure they needed the data the extra time would give them but it also meant that people with a code could get a fuller experience. I was lucky enough to get a code, (thanks Kleggers!) and I played as much as I could.
“Beta”, for me, usually means a chance to get a feel for the game and after spending some time with the early code, to be brutally honest, I am so going to fork out some money for this. This beta has fulfilled my needs and a lot more. In a weird turn of events, playing this game has given me some of the most intense and exhilarating gaming experiences in my last few years gaming, it’s revived my dwindling faith for social gaming with strangers and it has managed to humble my opinion when playing a new game……..not bad for a beta!
I’d like to state that I am a huge fan of the R6 franchise. Admittedly I spent the majority of my time ridding Vegas of all those pesky terrorists, Lone Wolf style or with other like minded people, but I did enjoy the campaigns and most aspects of the multiplayer. I still enjoy playing Vegas occasionally, campaign and T-Hunt.
The characteristic that stuck out for me was the new style of FPS gameplay. It was at a much slower pace compared to the status quo. Movement, taking cover, reloading, swapping weapons etc etc…….basically, anything that could be done in the blink of an eye in MJOLNIR armour was significantly slowed down with the animations being more realistic. This gave the game a signature “weight and feel”, for me, but it also forced me to think in different ways the more I played. Ways that I didn’t have time for in my collection of that status quo. Now, when playing online, I would count other players‘ shots (or at least approximate) and would then sync up my shooting pattern meaning I could cover them whilst they began their new laboured reload. Communication became key if you wanted to finish the round alive. Now, I don’t use “laboured” with negative connotations, at all! Like I said previously, the “weight and feel” changed the tactical playing field. For myself, this was the first time their was such a high level of coordination through communication, with friends or with strangers, over Xbox Live. And I loved it!
Also, Ubisoft used a third person camera when you performed certain tasks. This let players see exactly what their character had to do, “physically” and really helped my immersion levels in to the game. It was also giving me clues and reasons as to why I needed to play this game differently.
These gameplay reasons, coupled together with the access to different gadgets, explosives and accessories from the get go and interesting map design meant Ubisoft had created an environment where sound communication and tactics were rewarded. Completing the mission and points earned while playing helped you increase your Rank. And as that rank increased, you gained access to more gadgets, guns and accessories for your persistent character. The high level of customisation along with with the integration of Xbox Live Camera to put your face on your character in the Vegas series, gave a depth to the franchise that I had become to expect.
If you were that way inclined, you could run around, balls out, pistol blazin’ but, you’d more likely than not, be loading those “GRAPHICAL ASSETS” faster than you could switch on thermal vision.
A New Vision
With this beta, I was honestly expecting to see an extension to Vegas 1&2, brought forward to the Next-gen graphically and with the added dynamics of siege gameplay. Not that would necessarily be a bad thing, but I wasn’t expecting anything too far from the formula I ploughed so many hours in to. Well, that prediction was worth precisely diddly, from the moment I took a look around the menus! Things have changed…….
When I play any new game or beta, I like to look around the menus, figure out how the UI works and see how things are set up. I realised quickly that the unlocks and currency mechanic has been revised as there was an option where I could unlock Operators. Each Operator has their own “special” gadget, ranging from breach grenades that puncture the wall and releases 4 small grenades, to an extendible shield allowing the user to be a walking wall of protection. Each Operator also comes with a selection of their preferred weapons and a selection of gadget load outs…..alarm bells had started ringing quietly in the back of my head.
The menus themselves feel unresponsive and laggy. Each time you make a selection it is as though information is being downloaded. Or the UI is just poorly put together. Whatever the reason it began grating on me instantly as any triple A title should have a smooth UI in my opinion, let alone a tactical shooter that should be emanating accuracy and intention. I also didn’t feel engaged when in the menus like I was in other iterations. The music felt tame, and I never felt once like I was gearing up for a siege! Yes, it is simple and streamlined to use but that could be delivered with atmosphere and intensity a la the Vegas and Lockdown days. Whilst I’m on the UI, the sub menu when you press start during a game setup or gameplay, is the epitome of this simplicity. It reminds me of when I realised for the first time I could customise the theme of Win 95! This simplicity in the UI, on screen text and HUD elements are a constant throughout the gameplay too. Nothing really felt modern or tactical, which took away from the immersion for me.
Anyway, I tried to ignore my annoyances and got stuck in to a game. The two choices available were Multiplayer (5v5 PvP) or Terrorist Hunt Classic 5vAI (how many terrorists on a map depended on the difficulty). Calling it “Classic” leaves me thinking that maybe other modes of Terrorist Hunt will be available at launch or post launch? To get a grip of the controls and gameplay I figured Terrorist Hunt was my best bet. I discovered that the game setup is pretty much the same for the MP section too bar one repesct. If on the defending team, only available in PvP for the beta, you have the choice of defensive only recruits and Operators. An interesting thing to note is that PvP runs at 60 FPS, but T-Hunt only runs at 30. Ubisoft have stated this is due to the advanced AI running in T-hunt mode.
Those alarm bells that were buzzing my tower before started ringing that little bit louder when the game was setting up and were deafening when I began my first game. No longer do you have access to most of the good stuff that any self respecting SAS/SWAT/Terrorist Hunter Extroardinaire etc wouldn’t ever leave their house without. I was fully expecting to being able select a silencer or select a different vision for different situations. Nope.
Initially you only have access to Recruits. Opereratives are unlocked with Renown, which is collected by completing mission and generally being awesome during matches. Recruits are split into 5 different nationalities each with a selection of home country favourite weapons. Unfortunately these are restrictive to that nation though. Same goes for the choices available your explosive accessories, even though there isn’t much variation in the two pieces of equipment you can take. These are your siege basics and you have the choice of either a flashbang or frag grenade and then a breach charge or smoke grenade. The customisation felt very limited and there are no options for gun accessories like scopes, lasers, grips etc. This did not feel like a Rainbow title to me and I was becoming disappointed. I was almost expecting to be let down by the gameplay now after the poor showing with UI and already feeling so restricted by kit choice.
So much was forgiven after my first game! After quickly 101’ing the controls, I ran after my team towards a house. One guy asked the squad, “to get on to the roof so they could do some recon”. I instantly got a hint of them feels that the communication from days of old R6 were back! So I obliged. Enemies were spotted and they quickly planned a breach. I followed suit asking questions, to which I was getting informative answers. I soon became lost in tactical chatter and began sticking with people in squads. Over the four days that I managed to play the beta I spoke to more randoms and added more online friends (that I have continued to play with over other titles) than I have done in the last few years. I have also carried this over to other games now and I am wearing my mic a lot more when playing in lobbies with randoms.
Lobbies were fun! People were talking about new ideas, successful tactics and ones not so successful! Every time I signed on I ended up in a squad that stuck together and we developed some really good tactics or shared ones we’d learnt in other lobbies. It was refreshing and I didn’t realise how much I’d missed the R6 chat. One person I played with over the beta, who hadn’t played any other R6 game, started asking me what was different from the old titles to this one. I started listing my initial annoyances with the menu, the restrictiveness, no third person etc. He politely interrupted me and with much gusto, reeled off everything we had just done in the last game. He started to describe all the tactics and decisions we decided on and then more and more excitedly went on to when it the shit hit the fan but we still managed to bring our squad through it shouting out on the fly tactics. He said he’d downloaded the beta with little or no expectations as the franchise was new to him and that all the positives were screaming out at him. This broke me out of my comparison mode and made me realise that I was missing out. I changed my mindset to that of my new friend and the more I played the more it continued to absolve itself of its initial sins against it’s ancestors and I began appreciating this game for what it really is. A new breed of Rainbow 6.
Whether playing on Attack or Defence in PvP or being the last member of the squad alive with 20 terrorist to kill and everything in between, it gets extremely tense! Anticipation is built up due to the siege tactics, gadgets and map design. Going in loud from the off, setting up for that breach and creating organised mayhem really got my adrenaline going! Trying the slow and steady approach with silenced weapons has its own slower build of anticipation and had me holding my breath as though a smoke grenade had gone of in my lounge! When it all kicks off, oh and it will, the game literally explodes in to action. Barricades splinter and shatter, gun fire and explosions rip through walls, windows, floor sand ceilings. This creates new lines of sight for you to shoot through and be shot from. This dynamic element to the maps, along with multiple ways Defenders and Terrorists can set up traps and defensive postions, really keeps you on your toes and invites re-playability due to the numerous tactics that you can figure out yourself and between your team mates. The different combinations between your squad are more than plentiful. Even if the whole lobby choose to go in as Recruits, if you work as a team, you have a multitude of ways to deal with each situation you will come across.
Unlocking Operators only exaggerates the necessity for team work as their special gadgets are all very specific for a particular task some of them have a negative effect e.g. whilst using “I.Q” you have the ability to spot electronic equipment through walls using a screen that flips up from your left forearm. This now leaves you with only your secondary weapon, a choice of 2 pistols, and your view is impaired by a large screen that is a fuzzy blue. It does look cool, but not old school thermal or night-vision cool! To get the full or added benefits out of all most all of these Specials you really need at least one team mate to compliment it with either cover, breaching action, spotting or their Special.
Once an Operator is unlocked you can then begin to customise their weapons, as long as you have the renown to unlock the items. The items are limited and their representation followed the same theme as the UI. Boring and plain. This is a next gen, Tom Clancy title. I thought they would have gone all out on something jaw dropping and cool? Unfortunately not. With the addition of different Operators with unique special abilities I figured that a lot of people would all find the “best/cheapest” character and just use them. But Ubisoft have already thought of this with a clever restriction in the character selection screen, meaning that only one Operator can be live per mission. I would hate to go againt a team full of Fuzes!
I unlocked six during the beta (20 will be available to unlock on release) and each were enjoyable to use and had their place and skill-set that really came to life, with again, teamwork, communication and being creative. Just adding more options to when it comes to developing tactics.
Even though Ubisoft have gone off tangent from what I was used to with the addition of unlocking Operators and the restrictive nature of the whole character/equipment selection I can’t knock them with the direction they have chosen. Yes, I would still like to see the inclusion of “on the fly” options for gun attachments, a silencer at least. Also, I miss having the option of thermal and night vision. When that “fish eye” lens came down in R6V for thermal, with the deep blues and burning hot oranges-whites, picking out enemy shaped heat signatures, my immersion levels spiked! However, this direction they have took is designed and shaped around teamwork, depth and intense gameplay. It’s not just a “Rock, Paper, Scissor” scenario. Ubisoft have still managed to create that environment, where sound communication, teamwork and tactics pay off, now with even more intensity, tactical choices and ultimately satisfaction.
My experiences and hearing other peoples’ experiences during this beta reminded me that I need to embrace change and give them the benefit of the doubt to game developers, they are for a reason after all!
I’ll finish on something that will stay with me for a while and embraces my lasting impressions about this beta. I was playing with the gentleman who hadn’t played a Rainbow 6 title before. We had set up at a window each on different sides of the same room. Recon spotted two guys inside the room and one in the next to the back left. Our current tactic was a Repel+Thermite/Flashbang breach combo. He set the termite sparking away and said, “I really don’t need any other Rainbow 6 title….”, the thermite sent the barricade and a terrorist flying, he swung in through the detritus and shouted, “Bring on the SIEGE!!”
I agree, thoroughly.