Hunkered down in a barricaded room with my last surviving squad member and the hostage whom we are to protect, we can do nothing but wait and listen as the seconds tick away. As the clock approaches one minute we know the opposition force must make a move. In a matter of seconds two barricaded windows, a blocked door, and a wall no longer exist. We are flanked from two sides simultaneously. A brief firefight ensues, one that we unfortunately lose. Even in defeat, Rainbow Six Siege is a thrill.

Rainbow Six Siege is a five-on-five tactical shooter in which it’s just as important, if not more so, to outthink the opposition than it is to outshoot them. The gameplay cycle consists of teams taking turns attacking and defending, with each match a best of five series on a single map and game mode.

Twenty operators, the game’s characters, are available to unlock, each with their own special ability and a small choice between usually a pair of weapons. Ten of these operators are for the attacking side, including Thatcher, who can disable electronics with an EMP grenade, which works great for disabling traps such as C4 explosives. Defenders can choose among operator’s including Bandit, who can attach a battery to metallic defenses like barbed wire or reinforced doors to electrocute the attacking forces.

As suggested by the box art, a large portion of Rainbow Six Siege focuses on destructible environments. Many operators come equipped with breaching charges to force their way through weaker walls, but that’s not the end of the story. Players can surprise the enemy by shooting through walls, ceilings, and floorswhich adds more flavor to the over all experience and catches those oblivious off-guard. Much of the game’s fun factor is found within the strategic nuance. Although initially at risk,  one must be creative in order to achieve a successful mission.

Both attackers and defenders should be listening for Siege’s helpful audio cues to their own advantage. If you have the ability to play this using surround sound speakers, it will not only provide a better experience but actually assist your play as well. Listening for the sounds of wooden barricades getting knocked down, footsteps over broken glass, or even players rappelling from the roof can be a matter of life or death.

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Siege’s ten included multiplayer maps offer a handful of modes, with each providing a variety of layouts to change how each bout plays. The same mode on the same map could have a different objective location every round. Random placement of objectives goes a long way in keeping the maps from feeling stale. Rather than approaching each map with a set strategy, you will be looking for new ways to navigate depending on the round’s. Game modes include a hostage rescue, bomb defusing, and securing an area, but it is rare for a team to ever win via the objective. The vast majority of rounds end with one team killed. This can be slightly frustrating, but at the same time is somewhat expected. With small maps, five man teams, and no more than two objectives points, avoiding conflict is nigh impossible.

Unfortunately, there are major matchmaking issues that can prevent individuals from entering play sessions. Siege launched roughly six weeks ago but it can still be difficult to hook up with other players unless you have a five man team ready to go. Even with a team of four, and playing several matches against enemy a.i in between, finding the fifth component of our team was a difficult task to accomplish.

For those times that matchmaking isn’t cooperating, you can do what we did and play some Terrorist Hunt. In this mode a squad of humans faces off against a team of much more than five AI controlled opponents. The game modes remain the same except for swapping out Secure Area, with standard Team Deathmatch (called Terrorist Hunt Classic). This can still be a lot of fun with friends, but difficulty ranges from too easy at times on Normal, to extremely difficult almost always on Realistic. Hard difficulty lies somewhere in the middle, providing a decent challenge without the frustration that can set in on Realistic difficulty.

While primarily multiplayer focused, there is a limited amount of content available for a single player. You can try your hand at Terrorist Hunt as a lone wolf, or jump into Situations mode. This serves both as a tutorial of sorts and a miniature campaign mode. Players are taken through a tour of some of the games operators spanning ten situations, unlocking an eleventh with a twist I won’t spoil here.

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Like many shooters and Ubisoft video games in general, Rainbow Six Siege has a plethora of microtransactions available to players, but is missing common sense options and in turn comes off feeling greedy. Every operator and weapon attachment is locked from the start of the game. Your method to unlock anything by playing is called Renown, which is earned simply by completing matches. Less patient or deeper pocketed players can opt to purchase R6 Credits, usable to purchase items directly instead of Renown, in packs up to $49.99. Unfortunately, even this will not be enough to unlock everything in the game.

Furthermore, Rainbow Six Siege offers a $29.99 season pass. It includes 600 R6 credits, good for unlocking just a single operator, and one week early access to DLC operators. There is little value to be found here unless a player would otherwise be purchasing operators at $5 each.

Over the course of four “seasons,” eight operators, four maps, new weapons, and new game modes will be added to the experience. To Ubisoft’s credit, all of these additions will be available to every player without requiring additional purchases. That said, the DLC operators will cost 25,000 Renown each, which is exactly equivalent to the amount it takes to unlock all ten of the base game operators. While it may not cost any real world money to play as these new operators, it will certainly be a major time investment. Ubisoft expects a player who puts in eight to ten hours of gameplay per week to unlock a single DLC operator in two to three weeks’ time.

The Final Say-So:

Rainbow Six Siege provides phenomenal moment-to-moment gameplay. The no-respawn multiplayer makes for an intense experience from beginning to end. Matches are short enough that “just one more” can go on for hours. It is unrivaled as a tactical shooter, but technical issues with matchmaking lead to painful wait times and drag down enjoyment with it. Support for the next year looks good as the community will not be split by DLC, but the in-game grind feels designed to push you towards microtransactions to experience everything there is to offer. Ultimately the gameplay reigns supreme and this is a title I would readily recommend to anybody interested in a tactical shooter.

Score: 8.2/10

Rainbow Six Siege was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a retail purchased copy.