The opening cinematic for Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege introduces a new type of terrorist, a white-masked group that’s “indiscriminate of age, race, or religion.” This serves the game’s nonexistent campaign well, while also emphasizing the barren, aimless nature of the experience. Beyond the basic freeform variety with which players can infiltrate each of the 10 maps, there’s no compelling reason to do so. Everything’s right there in the title: In dry, asymmetric 5v5 multiplayer, players take turns sieging and defending destructible structures, and there’s nothing more to it than that. Even if the controls were perfect (leaning is a bit sticky on consoles), there’s little here that Counter-Strike hasn’t been doing for over a decade, and there’s none of the innovation of a title like Evolve.
Rainbow Six: Siege is a niche game, designed for hardcore players who’re part of a dedicated multiplayer community, and within that context, the game can be enjoyable. But as opposed to drop-in-and-play games like Team Fortress 2 or Battlefront, there’s no room here for handholding with solo players. The game’s actual multiplayer is timed, and relies upon constant communication, with some defenders focusing on barricading and planting traps while others use drones and cameras or set up nests from which to snipe, so it’s endlessly irritating when one player isolates themselves or fails to use their operator’s special abilities in conjunction with everyone else’s.
On the flipside, during the generally untimed Terrorist Hunt mode, it’s not unusual for a player to get picked off early on by a suicide bomber or friendly fire, and to then have to spend the remainder of the match as an irritable observer, or, worse, a backseat counter-terrorist, angrily barking orders at the surviving members of the squad. And while there’s a “Lone Wolf” option for these Terrorist Hunts (which is essentially the same as running the tutorial-like Situation mode), it serves only to reinforce that Rainbow Six: Siege’s tactics are designed for multiple players; it’s almost impossible to flank opponents on the Hard difficulty, let alone the Realistic one, when going it solo. (The result is far more tedious than tense.)
Operators help to add a bit of personality to the glacially paced game, or at least they do when they’re not buried in a Catch-22. In order to unlock the Operators that make Rainbow Six: Siege more enjoyable, players have to grind through the game itself as a faceless, skill-less Recruit. Worse, because Operators are unique, players may find themselves forced to go with a Recruit in Multiplayer if someone’s already chosen their desired character.
Most obnoxiously, because only a few of the Operators can be experimented with before purchase (in the Situation mode), and the cost of all other Operators in a given CTU increases with each acquisition, it’s possible for players to get stuck with characters that don’t compliment their play style. For example, I found myself absolutely useless with Fuze’s cluster charges and Montagne’s extendable shield, and Twitch’s shock drone is incredibly situational; there’s a reason why many players seemed in a rush to pick up the long-range sniper, Glaz, and breacher, Ash.
All of this is a shame, because the actual levels—the paltry 10 that currently exist—are colorful, well-designed sandboxes designed to maximize the number of possible maneuvers available to both teams. The Kafe Dostoyevsky, for instance, is festooned in the sort of cheerful Christmas decorations that bring Die Hard to mind (especially if players choose to rappel through the windows while upside down), whereas the Clubhouse features a German motorcycle gang’s trashy hangout in the midst of a more or less abandoned industrial park. Meanwhile, close-quarters combat is encouraged in the three-tier Presidential Plane and the innocent-seeming suburban House, though the latter’s surfaces are far more fragile. Rainbow Six: Siege can be enjoyable, then, but the barrier to entry is so high that it’s hard to recommend.