Title: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction Released On: January 20, 2022 Genre: Cooperative FPS Reviewed On: Xbox Series X Developer: Ubisoft Montreal Publisher: Ubisoft MSRP: $39.99 USD / $49.99 CAD
There are no shortage of cooperative PvE shooters in 2022, pitting players against zombies, aliens, mummies, and likely zombies again. It’s against this backdrop that Ubisoft has released Rainbow Six Extraction, bringing the PvP gameplay of their 2015 multiplayer hit into a completely different arena. The evolution not only completely shakes up Siege‘s player versus player structure, but adds in some new ideas to the cooperative shooter that are well adapted and create an enticing gameplay loop. In focusing on player-earned reward structure and a connection to your operators, Ubisoft Montreal has successfully adapted Rainbow Six Siege‘s gameplay into an experience that largely surpasses its cooperative brethren.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction is an evolution of Rainbow Six Siege’s 2018 Outbreak mode, which pits a group of operators against the Archæans , a parasitic alien invasion that has simultaneously erupted across the globe. Featuring a return of the exceptionally well-tuned first-person shooter gameplay in Siege, players work through objective-based levels to complete research and rank up their operatives. The purely competitive gameplay mode from Rainbow Six Siege has been transposed to a cooperative arena, making Extraction an impressively well-executed experience.
It tracks that the logical group who would be called upon to handle this type of global crisis would be none other than the operators of Team Rainbow. Comprised of veteran soldiers in world’s most elite task forces, there really isn’t another fictional or factual group that is better placed to respond to the Archæan threat. Enter REACT, the Rainbow Exogenous Analysis and Containment Team, a newly formed organization spearheading the resistance effort and responsible for coordinating boots on the ground in operations against the parasite.
The evolution from Siege to Extraction is not purely in terms of the gameplay structure, but follows thematically from its predecessor as well. Veteran operatives Thermite and Ash have stepped back from the frontlines to take on a logistical support role in operations and feature heavily in the game’s narrative and cutscenes, but a large number of operators from Siege have shown up to fight against the Archæans, specifically those whose abilities are adaptable to this new arena of combat. You’ll start with nine operators, and as you progress through Regions working on specific challenges to progress field research and your overall REACT level, you will unlock new teams of operators to take into the fray, up to a total of 18.
Players will enter each incursion, made up of three separate zones on a single map, in squads of up to three operators. Though the difficulty does scale to the number off players present in the mission, we strongly recommend bringing along at least one partner after our experience trying to overcome some of the objectives; more eyes can cover more corners or entries, and some of the objectives can be downright punishing when tackled alone. Beyond simply bringing more guns to the fight, each Operator comes equipped with a primary and secondary weapon, their signature ability, and two equipment slots; all of which can be modified or upgraded by progressing through the experience levels. Having additional abilities and gear on hand expands the number of ways in which the group can tackle the challenges they’ll face and improves odds of success and survival alike.
While each operator brings their own unique skillset to the fight, for us operators like Vigil, Alibi and Pulse took front stage in Extraction, with their abilities migrating effectively from engagements with other operatives to the war against the Archæans. Not every operator’s ability makes for a surefire win in every scenario, but much like Siege each has an integral function that can mean the difference between a successful extraction and a bitter defeat. Since we opted to approach all of our engagements as stealthily as possible, utilizing operators and equipment that would allow us to spot enemies or captured allies — or distract Archæans without aggroing them — were our bread and butter.
At launch, Rainbow Six Extraction features four regions in America containing three maps each. Players can expect a relatively static map layout each time, divided into three zones, but plenty of procedurally-generated changes that freshen up the gameplay experience in between playthroughs. Those familiar with Siege‘s destructible environments will feel right at home bursting through walls when needed or reinforcing gaps in the cover to funnel shape the battlefield to their advantage and work towards the objectives assigned to the team.
Loading into the incursion, each zone is given a specific objective that your squad should accomplish before moving on to the next challenge; each subsequent zone throws more difficult enemies into the mix and ups the stakes. Objectives in Extraction are focused on understanding and eliminating the Archæan threat and require that operators scout the infested locales to mark Archæan nests, take out a high priority targets, recover technology, exfiltrate assets, and more. It’s entirely possible to fail objectives if you’re not paying close enough attention, but operators are also thrown a pair of lifelines to. At any point in an objective, players can exfiltrate from the prescribed location or even bypass the objective entirely to move into the next zone. The experience points are awarded to completed objectives only, and objective failure does not necessarily scrub the mission; operators can still continue into successive zones and keep pushing towards the end.
You can choose to tackle incursions stealthily or with measured aggression, but the game is very deliberately geared towards employing with a tactical approach. Archæan nests and enemies are strewn across every zone, and once alerted to your presence the nests will continuously spawn new enemies until they are destroyed. We found that taking out as many nests as we could would dramatically increase our chances at completing an objective; the few times we ignored the premise put us back on our heels against wave upon wave of enemies with little chance to regain ground against the nests. More often than not, aggravating the Archæans too early led to a disappointing and violent end of the run.
Losing an operator to the Archæans is much more detrimental to the REACT effort than many other games that would just bump you back to the safety of a checkpoint: in Rainbow Six Extraction, you will have to go back into the same map later and rescue your fallen operator from the Archæans if you want to use them again. While they’re MIA, all experience they’ve accrued under their individual progression ceases to contribute to the overall REACT level, but is restored when the operator returns. Moreover, an operator’s health score (out of 100) persists between missions and only heals up a few points at a time based on the experience rewarded for successful incursions.
More so than any unlockable cosmetics, this is what we felt created the greatest enticement towards the gameplay loop. Losing an operator, especially one that was integral to your specific gameplay style, felt like a serious blow to the REACT roster. For us it didn’t matter at what point we were in a research assignment or towards unlocking something new; the priority immediately became to rescue that operative.
One of the permeating issues behind enjoyable longevity in level-based cooperative shooters is that they need to instill an enticement; a drive for the player to want to keep coming back to replay what are essentially the same levels with some mixed up objectives. Whereas most games lean on this thirst for replayability through a battle pass or in-game unlockables, Rainbow Six Extraction mostly eschews these quests for shiny objects that pull at our lizard-brains in exchange for tugging on something else: our hearts.
Perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch if you haven’t formed an emotional attachment to your operators, but you definitely should have if you’re not a monster. What else separates us from the Archæans if not the bonds we form with our fellow human beings, especially ones we’ve been fighting alongside for the past six years on Team Rainbow? But I digress.
Having the core driving factor behind many of your incursions be the rescue of lost REACT operators is a compelling and motivating force. I cared a lot more about saving Alibi from the clutches of an Archæan Tree than I did about unlocking a new skin for Sledge. Not to say that the unlockable skins aren’t enticing — some of the Maelstrom Protocol skins look absolutely stellar — but I was far more motivated to save my teammates and reunite the team. While I don’t doubt that we’ll see some sort of seasonal progression in the future for Extraction, the game has an enjoyable replayability that stands on its own without needing to rely on timed-cosmetics to entice players.
At the outset of each mission run, successful or otherwise, the measure of the attempt is rewarded to the operator(s) at hand. Experience is awarded for tactical movements (such as stealthy backstabs or weak spot kills), number of enemies dispatched, objectives completed, and a bonus percentage applied on top for a successful extraction and your overall performance. The amount of XP doled out directly fuels the healing of all injured operators on the team, but also drives progression of the returning operator’s and unlocks additional weaponry or expands their signature ability.
For players that are looking to step up the challenge to their incursions and compete against others in a Ranked leaderboard, Extraction has the Maelstrom Protocol. These weekly events pit operators against a seemingly never-ending set of objectives with a reduced operator pool and limited resources. Achieving a rank between Bronze and Diamond rewards the player with an exclusive seasonal cosmetic for their operator, so those looking for timed rewards will find something to grind towards here. Some skins are exclusive to the store and can only be purchased with R6 credits — which you can earn through placing in Maelstrom Protocol — but the majority of operator and weapon skins can be unlocked by progressing through the maps and completing your field research, or by levelling up the specific operative.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction is the culmination of Rainbow Six Siege‘s highly-refined gameplay with an entirely new level of strategy added in. With no shortage of locations to infiltrate at launch, and the Maelstrom Protocol to keep more hardcore players pushing for extra rewards, there is a lot of replayability tucked away in Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction. The biggest test of a PvE shooter is its ability to survive past its initial launch hype, and we think that Extraction has what it takes to go the long haul so long as we see a regular influx of new operators and locations and it doesn’t rely heavily on Maelstrom Protocol remixes in lieu of actual new content.
Rainbow Six Extraction may not revolutioniRainbow Six Extraction may not revolutionize the cooperative first person shooter but it does present some novel ideas that create an enticing gameplay loop. Having to rescue fallen operatives from the clutches of the Archæans and completing location-specific research objectives to advance your REACT level are well fleshed-out concepts. Knowing that a single wrong move may mean the loss of your favorite operator creates a tenseness within every incursion that really makes you want to approach missions like a true agent.
Final Score: 8/10
Rainbow Six Extraction may not revolutionize the cooperative first person shooter but it does present some novel ideas that create an enticing gameplay loop.
The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.