E3 2014: Hands on with E3’s surprise game, Rainbow Six Siege

I attended the closed-door presentation of Rainbow Six Siege, where the developers explained the basic concepts behind the game. They’re pretty simple: the game is completely multi-player focused, taking place in a typical Rainbow Six universe where there are two clearly distinct groups. There’s also a 3rd protagonist: destructible walls, ceilings and floors. It’s a simple concept, but I think it’s going to change multi-player games forever.

Destroy that wall

Cops against bad guys, separated by a wall. Sure, it’s just a wall, but it’ll become a major obstacle for some, and the main defense for others. The wall came about in the conceptual phase of the game, so the developers decided they liked it, expanded on the idea, and watched it grow into a “fortress”. It’s also how Rainbow Six turns the concept of typical multi-player games on its head.

The fortress takes on a role that I’ve never seen in a game of this genre. In the only playable level– as things stand now–the fortress is a house where the criminals are holding a hostage that must be rescued by a SWAT team. As a result, the house is completely destructible.

This is what makes gameplay so enticing – the walls disintegrate with your shots, and explosions blow open holes that you’ll be able to pass or shoot through. There’s no safe zone, and the tension this generates is what makes the game so much fun.

The calm before the storm

At the start of the game, you’ve got one minute to prepare. The criminals can set traps like barbed wire, barricades, and protective structures to slow the forces of law. Likewise, the SWAT team have their own tricks. They’ve got small, remote-controlled robots they can send into the house to spy on the criminals, see where the hostage is stashed, and assess the traps they’ve laid. This preparation is pretty crazy – both teams know what the other is doing, but neither can do anything about it.

Once this first minute is up, the game starts, and that’s when things get crazy. The police have to get in, and they’ve got lots of options. They can rush a door, scale the exterior wall, drop in from above, blow holes in the garage door–basically, they can do whatever they want. The criminals are waiting inside, trying to figure out where they’re going to enter. Team coordination is essential.

When you’ve got visual contact with the other team, chaos takes over. Bullets fly, stuff breaks, explosions cause blinding clouds of smoke, and debris litters the floor. Then there’s calm, a few seconds to recover and see what went down. You make visual contact again, more shooting, and the teams separate. Then, you see who’s fallen (death is permanent in each round) and which strategies failed. One by one, police and criminals fall, until there’s only one standing, maybe even just the hostage.

Both groups have 3 character types: assault (focused on attack), armored (prepared to carry bombs and blow up walls), and protection (not great on attack, but with a shield to protect against bullets). There are also various weapons and equipment for you to choose from.

Awesome control, dozens of options

Controls are very accessible, which is just as well given the dozens of actions you can carry out simultaneously. The rappelling system, which I understood from the first minute I saw it, is testament to the game’s excellent design. The same goes for the barricade creation system, and the placement of bombs. You can play 3 games of Siege and you’ll have the whole thing totally under control.

What is it about Rainbow Six Siege that’s going to make your jaw drop? The visuals. It’s not just that the graphics are excellent– and they are– it’s more about how impressive all the destruction caused by the shooting and explosions is. Okay, so it’s a little OTT (real explosions don’t leave Swiss cheese holes in walls), but I don’t care. The game is pure entertainment, and every game plays out differently than the one before.

Ubisoft has unwisely conditioned us to expect a mind-blowing game every single year. Maybe this year, Rainbow Six Siege will be the game that E3 2014 is remembered for. It’s niche, popular only with a very specific type of gamer but regardless, it’s managed to surprise everyone. While we don’t yet have a release date for Rainbow Six Siege, it’s been slated for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

If you want more from E3, check out our first look at FIFA 15.

Follow me on Twitter: @raulprz

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