Rainbow Six Extraction Review: Rainbow Six Rogue-lite Is Rip-Roaring Fun, But What About Its Endgame?
Rainbow Six Extraction had me skeptical at first. I’ve been playing Siege for roughly five years, and I absolutely love it. There’s just the right amount of competitiveness, combined with some of my favorite first-person shooter mechanics and map design. What I saw in Rainbow Six Extraction made me nervous. I wasn’t sure if Ubisoft Montreal’s recipe for Siege could be applied to a PvE setting. How would reinforcing walls and barricading doors work? Would gadgets like Fuze’s cluster bomb still meme? And would Lord Tachanka’s mounted machine gun chugga-chugga?
Thankfully, Ubisoft has won me over. Rainbow Six Extraction is a good game. It’s got a killer gameplay loop at its core, as well as decent world-building and enemies, but not all of it works. The jury’s still out on longevity and some of the mechanics that didn’t cross over from Siege.
Thrilling Rogue-lite Gameplay Loop
Rainbow Six Extraction is a tactical first-person shooter for one to three players that supports crossplay and cross-save. A key aspect of the game is the high-stakes gameplay. It has four deployable zones, with three levels, and each of which has three sub-levels. Once you’ve deployed, you’ll have 15 minutes to complete a random objective to earn XP, from rescuing a VIP to blowing up alien tendrils to scanning an area, or anything else – there’s quite a range.
Once you’ve attained your goal, it’s time to extract and bank the XP you’ve collected for upgrades – or is it? If you head to the airlock, you can head down a level and gamble the XP you’ve gained, take on another objective, and increase your rewards.
Naturally, sub-levels two and three are harder than the first one. If you die, not only do you lose your XP, but your operator goes MIA. This mechanic, especially in the early hours of Rainbow Six Extraction, is brutal. You lose XP on top of the XP you failed to bank and lose that operator on the level they died on – and when I say lose, I mean they’re unplayable.
But all is not lost. You may head back into the containment zone with another character and attempt a rescue. If successful, you’ll get them back, slightly injured, but apparently unaffected by their ordeal. Fail, and you’ll lose another operator and have to attempt to rescue them instead.
Further to this mechanic, your operators start with 100hp. However, if they get knocked about by alien baddies, fall below 20hp, but finish a mission, they’ll become ‘injured,’ and they’ll be unavailable to deploy until you extract more XP from containment zones.
The more XP you extract, the quicker they’ll heal. Oh, and to up the ante further, you can get more XP from doing missions on higher difficulty levels (there’s four in total).
This rogue-lite gameplay loop makes for some interesting dilemmas between you and your teammates: If one of you has lost a lot of health, but two of you haven’t, do you crack on, or extract? Running low on operators because many of them are injured: do you attempt a higher level of difficulty to earn lots of XP quickly?
Making these decisions, putting everything on the line, winning or even, losing makes decisions whether to extract or gamble thrilling. I recall several times where my team and I were in pretty good shape after completing an objective, ready to push on, only to be humbled by enemies we’d not anticipated, carrying one another back to the chopper and lamenting our stupidity.
Things start to get interesting as you ratchet up the difficulty. Similar to corruption cards in Back 4 Blood, parasite mutations add punishing mechanics to make your life miserable as you attempt to complete a rundown. For instance, cloaked enemies, blinding spore carriers, chimera fog, all force you and your team to take a different approach to tackle the threats you face.
The reward for overcoming these challenges is obviously increased XP, crucial for upgrading operators and equipment, incentivizing more challenging difficulties.
Punishing Combat Makes For A Steep Learning Curve (And That’s Great!)
The first few hours of Rainbow Six Extraction is like trying to run a marathon after sitting on the couch for two years. It’s brutal. You’ll struggle to keep pace and won’t make the finish line. On ‘Moderate,’ the game’s easiest difficulty, enemies (which the game calls Archaeans) will kill you in a couple of hits, and I’m talking about the bog-standard grunts here.
Speaking of enemies, by my count, there’s 13 in the game, and all of them present a unique challenge. Spikers spam projectiles continuously, killing you quickly if you don’t deal with them. Rooters slam their arms into the floor, summoning rows of spikes that really hurt. And then, there’s the Proteans: facsimiles of your operators replete with a suite of new abilities and a ridiculous amount of health.
Facing all these enemies at once can become quite overwhelming. In a team, enemy density is increased compared to playing solo, and certainly, on greater difficulties, the game throws different enemy types at you, requiring different strategies simultaneously. It’s great fun when you’re pinging a spiker for your teammate to deal with, only for an exploder to pop up behind you, and well, explode.
Actually shooting Archaeans is just as satisfying as doming a spawn-peeker on Chalet. Indeed, Ubisoft must be commended for replicating how Siege ‘feels’ in Rainbow Six Extraction. I’ve switched between the two during my review, and the movement, aim, and weightiness of your operators feels the same. What’s also identical, is that both games reward precision. Instead of unloading several shots at it, a well-placed headshot will stop a grunt in its tracks. It’s the same for Rooters and other minor enemy types.
But it’s not all about shooting in Rainbow Six Extraction. Your operators have an arsenal of gadgetry and tactical paraphernalia at their disposal – some of which you’ll recognise from Siege. For instance, smoke grenades not only provide cover, but they also allow you to blind your enemies, allowing you to sneak in and perform ‘takedowns’ one-hit-kills which become invaluable on higher difficulties.
New additions include glue grenades, which like the name suggests, hold Archaeans in place for you to pick off, as well as the field wall, a deployable force field that protects you from projectiles.
Operator-specific gadgets return as well, some of which function the same as they do in Siege, and others have been reimagined, all of them, however, are upgradable. Sledge’s hammer, for instance, still smashes cardboard walls, Doc still heals with his Stim pistol. Where things get a little more creative are with characters such as Vigil and Alibi. The former now cloaks himself, which is upgraded and can be expanded to cloak the entire team. Alibi’s Prisma now actively attracts enemies.
Questions About The Endgame And Missing Mechanics
Despite great combat and a compelling gameplay loop, there are questions about some of the mechanics that have been brought over from Siege, and some that are missing. The grapple, as well as the verticality, enjoyed when assaulting objectives didn’t make their way over to Rainbow Six Extraction, and I think the game is poorer for it.
There’s nothing like zipping up the first floor, sticking a breaching charge on a window, going upside down, and picking off unsuspecting enemies, while your team infiltrates from inside the building. Instead, many of the levels are quite linear and flat, with limited ways to, quite literally, elevate your combat.
I can’t help but shake the feeling that reinforcing walls and barricading doors feels like it was included for the sake of including them. Besides, when I’m trying to free an MIA operator, to shore up and create a defensible position, I rarely used them during my 16-hours or so with the game. And I think this is a shame because, in the 337 hours I’ve spent with Siege, the twin dichotomy of how to defend a site, and how to open up a site is a core component of the game’s value proposition.
This is down to how the game has been built. There aren’t many places to reinforce, doors to barricade, etc. It’s almost as if Ubisoft cut and pasted the gunplay from Siege into Rainbow Six Extraction, and then tacked on the reinforcement elements of it later during the development process. Going forwards, as Ubisoft inevitably adds to the game, they’d do well to think about how to bring reinforcing walls and barricading doors more into the experience.
Finally, after you’ve completed a series of challenges on each deployable zone, maxed out your operator, and unlocked all gadgets, guns, and the rest of it, what’s next? Ubisoft seems to think we’ll all be playing Maelstrom Protocol, an endgame game mode, which takes the core gameplay loop, ratchets up the mutations and enemy density, decreases supplies and time, and limits your choice of operator. The reward? Extra XP and a shot at in-store cosmetics.
Is this enough to keep me coming back for more? Right now, compared to Destiny 2, with its raids, dungeons, and compelling loot, no.
Like The Chimera Parasite Rainbow Six Extraction Will Grow Over Time
I was wrong about Rainbow Six Extraction. It’s good fun and feels like a meaningful extension of the Rainbow Six franchise. It’s also priced very competitively, starting at $39.99/£31.99 for the cost of admission. It’s actually got fairly decent background lore and story to it, which is a welcome and unexpected bonus.
While I do have reservations about how long we’ll be playing this game for, as well as mechanics that got left behind, given Ubisoft’s commitment to Rainbow Six Siege, and how much they’ve continued to support and add to that game, I’ve no doubt that they’ll do the same with Rainbow Six Extraction. A year or two from now, I’m certain we’ll have a compelling reason to continue playing this game.
Evaluating what we have right now, I think it’s a great price for a great game, so, as long as you’ve got two friends to play with, you’re going to have a blast. And if you’ve made it all the way down here, and want to know if Lord Tachanka’s mounted machine gun still chugga-chugga’s, well, comrade, it does, it most certainly does.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Stadia; Publisher: Ubisoft; Developer: Ubisoft; Players: 1-3; Released: January 20, 2022; MSRP: $39.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.