‘Rainbow Six Extraction’ review: a compelling alien shooter from the bones of ‘Siege’

'Extraction' takes your favourite 'Siege' operators and sticks them in the middle of an alien invasion

Rainbow Six Extraction feels truer to the core tenets of the Rainbow Six series than the multiplayer-focused blast-’em-up that is Rainbow Six Siege. That’s not a knock on Siege, but major props to Extraction, which manages to take the now-familiar “four friends trying not to die” formula popularised by Left 4 Dead and now absolutely everywhere, and putting its own tactical shooter spin on it, with flecks of horror created by the scarcity of resources and Extraction’s own terrifying cast of baddies.

Here, Team Rainbow is responding to an outbreak of parasitic aliens (Archaeans), fighting them back with gusto using a variety of tech familiar to Siege players, but those who haven’t played that game will miss out on some fan-service, but still find plenty here to enjoy, including the roguelite structure of the game that punishes you for dying on a mission by taking that operator away and forcing you to rescue them with another before you can use them again. Each of these Operators will be familiar to Siege fans, although they’re each carrying a bastardised version of their Siege gadget. Take Pulse, who now uses his heartbeat sensor to spot alien nests and objectives through walls.

With each Operator playing in a certain way. you’ll often develop a favourite. Each of these characters has their own XP pool and progression tree, which obviously your favourite will advance in. This makes it more gutting when you lose them temporarily, and it ups the stakes massively when you’re trying to get their inert form to safety so you can, you know, actually play as the character you’ve put all that time into.

If I’m honest, Rainbow Six Extraction takes influences from so many places: mechanics from Siege, GTFO and even the fatigue mechanics from XCOM 2: War of the Chosen show up here and it creates something so twisty that even though it should feel familiar, it’s still engaging.

Rainbow Six Extraction
Rainbow Six Extraction. Credit: Ubisoft.

The game has moved away from actual missions in favour of randomly generated strings of objectives. You choose the environment you want to enter and you’re dropped into a random area of the map and given three randomly assigned objectives. You can complete as many of these as you feel comfortable doing, but each objective requires you go through an airlock and enter an even more dangerous area. Sometimes, you’ll just want to cut and run, hoofing it to an extraction before you run out of health and ammo. Objectives could include sneaking through enemy nests and planting trackers on them, taking down an elite enemy with your knife to get a sample from them or even gathering intel from laptops scattered around the map. Most objectives feel fairly unique in how you’ll approach them, to the game’s credit, but will often devolve into a segment of sneaking to get your bearings, violence of action as you accomplish your objective, and then a panicked – but controlled – sprint to the airlock to get out of there and onto the next one. Extracting gives you a huge XP boost – and means you don’t lose your operator – so it’s always worth getting out safely rather than prioritising the big gambles.

Ubisoft, again, has outdone themselves with some absolutely stunning vistas of a society in decay: whether you’re tooling around a dilapidated New York Police Department, Liberty Island, San Francisco’s Tenderloin district or even a hospital overrun by infection, these microcosms of urban living always look the part, and is something that Ubisoft always does well, but rarely gets praised for.

One of the biggest shifts to the co-op formula is reducing the number of players down to three. This is bad news for your regular fourth man who now needs to find a new group of friends, but creates a weird feeling of claustrophobia as you always feel up against it. One Operator being out for the count immediately removes most of your firepower, and even doing objectives that require you to carry a sidearm or focus your attention on anything but holding an angler can lead to hairier moments. However, the game seems to have an adaptive difficulty that works for the amount of players you’re taking into a mission and so despite the game being a co-op game designed for three people I found that I spent a lot of time playing Extraction solo and paired up with a single friend and still enjoying an experience that was challenging but not overwhelming: Extraction is a pretty intense game, but it rarely feels unfair, at least, until you accidentally alert every one of the Archaeans on the level and eat shit, dumped back to the menu again minus one Operator.

Rainbow Six Extraction. Credit: Ubisoft.
Rainbow Six Extraction. Credit: Ubisoft.

The things Rainbow Six Siege did well are also strengths for Extraction – the destruction engine is useful here for letting you make your own path through levels or take out Archaeans through walls. Every weapon is default-equipped by a torch that activates bioluminescence on the enemies, even through walls. This nonsense basically gives you the opportunity to pop a few walls, making you feel like a badass, which is always the hallmark of a good co-op game. Floor scuttling Breachers will explode when shot, blowing chunks in the level and spraying debris everywhere.

Sadly, while Ubisoft went big on the environmental design it got distracted by all of the soft furnishings and as a result only had time to stop by the two-for-one generic monster drive-thru on the way back to make the game. During play I could point out Archaeans like “fast moving melee threat”, “explodey boy”, “big fella with the armour and the punching” and that classic “puts gunk on the ground that is bad” goon, too. These look visually pretty indistinct, and honestly I could be fighting just about anything here. It’s hard to tell what you’re fighting in a gunfight until it attacks you, making it hard to prioritise threats.

I’ve also got concerns about replayability: early doors you’re going to be unlocking something fun just about every time you extract and the levels will feel fresh, but even after ten plays, you can quickly get the sense of what is going to be where and start learning the smartest routes and options. As with many co-op games, how much time you want to spend in this world right now – without the promised post-game content which points to weekly missions and new environments and objectives added over time – seems to be how up for it you and some pals are.

However, I can only judge what I’m playing now, and I quite dig Extraction’s vision of an alien invasion writ small and can see myself putting a lot more time into it.

Shigeru Miyamoto once said “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad” – this doesn’t take into account the way live service actually works in 2022, but here it’s totally accurate: Rainbow Six Extraction is a thoughtful reworking of the Siege formula for co-op audiences, and it’s worth adding to your rotation.

Rainbow Six Extraction launches on January 20 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. We reviewed a PC copy. 

The Verdict

Compact, dense and interesting, 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. As with many games in the genre, if you’ve got the friends, Extraction will handle the fun.

Pros

  • Each map is visually interesting and engaging to prowl around in
  • With only three players, Extraction‘s difficulty really hits home
  • Fantastic utilisation of existing Siege mechanics

Cons

    • It’s unclear how much replayability is available
    • Archaeans lack some visual identity
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