While it’s fair to say no two gamers may experience one game in the exact same way, few games have polarised players quite as effectively as Ubisoft’s latest offering, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction.
We suspect its issues stem from the game’s core premise. Neither solely a survival horror nor a tactical shooter, Rainbow Six Extraction straddles both genres without committing seriously to either, as though it’s keeping its options open in case something better comes along. As fans of both horror and shooters, we can’t say that bothered us much – the gunplay’s fabulously fun and the parasitic aliens you take on are a formidable, and occasionally even unnerving, foe – but if you’ve come into this looking for the hardcore tactics of other Rainbow games, you’re unlikely to come out of Extraction‘s formulaic ghost train feeling wholly satisfied.
You see, on the face o it, Rainbow Six Extraction has everything that R6 fans are likely looking for – strong gunplay, fabulously destructive environments, a roster of unique Operators with which to play – but the rest of what makes R6 a hot favourite with shooter fans – chiefly tactical PvP fights across intricate maps – is simply not there. And though there is an emphasis on online collaboration… well, that’s it, really. There’s no story campaign – in fact, there’s no campaign at all. All you do is enter quarantine zones – either alone, with your pals, or matchmade randos – shoot shizz up, and do your damndest to get back out again. Rinse and repeat.
Even the objectives you’re required to complete come from a limited pool, too. Selected at random from around a dozen or so options, they’ll task you with rescuing somebody perhaps, or eradicating a clutch of poisonous nests. Occasionally, you have to hold specific points while warding off intruders – think Control in Destiny, but with aggy aliens – and other times, you must silently takedown a particular specimen in order to extract its DNA for scientists to analyse.
This means that sometimes, you’ll have a great time – your objectives will be speedy and straightforward, and you’ll move seamlessly through the incursion zone – and others will feel like literal nightmares, with blackened goo sucking at your feet – it’s called Sprawl, and you’ll hate it – as you attempt to run for your life.
Paint the whole world with the Rainbow
The more you play, though, the better you’ll come to understand not only the objectives, but the 12 maps on which you have to complete them, too. You’ll kick off in New York City, including Liberty Island – there are not many upsides to a deadly parasite, but the lack of tourist-heavy queues is seemingly one of them – and then gradually unlock new locations in San Francisco, Alaska, and then finally, Truth or Consequences which isn’t a place as much as a dire warning, offering large, sprawling maps that default to the hardest difficulty. Are the maps instantly recognisable and remarkably different? No, not really. That’s not to say you won’t have fun creeping around them, though, and with a random extraction point each time, including “dynamic variables”, it’s surprising how different each mission feels, even with the limited map rotation.
Every mission is split into three zones, and each one definitively separated from the last courtesy of airlock doors. Predictably enough, you’ll have a single objective to complete in each zone – there’s no pattern; an objective might appear first in one mission, and it might be your final one in the next – although your tasks will get progressively harder and harder. Sometimes, you may decide it’s better to cut your losses and exit mid-mission; health doesn’t re-gen, not even if you find first aid, and you’ll soon learn which objectives are worth hanging on for, and which ones may be a tad too tricky to take a chance. Like us, you’ll soon realise it’s better to exit partway through with 2000 XP than push on, die, and end up with nothing.
And it gets particularly dicey if you die during a mission, too. Fallen operatives don’t get the luxury of a fade-to-black screen and a handy respawn to try again. Exhaust all your health and first aid boosts and your corpse is wrapped lovingly in stasis foam, ready to be retrieved and extracted by a squadmate. However, if they fail to get you out, or, worst still, you all succumb to the fury of the parasite hosts, the Archaeans, your Operative goes MIA and you won’t be able to play them again until a different operative of yours braves the odds and re-enters that zone to retrieve them.
Distract and react
It’s a shame that there’s no narrative-heavy campaign to help tell Rainbow Six Extraction‘s intriguing tale, but you’ll learn what the REACT (Rainbow Exogenous Analysis and Containment Team) Operators are up against via a handful of cinematic cut-scenes and a lore-rich in-game Codex that, admittedly, we only glanced at when a particular objective was kicking our collective arse (Decontamination, we’re looking at you). Despite alien-esque appearances, your true enemy is Chimera, a parasite that broke out south of the border but is now rippling across the US. With nothing known about the parasite, your Operators must not only fight and contain the threat, but also occasionally collect samples from the inhuman Archaeans, too, to help the clever folks figure out how to best the threat once and for all.
A lost opportunity? Maybe. After all, a game that once sported the word “quarantine” in its title has perhaps a unique opportunity to capture the collective consciousness of a lockdown-weary world, but perhaps that’s what Ubisoft sacrificed to push Extraction down from a AAA/blockbuster game to one that retails for a “budget” price of £40, and is playable for no extra cost for Xbox Game Pass subscribers. If, like us, you’re just happy with a gun in one hand and a stun grenade in the other, it probably doesn’t matter, though – deep story or no deep story, we love shooting stuff.
What is different, however, is how you progress in Extraction. Whereas many shooters reward you just for kills and that’s about it, here it’s a little different. Instead, every area requires you to complete a number of Studies. They vary in difficulty and scope – one time you may have to stealthily takedown a certain tanky enemy five times; another may just want you to ping five nests, which should take a whole 30 seconds to complete – but it’s a distinct way of measuring and valuing progress, and one that requires you to work tactically and experimentally with your squaddies rather than just spray your gun around the place.
Rainbow Six Extraction Verdict
No, Rainbow Six Extraction doesn’t set the genre alight with its devilishly slick new systems or gameplay innovation, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an immensely enjoyable way to while away a weekend or two. And though it’s possible it will feel more frustrating than fun if you’re playing with randoms – it’s not easy to convey “hey, please don’t shoot the Lurkers on this level, I have a Study to complete” via the game’s limited ping system – with a couple of pals at your side, it’s a thoroughly entertaining romp. It’s got guns. It’s (kind of) got aliens.
What else do you need, eh?
If you have a penchant for stealth and solid shooters with hi-tech, re-con gadgetry, then you owe it to yourself to give Extraction a try – plus it’s free on Xbox Game Pass right now!
Solid, meaty gunplay
A good assortment of enemies, all with differing weak points
Gadgets and attachments make for fun on-the-job experimentation
The lack of variety in maps and objectives may become frustrating
Objectives and Studies may be difficult to pull off without pals and mics at hand
The injury/MIA mechanic forces you to try other Operators… even when you don’t want to