'Rainbow Six Extraction' review: Tactical sci-fi shooter covers familiar ground

Multiplayer game thrives in group setting, is weak as single-player
Posted at 3:26 PM, Jan 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 16:28:54-05

Phil Villarreal: The tactical ops action franchise "Rainbow Six" goes back to the late 1990s and has had gamers sneak through underground corridors, rappel down the sides of glitzy Vegas casinos and navigate drones through tripwires. It's covered so much ground over the decades that it was inevitable that developers would get bored with earthly enemies and turn their attention to another world.

In "Rainbow Six Extraction," the world's special forces unite their attention on an alien threat.

The multiplayer-focused throwdown, set for a Jan. 20 release date, pushes the franchise forward in meaningful ways while also falling back on established tropes.

I found the visuals and setting entertaining, if a little hokey, and the combat to be solid yet uninspired. What did you think, Sean?

Sean Newgent: With typical Ubisoft panache, "Rainbow Six Extraction" offers great locales and perfectly fine gameplay in a wholly playable package but entirely forgettable. From the first cutscene of black goop piercing through the ground and causing havoc around the Statue of Liberty, I felt like I was playing a game that would have been dated ten years ago. In this pandemic world, we're seeing a resurgence in the market for co-op games with "Back 4 Blood" and "It Takes Two," among others. Capitalizing on that trend is smart, and "Rainbow Six Siege" has provided ample characters, weapons, and other assets to glean for a mid-budget, middle-of-the-road co-op shooter.

The gameplay loop is simple enough; each map provides objectives to complete within the time limit before moving into a safe room "Left 4 Dead" style and loading into the next area. You can go in as a single operator or with friends (the game, thankfully, offers cross-platform play). As you complete objectives and kill baddies, you gain experience for your operator. But most of your time will likely be spent trying to figure out the often confusing maps, peppered with a thousand closed doors requiring you to hold down the action button to open. That becomes repetitive and dull fast.

Did the gameplay engage you any more than it did me, Phil?

PV: I found it as a sort of comfort food. I expect a certain suite of simple pleasures and minor annoyances from Tom Clancy games, and if they're not there, it triggers my inner off-put fanboy. I got particular pleasure out of the overpowered slap-like melee kills, which punish players who don't respect the distance factor.

This has got the same rustic feel that the Clancy games have always sported, with minimal — yet surprisingly significant — adjustments that show how the tone of the series is changing as it embraces the alien threat. For me, this is a solid start that tweaks and upgrades will no doubt expand. The fact that the game is launching on Game Pass also bodes well for the size of the community. Its presence there drastically lowers the bar for players on the fence about re-upping for the newest "Rainbow Six."

Tom Clancy gamers are usually a little more sophisticated than the "Halo" and "Call of Duty" crowd, and it will be interesting to see if the community adapts to the new sci-fi bent. I felt like I was playing a spinoff of "XCOM" at times, with minimal paramilitary geek out and near-future weaponry that leans hard into a sort of space shooter vibe.

What updates or add-ons would it take to hook you in the future?

SN: For me, this is the kind of game that feels like it would be a lot more attractive on the PC if only for the modding community. Multiplayer games like this live on two things in my mind: the competitive aspect or the modding aspect, and if neither are present, I feel the game will sink almost immediately. It seems "Extraction" will offer ongoing events and specials to keep players on their toes and offer some variety, but I'm not sure if this is a game with any sort of longevity. If you want the competitive stuff, you'll stick with "Siege." If you wish the co-op experience with the ability to mod it until your computer catches on fire, you'll play "Left 4 Dead".

That said, again, I think with a team of friends, anything can be a lot of fun, and "Extraction" allows you to role-play the brilliant military tactician or Rambo-style operator of your dreams. As a single-player experience, it will lack that charm of yelling at your buddies about how they should have cased a room with a drone before running straight in like the bad AI of a PS2-era Clancy game. But even then, I think the game's atmosphere compounded with how trite the enemy types are and how derivative it all feels will have you and your friends forgetting the game after a handful of sessions.

Will you be playing the game into the spring?

PV: I can see myself checking in periodically, particularly when the community gets excited about a new content drop or when Ubisoft offers a double XP promotion. But to keep me playing over the long haul, I will need to develop a routine with a few friends that make it an appointment game. There isn't much reason to keep coming back for more without watercooler-style thrills to discuss with buddies.

A game like this truly lives or dies via the shared highs and lows of squad-based multiplayer action. It would help if you felt as though you're a true part of a team of communicative players equally working toward shared goals and against those trying to undermine you. I think there is potential for that to happen, but there are just as high of odds that I won't touch the game again after a few more weeks. Sure, "Rainbow Six Extraction" will thrive now that it's the hot new thing, but will it be backed with the game-as-service oomph it will take to survive the next challenger? Only time will tell. Parting thoughts, Sean?

SN: Was I more inclined toward a squad-based tactical military shooter like "Extraction," I'd still pine for something a little more creative to play. My biggest problem with the game is that it could work, despite all the overused ideas, if it were less grounded in the hardcore military fantasy of a Tom Clancy novel and thrived more on how bonkers the entire notion truly is. There's no aura of fun radiating from the game. It's just a delivery device for you and your friends to create that hit of dopamine. As with most Ubisoft games, everything works — it plays well, looks good — but it reeks of the corporate boardroom checklist that most popular media need to stand up to before hitting the market. If you're looking to slake your thirst for some co-op military shenanigans, this is the game for you. For anyone else, it's going to fly under the radar and invade the local Best Buy bargain bin.

The publisher provided review codes.

Sean played the game on PS4; Phil on Xbox Series X.

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Phil Villareal on Twitter

More Reviews on Sean Newgent's Website
More Reviews on Phil Villareal's Website

Past game reviews by Sean and Phil:
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy
Diablo II Resurrected
NEO: The World Ends with You

Phil Villarreal and Sean Newgent at KGUN first reported this story.