It’s over six years since Ubisoft released Rainbow Six Siege, the game which took its much-loved tactical first-person shooter franchise into esports territory. So there was bound to be an air of excitement around the release of the latest iteration of Rainbow Six: Rainbow Six Extraction.
In NME’s review – which you can read by clicking above – Jake Tucker described the game as “compact, dense and interesting” pointing out that if you have the mates to make play worthwhile, Rainbow Six Extraction is “an excellent retooling of a lot of the things that made the multiplayer-focused Rainbow Six Siege work so well, with a sci-fi skin and oodles of progression.”
Indeed, while Extraction builds on many of Siege’s strengths, Ubisoft has moved into new gameplay territory with their new co-op shooter. Here’s what you should know about it before deciding to splash out on a copy, along with some tips that should speed your progress through it and details of its endgame.
As a three-player co-op game, it probably has more in common with Left 4 Dead than Siege
In Rainbow Six Extraction, you play as one member of a three-person co-op team, taking on AI-controlled aliens called Archaeans. So it offers a completely different gameplay experience to Rainbow Six Siege, in which two five-person teams, all controlled by humans, slug it out against each other. In other words, Extraction is a PvE (Player versus Environment) game, rather than a PvP (Player versus Player) one.
That’s not to suggest that it will feel particularly unfamiliar to anyone who has played Rainbow Six Siege – especially if they played Outbreak, a PvE mode pitching players against aliens which was added to Siege in 2018 and clearly acted as inspiration for Extraction. Extraction very much preserves the modern Rainbow Six vibe that Siege established, with largely familiar weapon loadouts, a need to employ closely co-ordinated teamwork with your squadmates, touches such as destructible scenery and first-person shooter mechanics that feel just like its predecessor.
Plus all 18 of Rainbow Six Extraction’s operators have been carried over from Rainbow Six Siege. But they have been noticeably tweaked to make them better suited for taking down Archaeans rather than human enemies, especially as far as each operator’s ability is concerned. The REACT tech which Extraction’s operators are able to access (spanning various types of grenades and explosives, along with recon and defensive devices) differs from that of Rainbow Six Siege, with new gadgets designed specifically for the threat posed by the Archaeans, such as a REACT Laser, which zaps the progress-impeding “sprawl” with which the Archaeans cover floors and walls.
Yet Extraction still feels very much like a Rainbow Six game – and its PvE nature even triggers reminiscences of pre-Siege Rainbow Six instalments. Plus, if the need to operate as a member of a close-knit team, executing precise tactics, was what drew you to Rainbow Six Siege, that approach is still required in order to prosper in Rainbow Six Extraction, albeit as part of a smaller team.
You get two buddy passes, so make the most of them
Because Rainbow Six Extraction was specifically designed to be a three-player co-op game, Ubisoft has decided to provide everyone who buys it with two buddy passes, which let you invite two friends to download the game for free and play it with you.
Ubisoft’s generosity isn’t unbounded, alas: the buddy passes only last for 14 days. The company is clearly hoping that players introduced to the game for free will become hooked and buy it. With that in mind, it helps that Extraction has a lower RRP than we tend to expect from triple-A first-person shooters, at £33.99. Although for Microsoft devotees, Rainbow Six Extraction was added to Xbox Game Pass on release, so if you have that, factors like RRPs or buddy passes become irrelevant.
At least the buddy pass system provides a great means of introducing mates who wouldn’t normally play such games to your squad, especially given that Extraction is a fully platform-agnostic game that allows cross-play between all the consoles for which it is available and the PC.
The fact that Ubisoft felt the need to include buddy passes as part of the game’s standard offering illustrates one of Extraction’s key premises: it really is geared up for three-person team play. Sure, it’s possible to play it solo or with one other person, and it attempts to scale down the threats you face from the Archaeans in accordance with that. But those attempts aren’t massively successful.
Extraction wouldn’t be a Rainbow Six game if it didn’t have exacting difficulty levels, and it’s challenging enough, even in its early stages, for a three-person team. And if you play it solo or as half of a two-person squad, that ramps up the difficulty level further.
So you really want to start off by playing it with two others – otherwise you will, at the very least, level up much more slowly, and there’s every likelihood that you will die quite a lot. Which is a particular pain since if you lose an operator, you have to go back and rescue them from a bizarre Archaean tree-like structure.
Those so-called MIA missions are fun, because they have a puzzly element, with one squad member pulling the trapped operator while the others shoot out nodes which the Archaean tree attaches to the environment. But MIA missions are nigh-impossible with one or two operators, so you run the risk of entering a feedback loop in which the majority of your operators become unavailable because they are MIA (although the game does fudge that issue to an extent).
Ironically, as you level up your operators and hit your overall XP milestones, taking on objectives solo or with one other squadmate becomes more feasible – you can always return to early missions. But Extraction was specifically designed to be a three-player co-op game, and given the ease of jumping into a session with two random players, you’d be a fool to play it any other way.
It pays to work your way through all the operators
In Rainbow Six Siege, players would often specialise in particular operators, according to their favoured team role – support or tank, say. But from the outset, Rainbow Six Extraction works very hard to mitigate against that and encourage you to play as every single one of the operators.
At the end of each three-objective mission, your XP feeds into an overall progression which unlocks new maps and, eventually modes. But the operator you have played as also levels up individually, and given that operators are often unavailable because they are recovering from previous missions or are MIA, it’s important to level up all of them.
Levelling up your operators both improves their basic stats and upgrades each operator’s individual ability, so you really do notice the difference between a base-state operator and one who has been levelled up. In New York and San Francisco, Extraction’s first two map areas, proceedings are sufficiently gentle that it doesn’t matter too much which operator you pick, and you have the leeway to learn the best use of their abilities without being in situations that are overly pressurised.
But when you start encountering missions with higher difficulty ratings, you won’t get far unless you use a levelled-up operator: missions rated Severe are only available to operators at level 6, and the hardest-rated Critical missions require operators of level 8 or above. Operators will max out at level 10.
Levelling up operators has another benefit: it opens up new loadout configurations. At first, you’re confined to a single loadout, but as you level up and buy new REACT tech, and your operators’ alternate loadouts are unlocked as they level up, you move towards a state of loadout flexibility allowing, say, operators who normally pack shotguns to take on certain objectives with assault rifles instead.
Post-launch content is currently mysterious, but we do know about different endgame modes
As yet, Ubisoft has remained tight-lipped about its downloadable content (DLC) roadmap for Rainbow Six Extraction, although it has said at least six operators will be added post-launch (with no indication of a time-frame for that).
But it has provided some information on various endgame modes, which may or may not all be operational launch, and most of which will be kept fresh via the addition of weekly content. To be more specific:
- Maelstrom Protocol
Maelstrom Protocol is Rainbow Six Extraction’s primary endgame mode, which will be available at launch and into which the game will steer you once you’ve cleared all four map areas and hit REACT Milestone 16 in your overall progression.
Ubisoft describes it thus “Maelstrom Protocol is an extended incursion within a Chimera-infested environment that evolves from week to week. Increased Archæan activity should be expected. Only selected operators can engage and must proceed from Sub-Zone to Sub-Zone in series. Intel objectives must be completed before progressing to subsequent zones. The extended duration of the Maelstrom Protocol will result in increased aggression and response from Archæan types. Resources will be limited and time-to-swarm event transitions will shorten as operators progress.”
In other words, each week on Maelstrom Protocol, Ubisoft will release a list of operators which are allowed to participate in it, and you’ll have to have at least three of the listed operators available and levelled up in order to take part.
Ubisoft says Assignments are: “Specific weekly missions. Look for new challenges and new opportunities as you revisit incursions into the Containment Zone with all-new rules of engagement.”
This suggests Assignments will reuse previously visited maps, but with added gameplay twists in comparison with your first play-through. There will be at least one Assignment available at launch, taking place in the Truth Or Consequences map. Assignments will be unlocked when you hit REACT Milestone 13.
- Veteran mode
According to Ubisoft, Veteran mode will be an: “Immersive mode for autonomous operators. This assignment requires managing ammunition wisely to face Archæans without any backup.” Veteran may sound like a solo mode, but it isn’t: one of its features is that you’ll be penalised for friendly fire. Plus it will bring what Ubisoft calls “Tactical reloading” – which will destroy your remaining ammo when you reload – and will have a minimal HUD. One for the hardcore.
This endgame mode, which is likely to arrive post-launch, is described thus by Ubisoft: “Combat mode for versatile operators. In this assignment, REACT must stabilize the Parasite during an abnormal stress phase. To progress between Sub-Zones, Airlocks need to be unlocked using security stations.”
Wall-To-Wall looks set to be Extraction’s answer to Horde mode: it will throw waves of increasingly fearsome Archaean assaults at three-person operator squads, and by making the unlocking of sub-zone airlocks a time-consuming task, they will have to ride an increasing storm punctuated by two brief moments of respite.
- Kick The Anthill
Ubisoft tells us that Kick The Anthill will be an: “Assault mode for sharpshooters. In this assignment, REACT has barricaded territories overrun by Archæans and aberrant nests. Operators must clear them as efficiently as possible.”
Which is pretty vague, but Ubisoft provided some additional detail in Kick The Anthill, the Archaeans will be crammed into barricaded zones, there will be lots of them and, thanks to the presence of “Overactive nests” they are likely to be pretty fearsome. You’ll have to breach and clear those zones as quickly as possible. It’s probable that Kick The Anthill will be added post-launch.
- Crisis events
Crisis events sound pretty interesting – they will take place over a number of weeks and look set to feature some gameplay twists. Ubisoft says this about them: “When the Chimera Parasite goes beyond simple mutations and evolves into an entirely new threat, crisis events are declared and operators must be sent in to regain control of the containment zone. These multi-week events bring an entirely fresh set of challenges, experiences and rewards to even the most seasoned operators out there.”
Again, it’s likely that we’ll have to wait a while before crisis events start to take place in Rainbow Six Extraction.
Recon before jumping into your objective
The early Rainbow Six games were renowned for their planning stage, in which you and your squadmates would plan your routes through levels in meticulous detail before even setting foot on those maps. Some gamers professed to preferring that planning stage to the actual gameplay, which we thought was taking things a tad too far, but Rainbow Six Extraction manages, to an extent, to channel that spirit (as, to be fair, does Siege).
In Extraction, recon is important – firstly to locate your objective, and secondly to eliminate as many of the threats which could stop you from achieving your objective as possible. It makes sense, for example, to take out as many nests as you can before plunging into your objective. Otherwise, when the shooting starts, the Archaeans, which are sensitive to noise and movement, will come to join the fray from all around. And nests in the vicinity will keep on spawning new enemies to come at you.
Once you get stuck into your objective, you’ll face new assaults, so it pays to take out as many incidental threats as possible, although you shouldn’t get too hung up on them, as you’re time-limited in each sub-zone; if you go beyond that limit, the sub-zone will go into lockdown, and you’ll have to extract yourself.
Various forms of preparations will stand you in good stead according to the objective you have been set: for example, when you have to lure Elites to follow you and trap them at extraction zones, it’s a good idea to clear the Archaean sprawl, which slows you down, from your route back to the extraction zone by shooting it.
At other times, you’ll find that stealth is paramount. In such situations the most basic item of REACT tech, the smoke grenade, comes in handy. When rescuing VIPs, nearby Archaeans will kill them pretty quickly once they come under attack, so you should at least thin them out with stealth takedowns, and add confusion with smoke grenades, before jumping in all gung-ho.
As you progress through Rainbow Six Extraction, such strategies will become second nature. But the need to employ them right from the start of the game illustrates how Extraction, through some pretty clever design, has managed to nail the essential ethos of Rainbow Six – that is, tactical combat with a heavy emphasis on the tactics.