Rainbow Six Extraction, first and foremost, is an extension of a well-established IP. After initial disappointment and copious amounts of developer support, Rainbow Six Siege – the online-only reboot of the series released in 2015 – surpassed all of Ubisoft’s expectations and became a multi-year ongoing game (dubbed games as a service in industry parlance). As of two Decembers ago, after launching on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X, Rainbow Six Siege has registered 70 million players across all platforms. For one thing, that’s why there hasn’t been a new Rainbow Six game in over six years. On the other hand, a new title (which appealed to a different player market) seemed inevitable. And that’s what we have with Rainbow Six Extraction, launching globally on Thursday.
Drawing on Rainbow Six Siege’s Outbreak game mode, Rainbow Six Extraction is a spin-off in principle. It brings the Six Siege roster of characters – or Operators, as they’re known – to Extraction and thrusts them into an alternate reality where they must face off against an alien race known simply as the Parasite. As you can tell right away, Rainbow Six Extraction is not a player versus player (PvP) experience, unlike its main cousin. It is now a cooperative player versus environment (PvE) game, with squads of up to three players being sent into arenas to complete a series of objectives. There’s no campaign, though – no narrative or connective tissue, just a bunch of levels that you revisit over and over again, which ultimately felt contrived and manufactured to me.
The wait is on for those wanting another Rainbow Six title with a proper single-player campaign – the last of which was Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, released in 2008. As many years between that and the release of Rainbow Six Siege, as there are roughly between Siege and Rainbow Six Extraction. Without the narrative-driven single-player mode for 14 years, it seems unlikely that we’ll ever get a Rainbow Six title with a proper campaign again.
Rainbow Six Extraction is a very calculated approach from Ubisoft. It is made for those who are not interested in multiplayer PvP titles like Rainbow Six Siege. But by having Siege Operators in the extraction he is also trying to appeal to the existing player base. And Ubisoft is clearly hoping that Rainbow Six Extraction will funnel new players into Rainbow Six Siege, given the connective tissue. You could argue that Extraction is a multi-million dollar marketing effort simply to attract new blood.
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Except Rainbow Six Extraction – developed by a team at Ubisoft Montréal, led by Far Cry New Dawn co-director Patrik Methé and For Honor designer Alicia Fortier – isn’t really for everyone. One of the biggest problems is the game’s impressive difficulty curve. Even the lowest difficulty level is too much. I mean, it’s called “moderate”. Does anyone at Ubisoft Montreal understand the meaning of the term? Moderate would have been more appropriate for a medium-level difficulty, except that there’s nothing below that in Rainbow Six Extraction. Following moderate, you have “cautious”, “severe” and “critical” – all of which were clearly beyond us. I say we, because I mostly played Extraction with two of my friends. And we all struggle to stay alive, to make meaningful progress.
While Rainbow Six Extraction doesn’t have a campaign, it does offer progression. The game starts in New York City with three distinct locations: a hotel, a police station, and Liberty Island. All of these locations have been taken over by the Parasite, which means they are devoid of civilians – and anything resembling a hotel, a station or the Statue of Liberty. Anyway, you spend all your time inside buildings that look more or less the same, so it doesn’t matter where you are. Still, Rainbow Six Extraction will take you across the US as you level up, unlocking new arenas – warehouses, basically – from San Francisco to Alaska and beyond. Your characters can also level up, improving at what they do. And you earn tech points to unlock new, well, tech.
But if you struggle due to difficulty – which all three of us did – it also means your experience of the game is severely limited. (Rainbow Six Extraction adjusts its difficulty based on the number of players in your squad, for what it’s worth.) Every minute we spent in Rainbow Six Extraction was restricted to one of the three available arenas in New York City, as progression is naturally hard to come by when you keep dying over and over again. It’s no fun playing the same location over and over again, especially when you’re losing most of the time and even more so when there’s no greater point to it all. Having to replay the same level dozens of times can be frustrating and turn into work – and that’s the last thing video games should feel.
Rainbow Six Extraction’s difficulty is made even greater by the way the game was designed. An Operator’s health is critical — not only does it not heal itself during missions, you can’t restore it either. The medical kits you’ll find in Rainbow Six Extraction only offer a temporary health boost, which decreases as you continue to play. Also, health doesn’t reset to original levels even after you return from a quest. To do this, you must allow your Operator to rest – this feels even more contrived given there’s no campaign. Ubisoft clearly intended this to ensure that you switch between Operators and that none of them are left behind as you level up. But you could argue that this creates padding and increases the speed of progression.
If an Operator’s health drops to zero, teammates can help revive them – but only once. The next time this happens they will be knocked out. Except in Rainbow Six Extraction, this takes the form of Operators being encased in stasis foam. Teammates can save them by extracting them to a safe place. But if you don’t, all knocked out operators will be declared missing in action (MIA). Operators you lose cannot be chosen for future missions in the same arena. Well, not until you rescue them anyway – doing more extractions from said location. Rainbow Six Extraction’s MIA mechanic also triggers if players get disconnected from the server, which is simply the worst. You can wait for them to come back, but the game doesn’t stop – you have to survive on your own while they’re gone.
Naturally, given Rainbow Six Extraction’s steep difficulty curve, we lost a lot of Operators to the MIA mechanic during our time with the game. But even when we managed to stay alive, we couldn’t do enough. And this is due to the combination of two things: stealth + enemy respawn. If the aliens find you, they will scream and call for friends. If you make too much noise, you’ll attract more aliens. Essentially, Rainbow Six Extraction pushes you to be stealthy, except it’s not easily achieved. Taking down the aliens from behind was a success. And not all operator weapons have a suppressor (to minimize sound), a situation that is further exacerbated when you lose operators left, right and center. There aren’t many places to turn, with dwindling options.
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And if you end up attracting attention – which we did most of the time – the Rainbow Six Extraction aliens usually overpower you. This brings us to the second variable: reappearance. Parasite’s minions spawn from nests that endlessly spawn replacements. The only way to stop this is to destroy the nest. But it’s not always clear where they’re coming from, and/or it’s easier said than done to get to a nest when you have limited health and there are seemingly endless aliens in your path. This again contributes to a sense of fulfillment within Rainbow Six Extraction.
Technically speaking, Rainbow Six Extraction is well designed. The sound design is on point – sneaking up on aliens indoors should feel scary and leave you on edge, and that’s exactly what Ubisoft Montreal delivers here. You can increase the tension with headphones, which make everything more immersive, naturally. And we had no complaints about the physics and graphics of Rainbow Six Extraction, despite being on separate consoles. Our three-player squad was distributed across an Xbox One S, Xbox One X, and Xbox Series X. Rainbow Six Extraction also offers full cross-play and cross-save support, allowing PC, Xbox, and PlayStation players to team up to take on the Parasite menace. It’s heartening to see Ubisoft support it in a world that lacks them.
Ultimately, Rainbow Six Extraction isn’t much more than a hallway shooter. And I don’t know who it is for. Rainbow Six Siege fanatics already have a game they love. Those who wanted to experience Siege’s gameplay but were turned off by the online multiplayer aspect won’t find many similarities here. And Rainbow Six Extraction is clearly not for most casual gamers. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it feels like it was built for hardcore gamers only. Unless Ubisoft plans to massively tweak difficulty settings and playstyles in the near future, Rainbow Six Extraction could end up being one of those titles that gets lost among the couch cushions.
- Makes you run Operators
- On-the-spot sound design
- Full cross-play, cross-save
- bad difficulty curve
- Stealth is unnatural
- No story, campaign
- Equal environments
- Turns into a task
- MIA mechanic triggered on player disconnect
- filling problems
Rating (out of 10): 5
Rainbow Six Extraction launches on Thursday, January 20th for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Amazon Luna and Google Stadia.
Pricing starts at Rs. 1,999 on Epic Games Store, EUR 40 (about Rs. 3,390) on Ubisoft Store and Rs. 3,999 on Microsoft Store and PlayStation Store.
You can also get Rainbow Six extraction with Xbox Game Pass which costs Rs. 699 per month, or Ubisoft+ subscription which costs EUR 15 (about Rs. 1,270) per month.
With contributions from Saad Rashid and Satvik Khare.