When playing Rainbow Six Siege, did you ever think that this would make a pretty interesting solo or PvE game? Well, here it is! Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction!
Zombies! Or rather, archaebacteria.
With bizarre aliens appearing on Earth, it’s time once again for a strike team to save the world – or at least America. The nature of the enemy is unclear, so much of the background plot revolves around research and figuring out the enemy’s modus operandi. The archæans are dangerous and unknown creatures, so the only real opposition to them is the Rainbow Strike Team and their REACT unit, brought to life by Tom Clancy. First impressions of the game were positive, and the release does not disappoint with longer play.
The archæans have intruded on a few sites in the US, but have managed to isolate them into limited research areas. Opponents will attack those who dare to enter with force, so instead of laboratory pencil pushers, only highly-tuned commandos will be allowed into the areas. And even they can be easily killed if the soldiers aren’t careful. The action takes place either solo or online in teams of three. Group rhyming is not mandatory, as the difficulty level is dynamically scaled according to the number of players.
Each location has three randomly selected areas, which contain a variety of tasks ranging from triangulating positions to installing different sensors or killing enemies. The first area is always the easiest, at the end of which soldiers can either move on to the next, more difficult area or limp home in a rescue helicopter. The experience points you pick up increase as you progress, but health does not return between sub-areas. So, rather than taking unnecessary risks, it’s safer to limp home and catch your breath when you’re half dead.
Floating into the canvas isn’t terminal, as friends can revive the operator – plus the character can be equipped with a self-resuscitation spike. Even a whole team going limp or going solo won’t result in final defeat, as the soldiers’ basic equipment includes stasis foam, which preserves the body in a coma, waiting to be rescued in the next mission. After the rescue, the experience points accumulated are restored, but even if the rescue mission fails, the character returns to the infirmary having lost the experience.
There is a wide variety of operators, but often a large part of the team is either handcuffed, lost in the foam or at least in poor health. After all, a character’s health will be restored at the end of the mission. If an operator’s health falls below halfway, he or she becomes convalescent and unavailable for action. Incapacitated characters must start the mission without full health. Health is only restored with new missions, so the rotation of different characters is cleverly built around the sickness mechanism.
Don’t forget the silencer
But what about the action itself? The atmosphere will be familiar to those who’ve played Siege. Combat is tactically slow, with health dripping quickly from both enemies and operators. Everyone is equipped with a main and side weapon, a grenade, an accessory and a character-specific special item. Some characters are clearly more useful than others, with doctors and operators with scanners being particularly popular – and of course always on the sick bay.
Missions can be completed at a brisk pace by rushing through them, but smart players will sneak through slowly to the finish line. The field is full of sleeping nests, easily eliminated with a few shots or a knife. If a player manages to attract the attention of moving arch-enemies, they will activate nearby nests with a howl. The hives will then start letting out endless amounts of enemies, leaving no one to have any more fun. The birthing efforts only end when the nest is stapled.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tools for tactical advancement, from the remote-controlled car familiar from Siege to a wide variety of scanners. All operators can also see through slightly thin walls, making tight main views through crumbling walls feel almost like a cheat. Working tightly together, the job stays under control and the archaebacteria are kept in check. Some passages are almost enjoyable, as the trio snaps the enemies to a halt and stagger to the rescue helicopter with all three missions under their belts.
The problem is that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If one player decides to rush off, all players must put their sneaky gloves in their back pockets and rush in to destroy the activated nests. Particularly at the entry levels, not all operators have silenced main weapons at their disposal, leaving limited room for sneak attacks. This is almost a design flaw, as even if one player chooses a shotgun operator, it becomes really difficult.
Fortunately for operators, new weapons and better specialised equipment are becoming available. But this will require some grunt work. For example, Rook from Siege is a clever trickster, offering armour for the whole team. However, at entry level, only a silent shotgun is available, so leveling up requires either a silent pistol or a loud rattle before unlocking a silenced main gun.
By all accounts, Extraction is a difficult game, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. The easiest difficulty level is called medium, and above that there are three harder difficulty levels. Each additional risk yields better experience point bonuses, but the skill level of each player on the team should scale with the difficulty levels. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of hitting waves of enemies and then wrapping operators in protective foam.
Further difficulty is created by the surface-coating and movement-slowing slime that the nests spread around their environment. Bullets and gunpowder clean the floor, but in a tight space there is no time for such finesse. On the other hand, the operators’ special equipment levels the playing field.
In addition to the experience points that upgrade the operators’ equipment, progressing through the story requires completing a variety of tasks. In the beginning, these are simple mechanics and enemy demonstrations, such as pinging things and listing specific enemy types. As you complete them, new towns are unlocked, each containing three police station or Liberty Island-like field packs. With three randomly-ordered sub-areas in each pack, and over ten different mission types, the number of combinations is quite large.
Sneaking around in the action wrappers
The strength and weakness of Extraction lies in its sneaky focus. If you’re creeping along at a leisurely pace, picking off nests one by one, getting through the fields can be a real slog. But when the peace is broken, you’re in for quite a tailspin in no time. The hives are endlessly churning out enemies, and it’s not easy to recover lost health. In this case, it may still be possible to pass the field, but it’s best to stop advancing, as advancing when you’re out of health is an extreme risk.
Extraction is fair. The tasks are just as difficult as you can make them by pushing yourself. There is no need to take risks, and it is possible to leave the tasks at the first level without progressing further into the next area. In practice, this makes sense if the area has gone up in smoke and damage has been taken. Even the difficulty level should only be increased in line with your own confidence level. The risk analyst in the head should be in a constant state of hypersensitivity.
This is a kind of experiment in cooperative hedging packaged in the form of a weapon. Many Siege players might be disappointed by the amount of sneaking, because action will not pass this game. On the other hand, those who enjoy Left 4 Dead may feel at home, as it’s not entirely unreasonable to claim that zombies have simply been replaced by various aliens – using Siege’s game engine.
It is possible that many would have liked more rampage and less backstabbing knife-fighting. Overall, Extraction will appeal to many, but it won’t be a classic like Siege. Nevertheless, the package is excellent in its genre, as long as you don’t make the mistake of playing it as a shooting game.