I have to be honest: when I previously thought of franchises where I might encounter a paranormal force, Rainbow Six was not one of them. Siege has been one of the most consistent multiplayer shooters since its launch in 2015, nothing in my eyes would be slowing that game down. As it turns out I'm still correct, but that doesn't mean Ubisoft can't throw another R6 out to the masses. Enter Rainbow Six: Extraction, a game not centered on 5v5 multiplayer but instead on teams of 3 against an unpredictable parasitic threat. This is one of the more unique shooters I've ever played, though I can't say it's entirely for the better.
Extraction follows a simple format: a team of up to three players is sent out on an Incursion, or a mission into heavily contaminated territory. There they must complete up to three objectives, with the option to leave the mission after completing the first or second objective as well. Missions include collecting samples from certain enemies by sneaking up on them, protecting explosives from the horde so they can detonate, or escorting a survivor to the safety of a helicopter pickup. Every time you complete an objective and choose to continue, however, the next area of the map--or "hot zone" as the game calls them--increases in difficulty.
It's that last part I enjoy the most, where the game really leans into the strategic elements that make Rainbow Six games so unique. Do we cut bait and leave, collecting any banked experience and not risking another zone, or do we decide to go for broke and see what happens? Do we have enough ammo for a large horde? What's our health situation? Questions like this immediately follow every completed objective, which is a super cool way to experience this world. I'm always engaged, always tuned in to what's happening, and I like when a game can do that.
Speaking of "health," the health system in this game flat out stinks. Each operator starts with 100 base health--what I'll call "white health" for this example--and can find health packs in the field for "blue health." A full health bar is 100 white and 100 blue, but blue health slowly depletes over time. What's worse, if I lose white health and then find a health pack, the boost is only applied as blue health that still depletes. This leads to scenarios where I could have 15 white health, find a pack that gets me to 65, but then that extra 50 health slowly reverts back to 15. Why wouldn't health under 100 restore itself first before employing the blue health? It doesn't make any sense to me.
Moving on from health, I will also say that after an extended period of time--unlocking everything Extraction has to offer takes around 20 hours, for example--the list of possible objectives ends up feeling shorter than it is. Repetition is an issue in Extraction, with a few objectives popping up much more frequently than others in my time with the game. My excitement takes a slight hit when I see the same missions over and over again, as I get a feeling of deja vu that a shooter game like this shouldn't ever pass along.
The multiple objectives, limited as they may be, do allow seasoned Siege players to employ some of the tactics they've learned in this new environment, in a clever adaptation of the format. Take the "protecting explosives" mission I described earlier: before setting the charges my companions and I travel around the general vicinity, putting up barricades, reinforcing walls, etc. We take the most strategic angles possible and, when ready, trigger the explosives and watch the enemies roll in. Before long it dawns on me that "hey, I'm playing a defensive round in Siege" and I find myself gobsmacked. It's amazing how flawlessly that game flows in and out of this one from moment to moment.
I also like Extraction's smart use of Operators, the signature soldiers of R6: Siege. Operators found here are the same as those in the previous game, complete with unique kits that can help during an Incursion. Sledge has his trusty hammer for smashing walls, Pulse can use his heartbeat sensor to pinpoint an enemy's location, etc. Having a trio of players mix and match Operators to find the right synergy is a nifty touch, even if it might result in some disastrous trips to the infected world.
This begs the question: what's at risk if you should fail? The answer, surprisingly, is the Operator you've chosen. Downed operators become MIA, which then results in a specific objective to retrieve the downed Operator in his or her "Stasis Foam"--a yellow foam that covers the player's body and what I can only describe as Extraction's version of "plot armor." You never fully lose an Operator, you just can't choose that character again until you save them. This idea encourages becoming familiar with multiple Operators while you play, as you'll never know exactly when your favorite Operator might fall into the foam.
I like this idea, however sometimes the game's penchant for stuffing as many enemies into one room as possible means I'll be losing Operators a lot. Difficulty spikes can be brutal in Extraction, both between and within hot zones. I could have already finished my objective and be moving to the airlock for the next section, only to be inundated with enemies and forced to limp back to the evac point. In a similar vein one hot zone might have a handful of standard enemies, while the very next one feels like the "Nightmare!" setting in Doom. Losing an Operator after already completing my mission is one of the most frustrating things I've ever experienced in a game, I don't wish that on anyone.
There's a decent amount of content here in Extraction, though nothing here strays away from the "hot zones separated by airlocks" format. There are a dozen maps to explore and wage war with the parasite in, but after a few matches the maps become familiar, redundant. I wish there were some more variety in the maps or objectives, and perhaps that's something we'll see down the line, but right now overfamiliarity is an issue.
That's not to say Rainbow Six: Extraction is a bad game, it's the opposite in fact. This drastic change in tone and structure from the Rainbow Six: Siege we've all come to enjoy is cool…for a time. The different alien types--while seeming overly familiar compared to other video game monsters--are fun to fight and strategize against. The objectives are fun and tense, and the "do we continue or leave now" choice is always filled with tension. I just wish there was more of this game to play, and that the repetition of the game didn't set in so soon. Extraction is certainly worthy of the Rainbow Six moniker, I just don't know if it will be laying Siege to the other game's fanbase anytime soon.