My appreciation for Rainbow Six: Siege is much like my appreciation for fine wine—it grows stronger with age. Despite having been out for over a year and a half, the game is better than ever and more fun to play now than it was at launch. Because I want everyone to appreciate the inherent fun hardwired into Siege’s DNA—and because maybe I want a few new foes to vanquish online—here are a few reasons to either pick up the game for the first time, or jump back it if you’ve previously abandoned Siege.
Easily the most unique thing about Siege is its commitment to destructibility. While the Battlefield games may allow for some larger-scale obliteration, no game since Red Faction: Guerrilla interwoven destruction so integrally into the base action as Siege.
Success largely revolves around which team is best able to mold the environment to suit their needs. Has the opposing sniper punched a tiny hole in the wall to spy on unsuspecting terrorists? Can our team pull off a feint by simultaneously destroying two walls on opposite sides of the room with the hostage? Can I chuck a grenade through that air vent and destroy the enemy’s jamming device, or will I miss and have it blow up in my face? No single strategy works every time.
Few games can replicate the sort of tension that comes from sneaking through an unsettled situation where the walls and ceiling can literally cave in at any time. Conversely, there’s nothing quite like using a giant hammer to smash a hole in the floor to get the jump on an unwitting kidnapper. The adjustability of each map keeps things fresh whether attacking or defending.
In games like Call of Duty, there’s really only one skill that matters. How quickly and accurately can you fill an opponent with digital lead? If you’re not gifted with preternaturally quick reflexes—or don’t have ready access to Adderall—there’s only so much you can do to compensate. And by “so much,” I mean all you can do is camp. And nobody likes a camper.
Rainbow Six: Siege manages to get around this problem by offering up several different characters that can fit myriad playstyles. Terrible with accuracy? Select Montagne and lumber around with a massive shield, providing invaluable protection for your savvier members. Not great with distance shootouts? Select Caveira and sneak up behind enemies with her silent footsteps.
Successful strategies vary depending on the map you’re playing and what characters each team chooses. No match is ever the same because there are so many different factors at play. Not only can the game support many play styles, the large cast of characters help the game feel consistently fresh as bored players can always select a new “operator” and suddenly it feels like an entirely new experience again.
Unlike Halo, knowing where the rocket launcher or futuristic tank is doesn’t determine success in Siege. You can only use what you come in with. And unlike Call of Duty, bum rushing enemy fortifications wielding SMG’s akimbo isn’t a viable strategy. While—as I mentioned previously—quick, accurate firing isn’t everything, it still matters. There is little forgiveness in Siege for poor aim or bad tactics, which can at first seem daunting. New players are easy to spot given their tendency to rush headlong into a situation only to be immediately put down by an entrenched veteran.
But that’s what makes mastering the curve so rewarding. The longer you play, the better you get and the more fun you’re able to have. The excellent ranking system does a decent job of pairing players against teams of similar skill levels ensuring most matches feel balanced. Siege’s extra difficulty and strategic depth add real longevity. Certainly it’s more gratifying than unlocking a new sweater for your operator. We’re here to defuse terrorist bombs, not play dress up.
Siege is the rare game where death matters. Every player is only given a single life per round. Occasionally there is a chance to be revived, but nine times out of ten, you’re going to bleed out.
It only takes a few brief matches where you’re eliminated in the first 30 seconds to realize you’ll need to rethink your strategy. Charging around shotgun-first isn’t great for your health. While most games only have players dwell on their mistakes for a few seconds before hopping back in, Siege forces foolish hardheads to sit around and watch their craftier teammates finish out the round. Rarely do mistakes in videogames hurt this much. As such, there’s nothing more heart-pounding than knowing that one, tiny mistake could preemptively end the round for you.
Conversely, each kill is worth that much more because you’ve cut the opposing five-man team’s strength by a full, permanent 20 percent. You have to be a real badass just to get the jump on one person. When the stakes are this high, every kill is a minor victory and every death a tragic defeat. Gone are the days of 26-17 kill-to-death ratios. If you finish a full match 6-3, you’re a true champion, and you’ll feel like one.
Everything I’ve said to this point really comes down to how much teamwork truly matters in this game. The reason I bought Siege in the first place was to keep up with college friends. We knew lugging Xboxes across state lines for all-night LAN parties would be less and less feasible as we got older, so we needed another way to vanquish each other in the spirit of competition. We nabbed Siege when it came out and grew into it together. More than almost anything I’ve ever played, it’s truly important to have a team that’s willing to communicate. We aren’t good enough to have a clan or anything, but there are few things more fun than teaming up with old buddies for a night of internet warfare.
But we weren’t the only ones to realize the importance of communicative teammates. Most of the people that play now are on board with the whole concept. Because the game is rarely fun as a lone wolf, a truly excellent and cooperative community has sprung up around the game. The high difficulty and low success rate of Rambo types has scared away most of the more obnoxious players. It’s a more mature and committed group of players, and even when my long-time friends aren’t on, it’s usually not too difficult to find fun, engaging randoms to play with.
Maybe this goes without saying, but the best indicator of a game’s overall quality is whether anybody is willing to play the thing. Multiplayer games in particular are judged on matches’ ability to remain engaging even after the initial novelty has worn off. There has to be a reason to keep coming back. Is the game’s inherent strategy deep enough to make each match feel unique? Is the community engaging and fun to play with? If I grind for 200 hours can I finally paint my crossbow with an 8-bit, Christmas-themed color scheme?
Take Evolve, for example. The game rode a wave of pre-release hype to decent reviews and solid commercial success. A little over a year after its release, however, Evolve’s developers were forced to try and regain their lost player base by changing the game to a free-to-play model. Four months after that, they decided to just pull all support. Evolve did exactly the opposite of its name.
But for Rainbow Six: Siege the online community is as strong as it’s ever been. Even a year and a half later, the game is just outside the top 10 on PC, and there have been several articles about how the player base is increasing and holding steady. The year-old game was even beating Infinite Warfare when Call of Duty’s latest iteration released. Thanks to constant free preview weekends—and a player base that refuses to move on—there’s no shortage of Siege veterans willing to headshot new players through a wall no matter the time of day or night.
One of the biggest issues that can plague a game post-launch is a splintering of its player base. Every release these days has some sort of DLC whereby players are encouraged to shell out extra cash for additional maps and characters. Problems arise when not everybody opts into the new content. The game gets divided in half as some players migrate to the new maps separate from everybody else.
Siege has essentially solved that whole issue. Everybody eventually gains access to new maps, but season pass holders get a week to try them out before their more frugal counterparts. Although any new characters automatically become unlocked for season pass holders, each additional character can be had for free by anybody, as long as they’re willing to play long enough to earn them. In this way, Ubisoft keeps the player base from dividing either by maps or by overpowered characters. If you don’t want to pay, you don’t have to. You’re just going to have to work for it.
Although most games these days receive periodic updates, Ubisoft has made it its mission to obsessively perfect Siege’s baseline game performance. The developers were supposed to release another “season” of content last month, but they instead launched “Operation Health” to clean up any remaining bugs in the game. They actively backed away from a more popular release option to make sure play was as tight as it could possibly be. This initiative comes despite the fact that I haven’t seen a problematic bug in probably a year. Unless somebody manages to beat me, of course. Then they were definitely hacking.
I’ll admit that I’ve never been the biggest e-sports fan. Why would I want to watch other people play a game when I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself? I can’t survive a tackle from an NFL defensive lineman, but lord knows I can clear a room of virtual terrorists.
But after watching Ubisoft’s self-produced documentary about professional Siege players, I’m hooked. I never realized there was such a subculture of fans for this game, but it’s clear why so many people enjoy watching these matches. At their best, it’s like watching an intense cop movie. Obviously, it becomes even more fascinating as you become familiar with the game. You recognize maps and tactics and can knowledgeable follow along with the action.
You don’t have to take the game seriously. If you want to just use the game’s unique format to screw around and have fun, the community is expansive and inclusive enough to allow just that. If you want to spend a round pretending to be turtles or with your audio muted for an extra challenge, the casual mode is a perfect place to do that. Take these guys for example:
Jordan Breeding is a current Paste intern who also writes for Cracked and the esteemed Twitter.