Rainbow Six Extraction Review: Gameplay and Multiplayer Impressions, VideosJanuary 19, 2022
The Tom Clancy brand and well-established Rainbow Six series dive headfirst into uncharted waters with the release of Rainbow Six Extraction from developer Ubisoft Montreal.
A spinoff of the wildly successful competitive player vs. player Rainbow Six Siege, Extraction goes the totally opposite direction. It embraces a three-player co-op experience with the Siege setting, adding a sci-fi element via a parasitic alien and leaning into different roguelike genres in an effort to innovate.
The result is something that avoids seeming like a cliche "Left 4 Dead clone" feel, and it's a starkly unexpected direction for a game under the uber-realistic Tom Clancy umbrella.
And it works.
While there are questions worth asking about Extraction's long-term potential, the innovative blend of unexpected elements creates a rather unique, niche experience worth checking out.
Graphics and Gameplay
It'd be selling Extraction short to say it looks like Siege with a splash of sci-fi goodness thanks to aliens and a parasite overtaking various locales players will gun or sneak through.
But that's probably the most succinct way to talk about Extraction's presentation.
Siege veterans will feel right at home. As a Rainbow Six game, the sound design is superb, whether talking about the voice acting or sound of gunfire or just overall ambiance. And they'll recognize the included 18 of 60 operators from Siege.
Where Extraction differs is in some of the sci-fi elements. There's still the expected industrial levels and expected variance that comes with any modern-setting shooter, but areas within those have been overtaken by a parasite that smatters the walls, ceiling and floor. While pretty, it still feels very much like a Rainbow Six game at each stop, especially thanks to the expected environmental destruction.
Like presentation, Siege veterans will feel right at home with the gameplay itself. Precise shooting, impactful weapons, leaning, crouching, it's all back and feels the same. For those who haven't played Siege, let's just say it's setting the industry standard for competitive multiplayer and therefore feels great here, too.
At its core, a team of three operators must make infiltrations dubbed incursions into specific areas around the globe. They'll confront not only one of a double-digit list of objectives in each sub-section of map, but a procedurally generated location of both those tasks and enemies.
Each main level has three sub-sections with safe rooms. Players can choose to book it for an extraction point and end the mission in each of the sub-sections, or seek out the safe room and keep advancing. The farther players go into the levels, the greater the risk, and of course, the reward.
How the game handles health is both unique-feeling and adds a degree of difficulty. Players can't just passively regenerate health and actual packs are very, very limited.
Extraction is a really interesting approach to the gameplay loop. If a player's operator "dies" during a mission, they're unavailable from the roster screen. Players then have to pick a different operator and load into that mission and can extract (get it?) them. If successful, that previously lost operator is available again from the selection screen, albeit with low health. Going back into missions with other operators can help replace lost health.
It's actually a solid way for the game to add tension to each attempt at a run. It succeeds in this area, asking players to think more strategically about decisions instead of just running and gunning—there's no guarantee they'll be able to extract lost operators later if they mess up.
That said, the game doesn't really need the help in the tension department because it's quite difficult, especially for the first few hours. This isn't a game where a trio can just load in and run and gun. That might work rarely given the right set of objectives and generated enemies, but trying it often will result in lost operators.
Veteran Siege players might find it a little disappointing that the array of equipment and gadgets is just carried over from the main game. But they'll at least be familiar with the arsenal right away, right? It's also a little fun from a narrative standpoint—this alien-like enemy just came out of nowhere, right? They can only use what they have available to them.
Levels are mostly horizontal, besides some multifloor buildings. There's a dread that comes with this, though. Enemies don't seem to ever pull off surprise attacks from above or through surfaces, but they can overwhelm quickly. Trying to lure them into a bottleneck isn't advisable, especially when considering the way the game handles health.
Make no mistake—that's by design. There's a whole different creepy, dreadful feel to these sort of modern settings against these enemies, A.I. or not, compared to if it was just other players in a PvP match flying around, and the great level design is a big reason for that feel.
Story, Multiplayer and More
Extraction doesn't waste any team getting right into the meat of things. An alien threat dubbed the "Archaeans" touches down and starts its parasitic spread throughout the globe. The good guys form REACT (Rainbow Exogenous Analysis and Containment Team) and away the narrative goes.
There are some really touching, albeit brief cutscenes that work hard to character-build the involved people. The idea seems to be making players care even more for the included operators and their supporting cast, though it's easy enough to gloss through it while focusing on the next mission.
Still, it's strong for what it is and gives the whole setting a narrative excuse for the fun to be had out in the field with the big-feeling set of operators. Eighteen isn't a huge number at launch, but the abilities are so varied the roster feels bigger than it is.
Operator selection and team composition is another big element of the strategy inherent to the experience. Going without an operator equipped to rip through destructible walls, for example, limits what the whole team can do on a given run.
Besides the tried-and-true skills (like a holographic decoy), players can reinforce certain positions, doors and windows. They can also use the ping system and utilize tech like drones to scout ahead.
But the alien enemy is very much versatile and unpredictable, too. Some classes of alien can slow the team's movement, which is deadly in combination with a sharp-shooting class of enemy or a wave that runs them down.
Adding to the danger is the actual infected areas, which dramatically slow down player movement. It only enhances enemy power, though, giving yet another reason to take things very slow, if not entirely stealthily.
Actual gameplay objectives for each mission center on expected things like alien kill counts or retrieving intel. They're not going to do any sort of groundbreaking work for first-person shooters as a whole, but the variance prevents numbing repetition.
Moreso than most games in similar genres, Extraction demands communication between players. Attempting to extract an operator, for example, literally means carrying a body slowly with only a sidearm equipped. It's easy for poor communication to lead to a botched recovery effort and mission fail, quickly. Getting that body actually unstuck from the parasite requires one player pulling on it and two others shooting attach points elsewhere—all while juggling whatever enemy happens to be in the area.
The game really is packed with content and options. There are 60-plus weapons with their own upgrade routes, 20-plus gadgets and more assuredly to come. Also included is a very strong set of accessibility and hardware options, which also come over from Siege.
Also worth a note is the ability to straight-up mute an entire team with the press of a button upon launching a session. It could help to curb any toxicity online and is a much better option than simply removing public chat like some other recent releases.
All the positives aside, Extraction's lifespan is a concerning thing to ponder. The niche co-op zombie genre is already pretty saturated with Call of Duty putting out zombies modes often. This comes close on the heels of Back 4 Blood, too. There are plans for post-launch support of course, but whether the playerbase remains populated is hard to say—the first impression will be critical.
Interestingly, Extraction will hope to keep the competitive side of things alive for a long time via Maelstrom, a ranked mode that upticks the number of challenges per session, offers leaderboards and throws out major experience bonuses and seasonal loot to participants. It's a smooth potential way to keep competitive players on board despite it technically being a co-op game.
Narratively speaking, it'd be fun if the game took a "living world" approach and started implementing more sci-fi-esque gadgets and such as the universe adapts to and struggles with the alien threat. But again, the long term is a mystery. Extraction won't necessarily be ripping players from Siege itself, but rather possibly taking from similar games.
Extraction has a lot of interesting things going for it despite residing in a pretty occupied niche.
It excellently stacks tension. The formula offers unique spins, especially with the procedural generation and roguelike difficulty elements. And it's got tried-and-true Siege characters, gadgets, gunplay and movement.
Meaning, it's not Left 4 Dead. It's not Back 4 Blood. While some will hit Extraction for using so much from Siege itself, the way it carves out a space of its own within a beloved niche is a sound effort.
As a title easily available on Xbox Game Pass, it's easy to see the combination of these factors lifting Extraction into mega-hit status. It's worth a look for the reasons listed above, though again, the first impression and future support plans will decide whether it can have a run as long as Siege, its industry juggernaut cousin, which also elbowed into a well-populated genre and is now a staple of it.