I was sceptical about the release of Rainbow Six Extraction for so many reasons. Its price, co-op focus, delay and subsequent silence in the lead up to release; there were plenty of signs that this game may kick-off 2022 with all the wrong notes.
In what is quite an unexpected turn, I would now say that Rainbow Six Extraction is the perfect game to kick off what is hopefully set to be a huge year for gaming. It has surprised me in all the right ways and gives me the belief that Ubisoft could easily produce another stunning single-player Rainbow 6 experience if they wanted to.
Whether or not that happens is beside the point, Extraction offers a ton of content for the solo and group players to enjoy and is definitely worth giving a go if you enjoy anything Rainbow Six related or even if you don't and are just looking for a laid back co-op experience to enjoy with friends.
Here's are my thoughts on the game overall, what it tells us about the state of the R6 franchise and where it falls just a little short of perfection.
Basic Is Best
No one is going to look at the gameplay or story of Rainbow Six Extraction and be blown away by its originality. That's not really what Ubisoft is trying to achieve. Instead, we get a damn fine attempt at a co-op shooter that can also be played solo (more on that later).
Mechanically speaking, Extraction feels amazing to play. The control scheme feels very familiar and doesn't try to reinvent the wheel. Better yet, you could easily skip the tutorial, land in a level and figure the entire scheme out within a couple of minutes. This frees up some brainpower to really pay attention to what's going on around you, which is essential.
The core gameplay loop of Rainbow Six Extraction sees you and up to two friends take Operators into incursions across various levels within diverse North American regions. You'll see action in New York, San Francisco, Alaska and Truth or Consequences (in New Mexico for any fellow non-Americans who are unsure if it was a real location).
Within each region is three stages. The biggest compliment I can give to the level design of Extraction is that there isn't a single stage or region that I found boring or plain. Overall, the way incursions play out will see you start at random points within a stage as you make your way through up to three objectives and three sections of the environment.
You'll learn routes, pathways and points of interest really quickly, which will help with team communication. It also helps with solo runs when you look to increase the difficulty because each stage is just as big a character within the game as the enemies you face or the Operator you choose.
Speaking of the operators, each one doesn't exactly get a ton of time to let their personality shine, but each has their own perks and quirks to make them unique. Your decision of which Operator to choose will be based on a few criteria including their Health and Armor rating, their Ability, and the weapons they have available to them.
Our favourites were Lion, Doc and Hibana as they were the easiest to get on with very early in the game and were great solo or team Operators.
Lion's ability allows you to scan a pretty wide area for enemies was brilliant. The range and duration of the scan also increase as you level him up. Doc is the standard healer but again, once you level him up, his heals become more effective and will be crucial in higher difficulties. Hibana is a bit more about speed and destruction but would compliment more cautious teams nicely. As a solo player, her ability can get you out of a pinch as she launches remote explosives at enemies that can cause massive damage.
You'll surely find your own favourites as you play and can develop each one to a maximum level cap of 10. You can also customise each operator with outfits and helmets as well as adding skins and charms to their weapons, a staple in many first-person shooters nowadays.
We Go Again
Rainbow Six Extraction does a great job of initially explaining why you can take on incursions as a solo player but make no mistakes, the game is made from the ground up to be played by a team of three.
Incursions are the core gameplay loop and take you on a trip to a chosen stage within the game where you must complete three objectives across three sub-zones. At any point, you can extract from a level and bank the XP that you've earned. This is because if you fail to extract and take too much damage, your Operator becomes MIA (missing in action).
In order to get them back, you'll need to set off on another incursion in the same location to save them. There is a decent variety in the objectives you can be set and for the most part, they can be completed in full stealth. Some, however, will force you into firefights and this is where your knowledge of a stage and use of REACT Tech is crucial.
This tech is chosen pre-incursion and is part of your Operator's loadout. It can be anything from the classic Rainbow Six SIege Recon Drone to a special laser that can prevent the alien sprawl from covering a stage (as it can severely slow down your Operators).
This is just a small part of the enemy threat and each enemy in the game is wonderfully designed and unique. Each has its own powers and abilities and must be approached in a different way. This is just another part of the learning experience within the game that feels fantastic to conquer.
For many players, finishing up an incursion and realising that the point of the game is just to head straight into another one might get too repetitive, but general gameplay is satisfying and challenging enough to prevent it from being boring.
Once you progress far enough, additional content will unlock, such as Assignments and the Maelstrom Protocol, which is the 'end game' mode. As you take on incursions at higher difficulties, there are also modifiers that can randomly occur in stages, known as Parasite Modifiers. Plenty of care and attention has gone into making sure that the core game offers plenty of content for any type of player.
This content was difficult to test during the review period but what I played of it, I enjoyed. There is also more post-launch content planned to help keep players engaged past standard incursions.
Testing The Waters
The story plays out in a very unique way within Rainbow Six Extraction as it unfolds when you reach certain milestone levels. There are short cutscenes featuring familiar faces from the Rainbow Six franchise, specifically Siege, that helps keep you engaged and act as a nice respite from the main gameplay loop.
At its core, Extraction really feels like Ubisoft testing the waters for whether or not a more single-player and story-focused game will still swing in today's market. The much talked about Patriots game that became Siege is still longed for by the old school R6 fanbase (myself included).
If this is the case, then they really have nailed a lot of what made the older Tom Clancy games unique, not just Rainbow Six. Everything from the use of recon tech to the ability to plan breaches of rooms thanks to the ability to see through thin walls using the UV Light weapon attachment.
Everything just screams out like this love letter to previous games in the franchise just... with aliens. If nothing else comes from the release of Extraction, then it still stands alone as a fantastic experience for solo and co-op players alike.
The one area that Rainbow Six Extraction falls ever so slightly short is in the overall balancing of the game when playing co-op versus solo. Don't let what I'm about to say detract from the fact that the game is still incredibly enjoyable for all players, but there are issues that need addressing post-launch.
Even if you follow the advice of the game when tackling higher difficulties, there's often just too much to manage when taking on those challenges solo. We've seen other games make big mistakes with solo progression and play - hello, Back 4 Blood - but what we have here is no way near that scale. Progression is still very much possible when playing solo but the challenge is a bit more intimidating when playing alone.
Not having a team to communicate with is hard and this isn't the type of game where AI teammates can fix the problem, in my opinion. Some minor tweaks should do the trick and make it so that there's less frustration for solo players.
All in all, Rainbow Six Extraction is a fantastic solo or co-op experience with a ton of content for what is a cut-price AAA release. There is so much to accomplish and if you've always liked the look of Siege but never been a fan of online multiplayer, this is the perfect gateway into the universe.
Give this game a chance and it just might surprise you. We're looking forward to the post-launch content support and hope the minor balance issues can be fixed to present the perfect solo experience alongside the already brilliant co-op one.
RealSport Rating 4.5 Stars (out of 5)
We reviewed Rainbow Six Extraction on PS5 with review codes provided by Ubisoft.