Although our experiences with some of Ubisoft’s other booths at EGX could be interpreted as being somewhat underwhelming, unlike Tom Clancy’s The Division, Rainbow Six Siege’s visceral and tactical combat thoughtfully caters for a gap in the market. Siege is a thinking mans shooter, offering an experience that’s decidedly more intelligent than its fast-paced, arcade counterparts.
While the queue for Siege may have been smaller than some other AAA titles on show at EGX, it’s stage stood proud in the 18+ section of this years show. Players were able to take a seat on stage in an esports-esque environment where casters would comment on their relatively amateur gameplay.
This fed into the experience nicely, Siege is a tense tactical and thoughtful game so it fit very well wth the esports theme at the booth. The casters did a brilliant job of emphasising the tension too, as Siege’s elimination based modes often result in 1 vs 3 or greater encounters, where a single player has the opportunity to turn the game around.
Gameplay in Siege is split into defensive and offensive rounds of play. Defenders have the opportunity to place traps, and barricade themselves in from their enemies while its the attackers responsibility to overthrow this defensive strategy, and kill the terrorists or capture the objective.
Rounds begin with the defensive team having opportunity to scout out the location with RC cars. This is essential as you need to find the objective if you want any hopes of succeeding within the time limit, and in the amateur environment at EGX it also provides a good opportunity to learn the lay of the map as you get to quickly explore before entering in on foot.
The enemy team can shoot these RC cars of course, preventing the attackers from gaining valuable intelligence, but more importantly they must defend their location and have various tools at their disposal to do this. My personal favourite was the barbed wire which would slow opponents own to a crawl as they tried to pass through the choke-points I guarded but more interestingly when electrified would quickly kill players and disable drones.
Alternative defensive strategies ranged from wall reinforcements preventing opponents from breaching certain areas, to remote detonatable gas grenades that would slowly kill enemies held up in choke points or behind cover and restrict their entry through certain areas of the map. There were enough tools for it to feel strategic, and we adapted our use of these tools depending on where we expected the enemies attack to come from.
Depending on how your team communicate and the strategies employed by the attacking team, things can either go smoothly or all hell can break lose very quickly. Combat often breaks out into rampant gunfire through corridors and doorways as the attackers battle their way to the objective.
The attackers themselves have a unique set of tools at their disposal too, such as shields, breaching charges, thermite that can destroy reinforced walls, or even a grenade launcher capable of opening up the environment from a distance. All of these tools are specific to characters you select before a round begins, and utilizing them effectively requires constant communication and coordination between teammates.
For my team, the Riot shield was a personal favourite, allowing us to push through doorways and hallways that would otherwise result in certain death for the attacking team. These gadgets were situational and that made their effective use feel very rewarding.
Siege appears to perfectly execute its vision of the tactical shooter, with all of our wins feeling hard earned rather than the result of lucky shots or almost random full-map throwing knife kills and quick scopes. Similar to the games it takes inspiration from (e.g. SWAT 4), Siege comes across as the antithesis to Call of Duty, and offers a new hope for a truly tactical shooter may hold an audience within the competitive scene.
Of course one of Siege’s unique features is its destructibility, and this is no gimmick. While only certain areas of buildings can be destroyed (thinner walls) these are all clearly defined and offer incredibly effective and diverse approaches to each objective. Destruction is the offensive teams job, and the defensive teams concern as opening up more areas of the map merely allows for more angles of attack, weakening a defensive position. We saw this strategy permeate the gameplay throughout our sessions and the variability of this destruction caused the game to change, and forced players to adapt from one round to the next.
Whether Siege holds up outside of this environment however, remains to be seen. We had the opportunity to play with a team of five players with mics, against five players with mics and that’s really how Siege is meant to be played. Unfortunately this is not universally how I expect matches to play out when players get stuck into online play, and how the variable that is uncooperative, unhelpful, argumentative or toxic players affect the overall experience remains unclear. However, as it stands Siege looks likely to stand out as a landmark game for competitive first person shooters, refocusing the typically generic run and gun action towards strategy, tact and intelligent play.