Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X
January 20, 2022
Expanding the Rainbow Six universe into the supernatural for the first time, Rainbow Six Extraction takes the Operators we’ve grown to love over the years in PVP sensation Rainbow Six Siege, and places them against an alien threat that must be vanquished. There’s an intriguing setup and some glimmer of narrative hope at the beginning, but really this is an excuse to take the tactical gunplay and slick production values that have been refined in Siege and drop them into an exciting new survival horror environment. The result of this new formula is an addictive cooperative adventure that mixes up the Rainbow Six blueprint more than enough to justify a deep dive into this thrilling, dangerous and at times incredibly difficult shooter.
Rainbow Six Extraction takes the franchise in a PVE cooperative direction for three players, who must work together using their abilities to complete a series of alien-based objectives. The Archaeans – a variety of gooey alien creatures – have taken over the planet, and a small group of REACT Operators are on board to fight back by collecting data and containing the deadly disease. Extraction is light on story; it would have been great to see the narrative fleshed out a little bit more, but then that’s not what most players are here for. Rainbow Six fans are here for a new challenging take on the acclaimed shooter, and Extraction provides that in spades.
The core gameplay loop goes like this: Loading into a Containment Zone, you’re randomly dished out three objectives to complete, one after the other, forming an Incursion. These objectives range from defending explosives from hordes of Archaeans as they rush you, to collecting DNA samples via stealth kills, to triangulating three separate laptop stations in order to monitor seismic activity while the earth rumbles beneath you. It’s important to sneak your way around, removing threats quietly, as if you’re spotted by an enemy they will howl, alerting all the others in the vicinity and triggering nests to spawn repeatedly. There’s something incredibly satisfying about the methodical rhythm of taking down nests, stealthily killing these creepy creatures and clearing the map before even attempting to complete the objective itself. Rainbow Six Extraction completely nails the atmosphere that one wrong move could trigger an unfortunate series of events, and that keeps every encounter riveting.
“…one wrong move could trigger an unfortunate series of events, and that keeps every encounter riveting.”
There are 12 different objectives in total, which provides a decent amount of variety, and they all feel relatively distinct from one another; everybody will inevitably wind up having favourites and objectives that you’ll come to loathe. Specimen, for example, forces you to get the attention of an elite Archaean and lure them back to the extraction zone, which can be quick with a lucky spawn location. Nest Tracking also focuses more on stealth, as you place trackers on dormant nests without alerting enemies; relatively simple if you’re careful. Decontamination quickly became my squad’s most hated, as you must destroy a bunch of contaminated nests that spawn more Archaeans as soon as you take out the first one, meaning things can get overwhelming fast.
There’s a slight rogue-like element to Rainbow Six Extraction, in the sense that the objectives (and their placement on the map location you choose) are randomised for each Incursion, so you’ll not often encounter the exact same combination. Risk vs. reward is a huge factor here, too. At any time during an Incursion, you can bank rewards from completed objectives and extract to safety; but if you’re brave, you can double down and proceed to the next area, which will provide additional rewards, but will challenge you with a higher quantity of even tougher enemies.
And wow, some of these parasites are tricky, to say the least. The full Archaean Ecosystem includes a bunch of ugly customers that will test your abilities, starting with basic foes like Grunts (who run and swipe at you) and Spikers (who shoot projectiles at you), along with Breachers and Bloaters, who explode when they get close to you and will either damage you directly on impact or fill the area with toxic gas, respectively. Things get more difficult with the Rooters that can bind you to the floor, and Sowers who lay trap mines that blind you if triggered, and more difficult again when you start to encounter the irritating shapeshifting Tormentors, big strong boy Smashers and creepy cloak-wielding Lurkers – and they’re not even the worst of the bunch.
The higher difficulty you choose, the higher likelihood of these tough-as-nails enemies appearing in your Incursions, and at a much higher volume, too. Rainbow Six Extraction is not afraid to be punishing and has a steep learning curve as you’re figuring out how each enemy ticks and understanding the layouts of the maps, along with your objectives. Expect to wipe frequently in your early days, even on the lowest difficulty setting. Even after 30+ hours of play, one simple mistake can still send our team into complete disarray and failure, which is quite a humbling experience. It’s worth noting as well that the experience does scale effectively for two players, or even solo play, so three players aren’t required but definitely make for the most intense experience.
Higher difficulties also come with a higher chance of parasitic mutations as additional nasty modifiers, like thick fog reducing visibility, acidic sprawl that damages you when you walk through it, and cloaked enemies. You’ll slowly chip away however, and as you level up your Operators and become familiar with the gameplay loop, the accomplishments of completing high-difficulty Incursions, extracting with a full squad having completed all three objectives, are right up there as some of my most rewarding video game moments. Higher difficulties and mutations also give you more XP, making the payoff even better.
You might be wondering at this point how this connects to Rainbow Six other than branding, but that’s where the Operators come into play. Eighteen make their appearance here, so it’s likely that at least one of your favourites from Siege is available in the fight. They bring with them their familiar abilities, and finding the right combination is crucial to your success. There’s a range to choose from, depending on your playstyle; Hibana can shoot sticky explosives, for example, while Jäger deploys an automated turret. Rook drops his armour plates to increase defence for the team, while Doc is a handy healer, able to fire a health pistol.
Additionally, recon is an important part of the Extraction experience, especially on harder difficulties where being spotted by an enemy can alert almost the whole map, leaving you in some real trouble. That’s where operators like Lion or Pulse come into play, who can detect enemies, even through walls. Some Operator abilities definitely feel more useful than others, but that could just be my particular playstyle that’s more aggressive than most. You’ll also have REACT Tools at your disposal, which include smoke grenades and stun grenades to disorient a threat, but also other items useful for recon. Those little drones on wheels that have become a trademark of Rainbow Six Siege? They’re here too, with maps designed similarly so that they can access all areas and provide incredibly useful intel. This is a tactical shooter first, so going in guns blazing is never the best approach, which makes successfully using all the Operators and Tools at your disposal, and collaborating with your teammates, all the more important and all the more satisfying when you are successful.
Sabotage and Serial Scan are both objectives that require you to defend an area, and this is where Rainbow Six Extraction further leans into its Siege sensibilities; here, it’s wise to reinforce walls and lay down the area with traps and decoys, so that when hordes of creatures come hunting you down in droves, you can simply hang back and pick them off or take advantage of the distractions. With these missions, the recon, and the smart use of Operator abilities available, the link between Siege and Extraction feels quite natural, and the team at Ubisoft have done an excellent job of seamlessly merging the worlds together
The choice of whether you progress to the next safe zone to take on a more difficult task compared with extracting with the team intact does feel risky, as if you get KO’d, you’ll temporarily lose access to that Operator until you embark on an MIA objective to save them and bring them home. Experience gained by that Operator, along with upgrades and gear, are inaccessible until they are recovered, so it can genuinely prove to be a troublesome diversion that is worth avoiding. Once you are KO’d mid-mission, a teammate does have the ability to carry your lifeless frame to the extraction point, Bodyguard-style, to prevent having to go back in and save them. (We sang “Hero” by Mariah Carey whenever this happened, but feel free to choose your own epic ballad).
“…completely nailed the horror aesthetic, with strange, sad, disgusting sights around every corner.”
In fact, some light Operator management is required, and them going MIA is just one reason why you shouldn’t place all your eggs in one basket. If you lose health on a mission, that Operator is considered injured and needs time to heal and recover, which can only be done by completing objectives and gaining more XP. It becomes a constant balance between rescuing Operators and letting them heal while you progress with the others. Some more customisation of each Operator wouldn’t hurt, but this method forces you to try different tactics, different abilities and different playstyles, and the need to be adaptable keeps things feeling constantly fresh.
Across the board, production values are of incredibly high quality, coming from a long time of honing the craft of what makes Rainbow Six feel good. The UI is polished, and endorphins will be triggered constantly as you’re levelling up operators, unlocking more components of the game and completing objectives. It’s the little things, like the sounds of gargles and screeches of the many Archaeans moving around the map, the slimy sound of the Sprawl (gooey crap) underneath your feet, and the yellow smoke that fills the safe room as sirens go off, indicating you’re ready to take on the next battle. It just feels slick and very satisfying at every turn.
It’s a shame there’s not more depth to the story, because the setup itself is relatively interesting; completing research studies (by killing certain enemy types in certain ways) unlocks some text that describes the outbreak, but it’s not the most elegant way to deliver plot points. While the narrative itself is lacking in detail, there is at least a lot of environmental storytelling that makes the world feel like it was lived in before the parasite threat took over. Slot machines are left spinning in the Apollo Casino, while a UFO museum is a delightful tongue-in-cheek nod to what we think aliens would be like, now being infested with actual gross creatures. Carapace, an indestructible membrane that shoots from the ground up through streets and buildings give every area an ominous, spooky feeling. They’ve completely nailed the horror aesthetic, with strange, sad, disgusting sights around every corner.
The rogue-like nature of the core missions could get repetitive – and in long play sessions, that’s fair – but there’s also strong endgame components, with a couple of modes already available and the promise of more in the near future. Assignments allow for new weekly challenges; the one I tested, Wall-to-Wall, has numerous Archaean Assaults, triggered in waves like an intense horde mode, where speed matters most, and an additional objective of unlocking new areas. Maelstrom Protocol seems to be the true test, as you pick from a limited pool of Operators and try to complete not just three objectives in one run… but nine. Oh, and things get more aggressive and with fewer resources the deeper you go. If you think the main game is a challenge, Maelstrom Protocol is on another level. It’s exciting to think about the future of Rainbow Six Extraction, especially if it’s given the ongoing support that we’ve seen from Siege since it launched back in 2015.
- Compelling and addictive gameplay loop
- Incredibly satisfying and varied objectives
- Diverse group of Operators and interesting progression
- High production values across the board
- Solid amount of content, with plenty of endgame challenge
- Learning curve can be a little steep
- Story is very light-touch, to say the least
Rainbow Six Extraction ran the risk of being labelled as an expansion or an unnecessary spinoff, but confidently proves that there is more than enough room in this universe for a survival horror tactical shooter built on the foundations laid down by Siege. With a mixture of enjoyable objectives, a diverse range of Operators and a compelling gameplay loop filled with aggressive enemies and intense action, the addictive nature of the experience shines through with a constant struggle between playing it safe or risking it all for greater reward. Rainbow Six Extraction is full of truly exciting and memorable moments, continually testing your skill and perseverance around every dark corner, which makes it an incredibly gripping experience that doesn’t let go easily.