Rainbow Six Extraction Preview - Co-op Encounters of the Parasitic Shape-Shifting Kind
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 02:00am 08/01/22 | Comments
After spending a few hours with the co-op focused Rainbow Six Extraction it’s safe to say that Ubisoft’s “Left 4 Dead but super tactical” experiment is shaping up very nicely.
Right off the bat it’s worth stating that this preview comes from the perspective of someone with very little experience playing Rainbow Six Siege. The competitive tactical team-based affair that has become something of an online first-person mainstay. Outside of a basic understanding of its team-based multiplayer action, Operators, loadouts, and gadgets, you could count the number of hours I’ve played Siege on a single hand.
The same can’t be said of games in the co-op survival shooter genre, that style you can trace all the way back to Valve’s seminal Left 4 Dead. It’s one that has endured over the years thanks, in part, to experiences like Warhammer: Vermintide, Deep Rock Galactic, and a few others carrying the blood and goo soaked flag forward.
Referring to a genre by referencing a single title, ala Dark Souls or Metroid, is nothing new – it also doesn’t mean that they all play like that one thing. Much like with something you’d call a Souls-like or Metroidvania, there's enough wriggle room in the Left 4 Dead-slash-survival co-op shooter foundation to support a wide range of titles. Stuff that can still feel as fresh and unique in 2022 as Valve’s zombie outing did all the way back in 2008.
After a string of disappointing survival shooters in recent years, Rainbow Six Extraction looks to be… The One.
This is a roundabout way of saying that after a string of disappointing survival shooters in recent years, namely 2021’s “meh” combo of Back 4 Blood and Alien: Fireteam Elite, Rainbow Six Extraction looks to be… The One.
A big call to be sure, especially as we’re only talking about a few hours of hands-on time. But the end result after a recent extended preview session with Ubisoft was walking away fascinated by and excited about Extrasction’s blend of tactical, stealth, and all-out action sequences. And how it was all bolstered by the robust framework found in the game’s Rainbow Six Siege core. The diverse and varied Operators, destructible walls, precision shooting, great line-up of weapons, and cool-as-shit gadgets like the little robo drone you can use to mark targets and scout ahead.
Out of This World
Usually, having the Tom Clancy moniker ahead of a game’s title means you’re getting a game with a setting and narrative steeped in some version of reality. More specifically, a flag-waving fever dream where an aggressively patriotic attitude and military tech can solve just about any problem. Even though Rainbow Six Extraction carries the serious tone of the Rainbow Sixes and Tom Clancy outings of old, the premise here deals with the aftermath of an alien invasion.
Close encounters of the parasitic shape-shifting kind.
Simple enough, and different enough from stuff we’ve seen before. The art-style here is akin to Siege, albeit with alien creature designs that feel grounded and menacing in a way that suits the source material. In terms of sensibility and even pacing, missions play out like the ones found in something like GTFO versus the linear and chaotic nature of Left 4 Dead. There’s sneaking, using a flashlight, slower movement, and clearing pathways of alien infestation with a silenced pistol. Greyish sticky stuff that slows movement and damages you whenever you come into contact with it.
The alien invasion backdrop paves the way for missions across various dynamic and small-ish maps, where objectives can alter and change randomly, and the difficulty ramps up the deeper you go. Variation comes in the form of ET mob and alien-spawning nest placement, the aforementioned infestation, and the one-of-several objectives you’re tasked with. Capture a high-profile target for research, destroy certain special nests, triangulate this alien thingy for some reason. There’s quite a few on offer.
That said, the one that tasked us with planting a tracking thing inside a bunch of nests was confusing and clunky.
Mission gameplay captured from our hands-on session
For those that have put a number of hours into Siege you’ll no doubt jump in with a sense of tactical familiarity. For everyone else the pacing, tone, and objective side of Extraction will be the immediate identifier and differentiator compared to other survival shooters. From a pacing perspective, even though planning and being aware of your surroundings and exit strategy are key to survival, rounds end up playing out in minutes versus extended periods of non-action or tip-toeing through large areas.
In terms of sensibility and even pacing, missions play out like the ones found in something like GTFO versus the linear and chaotic nature of Left 4 Dead.
In fact, each three-zone map/mission you jump into carries with it a time-limit you probably won’t even notice - 15 minutes. As tactical as Rainbow Six Extraction can get, each stage within a mission is relatively breezy, fun, and even arcade-like. They’re also tense and challenging when the difficulty and action ramps up. This is a good thing because it all plays into the repetition found in how the overall game is set up. And the persistence of its alien invaded world.
Missions play out in various real world cities, we got to see New York, San Francisco, and Alaska, and from there objectives are seemingly randomised. Each mission has three stages that get progressively harder, with a very cool quarantine zone and moody smoke spewing doors breaking up each section. The cool part comes with the ability to bug out at any moment. In Extraction you can extract after you’ve completed one or two of the three stages/objectives. Or even extract after failing all three.
It’s a dynamic system that plays into Operator health outside of missions too, where downed and injured characters require time to heal – measured in number of missions played/attempted. Those left behind even spawn a new 'Rescue' mission type.
Before diving into progression and wading through the “endgame” weeds, it’s worth talking about the main events in Rainbow Six Extraction - which are the Operators, gadgets, loadouts, and alien threats you’ll face. When it comes to the latter you’ve got your melee chargers, the obligatory explodey aliens, small parasitic dealies that latch onto you, large tanky brutes with weak points, strange projectile firing Gand-Alfs, and even high-powered otherworldly replicas of the Operators you get to play.
With those battles taking place in an arena of sorts.
As tactical as Rainbow Six Extraction can get, each stage within a mission is relatively breezy, fun, and even arcade-like. They’re also tense and challenging when the difficulty and action ramps up.
Heading into a mission you get to pick an Operator, weapons, and gadgets, with striking a balance between all three players being that thing you should probably do. Make sure someone can heal, someone has a drone, someone can provide a little CC-action. With stun grenades, shields, drones, and several other gadgets (most of which unlock as you level each Operator) the flow is very much what you’d expect from a Rainbow Six Siege off-shoot. At this stage it’s hard to say how well balanced they all are in terms of their own special abilities, but the line-up is such that it would take several hours just to get a decent feel for them all.
Maelstrom Mode gameplay captured from our hands-on session
There’s a dose of that competitive team-based multiplayer feel here, where setting up before jumping into a round feels extremely important. Especially if you’re tackling the harder difficulties. Throw in the fact that downed or injured Operators need time to heal, there’s that additional pressure of picking the right fit. Will everyone make it back out alive? The persistent XCOM-like injury stuff bleeds over to the core stuff quite a bit. It makes the act of carrying a cocooned/downed team member all the way to a stasis pod located at the extraction point - as opposed to leaving them behind - a little bit of digital heroism.
The mix of objectives requiring coordination, and things like having certain gadgets working better against certain types of alien threats, all adds up to something much more than a gallery shooter. That thing where you’re basically just fending off waves of attackers.
Rainbow Six Extraction is as engaging when you’re dealing with a singular threat or scouting up ahead as it is when you’re facing off a rush of attackers and scrambling to jump through an open window to create a bit of distance. Even when you’re fending off waves, setting up a room with defences and being ‘tactically aware’ is paramount.
Bringing it back to Siege, the key thing to keep in mind is that Extraction benefits from the robust systems, Operators, gadgets, and mechanics that have been honed for several years. The scanning and then shooting a threat through a wall, setting up a makeshift barricade, sending off a drone via remote control on a portable display. It all works flawlessly.
Rainbow Six Extraction is as engaging when you’re dealing with a singular threat or scouting up ahead as it is when you’re facing off a rush of attackers and scrambling to jump through an open window to create a bit of distance.
The great news is that the team at Ubisoft has managed to create a solid co-op experience in and around all of that. During the closing moments of our hands-on session we got to try one of Extraction’s “endgame” modes - a weekly challenge called Maelstrom. Here curated static stages are stacked together, getting more and more difficult with the goal being to get as far as you can. With a score and ladder rank it instils a bit of competition alongside amplifying the co-operative challenge. For a Rainbow Six spin-off that’s a great place to be.
Rainbow Six Extraction is out January 20 for PS4, PS5, PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. It will also be available day on via Xbox Game Pass for PC and Console.