games have a long history of focusing on tactics, stealth, and outright action. An identity that has led to the competitive-focused Rainbow Six Siege
carving out a little slice of its own in the shooter space. A unique blend of Operators, gadgets, and dynamic maps where recon drones, wall breaches, and makeshift barriers sit alongside military-grade weapons. At least that’s the idea, there’s not a lot of actual hands-on time with Siege from yours truly.
Co-op shooter-isin’ on the other hand… now we’re talking. From the dawn of the
very-lively genre with Valve’s Left 4 Dead
in 2007, through to the Cameronian sci-fi offshoot Aliens: Fireteam Elite
from last year. And everything in between and deep underground
. This isn’t said as a form of resume, or to add a Phd-style introduction to a lecture on the merits and overall historical relevance of Rainbow Six Extraction
; Ubisoft’s three-team co-op shooter where repetition and variety go gadget-in-hand.
Instead it’s to simply state that Extraction plays unlike anything else we’ve seen in this space.
But first, aliens! Yeah, for a Tom Clancy-based adventure in changing firearm grips and Holo sights, having the antagonists be a mysterious race of shape-shifting alien creatures is a little strange. Parasitic extraterrestrials that have come to Earth to spread their goo and pulsate to the beat of their own space-drum. Part of the strangeness comes from Rainbow Six Extraction being, for all intents and purposes, a Rainbow Six Siege spin-off. You’ve got the same engine, similar weapons, the same Operators, and that ™
focus on tactics, stealth, and outright action.
Extraction plays unlike anything else we’ve seen in this space.
Whereas that could very much read like a negative statement on the ambition and quality on display, being a Rainbow Six Siege spin-off goes a long way to instilling Extraction with a sense of identity. That is, in the lecturial genre-iffic sense of the term. An identity born from the tactical and stealth-based nature of Tommy C-style incursions and missions where small maps, spatial awareness, and a back-pocket full of zip-ties are the order of the day.
Here it’s creeping around, taking out pulsating nests, locating objectives, carefully sniping a few Archæans, and making a tactical exit or move to the next airlock.
That whole identity line is also in reference to Extraction being a game just about entirely made up of specific systems, mechanics, and progression. It’s not strange for a game to feature a learning curve or “getting to know you” period. This is certainly true of Rainbow Six Extraction. Here though it's elongated and leads to somewhat complex repetition before eventual familiarity. Each incursion has three stages, each more challenging than the one before. Each stage features one of many random objectives. Take out nests, capture a high-value target, triangulate some data, and so on.
During any stage you can extract, even if you haven’t completed an objective. Everything earns you a taste of XP, and before each incursion you choose what Operator (paired with their own special ability/gadget) to take in. And that’s just the beginning.
The above info dump doesn’t really need to make sense, other than to serve as a segue-way of sorts into the overall “flow and feel” of Rainbow Six Extraction. Being a tactical co-op dealy you might be thinking that the pacing here would be slow. As long as you’re playing with a “yo, lets not be swarmed by Archæans” mindset, Extraction’s pace is indeed that. Especially when placed next to a co-op shooter where horde mechanics result in the regular emptying of clips into, well, hordes.
But, there is a fast-paced arcade element at play. Something that can be attributed to the small maps and the game’s roots in the online space. Stages inside incursions have a 15-minute time-limit, and it’s pretty impressive how that’s more than enough time to recon, plan, breach, and react/adapt in order to complete an objective. To the game's credit, when things go wrong they tend to devolve very quickly. And always with a sense of the exact moment where it all began to fall apart.
Being a Rainbow Six Siege spin-off goes a long way to instilling Extraction with a sense of identity. An identity born from the tactical and stealth-based nature of Tommy C-style incursions and missions.
The focus on stealth and tactics gives Extraction a different feel than most co-op games, and with the added sense of danger in the form of Operator injury and even capture, it's one that’s often tense and exhilarating. Having to go on a rescue mission or simply change things up as one Operator heals over time.
World persistence and progression add life to an otherwise sterile and bland game.
Yeah, that whole thing about systems and mechanics being a big part of the Extraction story – it’s also born from the lack of, well, stimulation that comes from the visuals, presentation, and even sound-design. Clinical would be one way to describe it, but the Archæans never feel like more than enemies to shoot or take-out. There’s a lack of terror and horror. Which is pretty damning for a world in which parasitic aliens have taken over and can mimic humans to become hard-hitting boss-like foes.
The art direction is competent enough, and technically, Rainbow Six Extraction runs exceptionally well across PC and console. The former supports both NVIDIA DLSS and Reflex technologies. It’s just that the RNG of what objectives you get, and in what order, will rile up a more measurable response versus anything lore-based. For a game with alien goo that spreads like Zerg creep it’s a shame that it’s locations are a little bland and lifeless. Which makes solo-play uninteresting.
The narrative underpinning all of Extraction’s extracting is boring too. You’ve got these Operators, but you basically have to assume they have personalities because the game never elevates them above being choices on a fighting game character-select screen. This means you’re more focused on unlocking the admittedly cool Maelstrom Protocol mode, an escalating set of challenges set across multiple stages where teams are challenged to see how far they can go, as opposed to, you know, getting a little backstory or finding out exactly what’s happening on the resistance front.
For a game with alien goo that spreads like Zerg creep it’s a shame that it’s locations are a little bland and lifeless. Which makes solo-play uninteresting.
And so the flow becomes, levelling Operators, working up the difficulty levels, replaying the same maps over and over, unlocking stuff, and moving all of the progression bars a little further down the line. Take out the Operators and there’s an overall slightness; small, focused, and contained. Add in levelling over a dozen characters and progression feels artificially inflated. Granted, Rainbow Six Extraction provides several hours of engaging tactical co-op fun, but there’s not a lot to it once all of the learning has happened.
As a Rainbow Six Siege spin-off it’s fun to see all of the gadgets and mechanics of that game make their way over into the co-op space. The gun-feel is also on point. The ease at which you can throw out a recon drone or line up a head-shot through a wall is endlessly satisfying. And with all of its tactical stealthiness, Extraction plays unlike anything else we’ve seen in the co-op space. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to give the experience a true identity it can call its own.