The Gamescom demo room for Rainbow Six: Siege is hot. Super hot. Tropical hot.
The heat is down to the battery of high-end PCs that have been running since the early morning. It’s also been boosted by the heat being given off by the swarm of journalists propping up the coffee bar in Ubisoft’s booth. Between those two climate factors, the air con might as well not even be on. It’s having no effect.
In a way, though, the heat adds to the feel of the game; Rainbow Six: Siege feels oppressive. From the moment a match starts, players on both teams feel like their backs are against the wall.
Unlike most shooters where players of all skill levels charge into the fray, safe in the knowledge that death simply means they’ll respawn at the edge of a map, once you die in a match in Rainbow Six: Siege, you’re sidelined until its over. Oh – and your opponents can take you out with one shot.
All of this means that players approach Rainbow Six: Siege with a certain trepidation – regardless of whether they’re defending or attacking – and you can cut the tension in every match with a knife.
Sweat feels good in this space. Sweat feels fitting. It feels like a natural companion to the way your hands shake as you clutch the control pad.
If you’re not up to speed on Ubisoft’s new team-based shooter, here’s how it works: One team spawns inside a small, claustrophobic building and the other spawns outside. The first team has an item to protect and the second has to capture it in order to win. The other way to win is by wiping out all the players on the opposing team.
Before players get stuck into the action, the defending team has a brief window to lay down fortifications – such as reinforcing walls with steel shields, chucking barbed wire clumps into doorways and generally bottle-necking every opening they can, in order to turn the prospect of engaging them into a turkey shoot.
The attacking team uses that time to send remote-controlled ground drones trundling around the map to find out where their opponents are holed up and also the best way to get at the objective.
Each side, incidentally, isn’t made up of identical soldiers. Each member of each side has a set of special abilities that compliment their teammates and the style of the player selecting them. For example, one fighter has the ability to deploy poison gas, while another can place shape charges on walls or knock through them with a jackhammer. Our favourite was a machine-gun-toting thug who had the ability to fortify walls and deploy a giant bulletproof shield.
Fights are short, tense and bloody. Most of the time during the demo, attackers didn’t really bother trying to capture the item the defending team are trying to protect – they opted, instead, for a massacre. There’s a certain logic to this – it’s easier to win when all your opponents are dead than it is by risking a headshot because you wanted to prove a point.
It also has to be noted that the defending team has a slight advantage in that it is the only side that can run down the clock. Every match in Rainbow Six: Siege has a time-limit and once it expires, the defending team win automatically. If the attacking side find themselves pinned down or facing a bottleneck, they’re pretty much guaranteed to lose.
So Rainbow Six: Siege puts a premium on two approaches: creativity and teamwork. If you try to go it alone, you’ll die – it’s that simple. You’ll also piss off your teammates who’ll find themselves short-handed just because you tried to lone-wolf the map.
Second, it helps if you remember that there are multi-tiered approaches to every map. If the defenders have managed to hunker down in a basement and block all the entrances, you can always climb up to the building’s top floor and blast your way in above them.
If an enemy is hiding behind a shield and you don’t have a clear shot from one angle, trace a path along the wall next to him and put a shape-charge on the surface closest to his head. Also, there is no shame in following a team member holding a bulletproof shield up a flight of stairs in single file.
It’s clear that Rainbow Six: Siege has its crosshairs on the core shooter audience – its unforgiving difficulty, open ended structure and teamwork requirement put it in the same class as CounterStrike – and it’s also a pretty safe bet that Ubisoft want this shooter to become an eSport.
This isn’t just obvious from the way the game plays; Rainbow Six: Siege will come packaged with a Spectator Mode with three different viewing filters. First, spectator can watch the action from the perspectives of the players, switching between team members and factions as and when they choose. They can also unhook the camera and float through the map, watching the matches from every angle.
Finally – and most innovative of all – Spectator Mode offers a top down view of each match, so spectators can watch action unfold from above. Not only does this look brilliant – and by turns, chilling – it probably gives spectators the best possible insight into how a successful attack, or defence, is executed.
Ubisoft doesn’t just want you to play Rainbow Six: Siege. It wants you to improve at it. To master it. To want to test you mettle against the best players this game is capable of attracting. In short, it wants an eSports league, and Rainbow Six: Siege may just have enough in the tank to gift it one.
Y0u don’t have to hit in the GamesCom equivalent of a hotbox to enjoy it. But you will feel the heat…
[Images – Ubisoft]