Rainbow Six Extraction Review: A Solid Start
The long-term prospects of an online-focused game largely depend on ongoing support from the developer. The core game at launch can be a meaningful experience, but the lack of a defined end can lead to games running out of metaphorical gas until future updates freshen the content.
Such seems to be the case with Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction from Ubisoft. This cooperative first-person shooter has a strong hook with compelling progression but runs out of ways to reward players in meaningful ways by the end game. I’m sure that will change over time, but as it is on Day One, this is a good game that left me wanting something more by the end.
Rainbow Six Extraction Review: A Solid Start
The premise of R6E is surprisingly interesting. Some sort of alien invasion has occurred but is relatively contained. You and your fellow Operators undergo missions into the quarantined areas to gather intel, rescue trapped agents, and collect data to help combat the invasion. It’s not sophisticated, but it is well presented and informs the gameplay in a consequential way.
When you select a location to start an incursion, you are assigned three objectives, one per zone. Some ask you to stealthily eliminate a specific enemy or plant trackers in the Archæans spawning nests throughout a zone. Others force you to hold specific points against incoming waves of enemies. You have no say over what objectives will be assigned in which order, but you are free to skip straight to an airlock and advance deeper into an incursion without completing a task if you so choose.
Preparing for an incursion is one of the most important parts of R6E. You and your squad choose from up to 18 different Operators, each with their own unique abilities and weapons. Success in higher-level incursions depends on making smart decisions with the makeup of your squads.
You may do one incursion as Vigil, taking advantage of his cloaking ability to complete sneaking missions, then another as Rook, handing out free body armor to your squad for an inevitable fight against an elite enemy. There is real, meaningful decision-making in Rainbow Six Extraction.
Same Levels, Fresh Experience
Incursions themselves are broken into three sections. Each is timed and separated by an airlock. You can extract at any time, and rewards are increased as you move from one section to another and complete more objectives.
The structure fits narratively, as the infestation becomes increasingly aware of your presence, and more dangerous further in. As a game mechanic, it presents a compelling risk assessment, and you must make calculated decisions about whether or not you can press on. It’s a rewarding cohesion between story and action that is often missing in gaming.
The levels are self-contained sandboxes, and you can play in them however you want. Settings vary from city streets to a rocket laboratory, the Statue of Liberty, and more. According to in-game lore, the Archæans, as the aliens have been dubbed, are constantly evolving. For you, this means enemy types and locations will change on every incursion. Combine that with the revolving objectives, and no two runs ever feel quite the same, keeping the Extraction fresh even after dozens of hours.
Eliminating Archæans isn’t necessary but does make completing objectives easier. Player control is reminiscent of 2015’s Rainbow Six: Siege. Moving and shooting is slow and deliberate, and carefully navigating around corners is key to eliminating enemies without being seen.
If you are spotted, an Archaean will let out a howl alerting others to your presence. Not only does this bring a hoard of aliens down upon you, but nearby Archæan nests will start to continuously spawn new enemies until they are destroyed. Nests also generate Sprawl, a tar-like alien substance that slows your movement and buffs Archæans.
The Best-Laid Plans
The unpredictable nature of each incursion is what makes Extraction interesting. You and your team will plan as best you can, but once the mission starts, you won’t know for sure exactly what is going to happen.
Flawless planning and execution is extremely satisfying. Sometimes that means a ghost-like infiltration, with no trace you were ever there. Other times it means preparing traps, closing doors, and deploying temporary walls to create chokepoints; then watching an army of Archæans break against your preparations while you defuse a ticking bomb.
Not every mission goes according to plan. Botching an objective, or alerting your enemies when you aren’t ready, leads to heart-pounding chaos. Operators don’t die in a mission, but they can go MIA and are left behind if their health runs out. Carrying a wounded ally to an extraction point while your other team member provides covering fire is exhilarating, and leads to some of the best post-incursion stories.
The MIA system in R6E is really well implemented. When an Operator goes down, their suit deploys a protective foam, putting them into a stasis-like state. If you fail to extract them, or if the entire squad goes down, the Operators are left in the hands of the Archæans. MIA Operatives are no longer available to be used until they are rescued. You will have to return to that same area in an upcoming excursion, and extract them as one of your objectives. Nothing will get you to relaunch into a location faster than losing your favorite operative.
Leveling is Fun While It Lasts
Operators level up and new equipment is unlocked as you gather experience in successful incursions. Some of the upgrades are powerful. This, in turn, allows you to take on more challenging incursions for great rewards, making the loop effective motivation to keep playing. It’s easy to fall into a repeated cycle of “just one more incursion”, as you unlock another perk for your operative or a handy new piece of equipment you've had your eye on.
Eventually, you will run out of basic upgrades to unlock, and that’s where Extraction gets thin. There are end game-oriented missions, such as the rotating Maelstrom Protocol incursions, which ramp up the challenge with special modifiers and only permit specific operatives. But by this point, your characters will be at max level. The bounty of experience points doesn't really help the fully powered-up operative you bring to the engagement. Instead, the end game content becomes a lot of work for purely cosmetic items.
Ultimately, it’s a lackluster endgame. There isn’t a bespoke story in which you reach a conclusion. You won’t earn exceptional rewards for completing the highest-level content. Once all of your operators are leveled up, and you’ve unlocked all of the equipment, there really isn’t any motivation to keep playing. There’s no reward or payoff; you just run out of things to do.
Rainbow Six Extraction Review — The Bottom Line
- Good tactical first-person shooting action.
- Compelling progression system.
- Constantly remixing objectives and enemies keeps things fresh.
- In-game systems cleverly synergize with lore.
- No compelling reason to engage endgame content.
- Some objectives are more annoying than others.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction is a very solid game. It plays well and does a good job remixing every run to feel fresh. The gameplay is ably informed by the core narrative, resulting in a cohesive experience.
It’s a shame there aren’t more reasons to continue playing the more difficult end game content, but that doesn’t take away from what is otherwise a genuinely fun game to play, especially with friends.
[Note: Ubisoft provided the copy of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Extraction used for this review.]