Rainbow Six Extraction Review: "Hardcore, Deliberate, Tactile, And Tense"
Rainbow Six Extraction had a lot to prove. This spin-off of Rainbow Six Siege was immediately viewed as more of a DLC than anything worth standing on its own two feet. Then there was the question of purpose... Why release a game based on an in-game event from four years ago that no one was really asking for? And to top it all off, it ditches the PvP angle, denying this experience of the very thing that makes Siege work so well in the first place. Well, now that it is out in the wild, Rainbow Six Extraction's alien PvE co-op shooter not only warrants its place as a solo title, but it also delivers one of the best co-op experiences available right now - but whether it can keep players hooked is another thing entirely.
- A squad is always better with friends, so check out our guide on Rainbow Six Extraction co-op.
Keeping It Tactical
Rainbow Six Extraction mixes up the Siege formula by replacing 5v5 PvP action, where squads plant bombs and save hostages, for a three-player co-op PvE alien shooter. It could not sound further from the entry players have continued to go back to for more than six years now, however, from the very beginning of your Extraction experience you will quickly realise that the game keeps a keen focus on its biggest selling point: tactical co-op stealth.
Sharing the same world as Siege, a plague-like alien invasion of Archaeans has resulted in the creation of the REACT unit. Made up of 18 of the 62 (and counting) Siege operators, squads of three must take part in incursion, where they will complete tasks and extract useful data to aid the fight against the invasion.
We've familiarised ourselves with a multitude of horde-like games from Call of Duty Zombies to World War Z over the years. Yet Extraction isn't about throwing hundreds of aliens at you, or letting the bodies pile high. Are you going to shoot? Yes. Do things get manic from time to time? Also yes. But Extraction is about avoiding confrontation as much as it is getting into it.
- Need to get tactical with someone on another platform? Check out our Rainbow Six Extraction crossplay guide.
Once you familiarise yourself with Extraction - a learning curve that even Siege fans will have to face - you will begin to realise the layers of consequence that Ubisoft has tied to incursions, failure, and levelling.
For one, each of the 18 operators feature their own levelling system which is capped at 10, increasing the power of their abilities and unlocking their set weapons. But death and failure to extract can severely deplete your XP, and even lower your levels. The same goes for your master level which will unlock REACT tokens. This can't reseal unlocked rewards, but it will sharply increase the difficulty of getting to a higher rank - something that is essential to unlock advanced gear and tech.
Then you have the damage and death carry-over system, which means operators need time to heal after incursions, and are completely unplayable if they are downed and left on the field. Downed agents (MIA) will come back after a time, but face a 30% reduction in their levelling. To avoid this players must go back into the mission where they died and rescue them themselves.
On a surface level, injured and MIA operators are a great way to force players to diversify their operator choice, as we all know how easy it is to find the one character you like and stick with it. However, on another level it feeds into the tension, difficulty, and risk/reward factors that the game so eagerly wants to convey.
- Want to know all of the operators you can level up? Here's our guide to all Rainbow Six Extraction operators.
To Extract Or Not To Extract
That risk/reward adds a nice layer of player agency that will see you questioning your next move every step of the way. With each objective placed within a subzone, you have to choose to progress to the second and third subzones, or leave with the XP you've already earned. You will start assessing team health, operator balance, and whether you are willing to risk the depletion of XP on a high level operator. You can even choose to extract mid-level, so if things start to go awry, you can turn heel and get the heck out of dodge.
Weaving consequence into the choices that players must make elevates the tactical aspects of Extraction. As you become acutely aware of what's at stake you'll begin to slow things down a bit, think tactically as a team before taking on a large enemy, and even consider the balance of operator abilities across your squad. A lot of this won't seem necessary in those earlier games, but as the difficulty is ramped up you must use every tool you've got and play as smart as you can.
This becomes all the more pertinent as the frequency and variety of enemies increases with the difficulty levels. While the AI Archaeans are never going to match the unpredictability of the human-controlled opposition in Siege, there are a wide assortment of Archaeans that pose new threats and require different tactics. Maybe one operator draws the attention of a Smasher while the others fire into its weak spot from behind, or speed and cover become the objective as an Apex gets the drop on a player as it traverses through the thick black sludge. However, be sure to keep an eye out for the little guy; even basic grunts can take you out in just three swipes.
Then in the ultimate test, teams will face off against Proteans, which are Archaeans that take the form and abilities of Extraction operators. These are like hardcore Destiny levels as the team unload clip after clip into the latest Protean. These fights may lose some of that tactical purpose, but you will feel your grip tighten on the controller as your operators and XP are on the line.
Long Term Appeal?
While Rainbow Six Extraction is a fun and tactile experience in the moment-to-moment action, it is hard to gauge whether it will wield that staying power that Siege has. Of course, Ubisoft has over 40 operators that it can drip feed into the game, and the maxed out endgame Maelstrom will keep those hardcore players satisfied with its weekly challenges. Maxing out specific operators shouldn't take long if you are careful though, and while they rotate, you will quickly become familiar with the various challenges that each incursion features.
All of that doesn't necessarily mean it gets boring quickly. Even 10 hours in, the steady progression and gradual introduction of new enemies will feel like new experiences that also respect your time. You won't be forced into three hour-long epic battles here. Each incursion stage can range from two to 10 minutes, and if you run out of time you can simply opt to extract. This makes Extraction the far more likely choice for a quick drop in session, and its structure means you can have just as much fun after twenty minutes as you can two hours.
However, at the end of the day the game only has a few modes, four locations, and a handful of objectives, so the staying appeal is entirely dependent on the post-launch support. We'd love to see new tech, operators, maps, and maybe even Archaeans added into the mix eventually. While the game's lower price is a nice bonus, we'd expect this base experience will only keep the majority of players interested for so long.
- A Rainbow Six Extraction game pass release could certainly help long-term appeal. Check out our guide on everything we know about its release on the subscription service.
Truly Rainbow Six
Rainbow Six Extraction quickly validates itself as a standalone game, with a title that maintains the fundamentals of the franchise, while donning a different kind of online experience. Understandably, it will draw comparisons to Siege, and your feeling towards PvE over PvP will dictate whether Extraction is the co-op game for you. However, those PvE leanings will unsurprisingly change the expectations of content moving forward. Of course, Siege faces plenty of updates too, but it has remained fundamentally unchanged since 2015. Extraction will require new content and constant evolution post-launch that will tyrannise its staying power.
Nonetheless, if you are tired of mindless co-op shooters and are on the hunt for something more engaging, there is nothing currently better than Rainbow Six Extraction. It loses some of its appeal when played solo or with a random voiceless squad, but with a full squad of friends, Extraction will have you screaming and commanding your way into a functioning unit. It is hardcore, deliberate, tactile, and tense, and if that isn't Rainbow Six, I don't know what is.
Reviewed on PS5. Code provided by the publisher.