Rainbow Six Extraction is a pleasant surprise to kick off 2022 for tactical shooter fans.
It’d be fair to say we didn’t need Rainbow Six: Extraction. That may be a bizarre way to begin a (mostly positive) review, but after Tom Clancy and Ubisoft’s long-running tactical shooter franchise went fully multiplayer with 2015’s Siege, the last thing we expected was a game where we hunt an alien parasite.
And yet, having played Extraction for almost a week now, I’m so glad it exists. While the modular nature of each excursion will undoubtedly make them feel too siloed for some, Extraction builds off of the strong bones of its PvP sibling while adding more in the way of stealth, tension, and atmosphere than I could have possibly expected. Make no mistake – this is a Rainbow Six title in more than just name.
Rainbow Six Extraction – Key details
- Price: £44.99 / $39.99
- Developer: Ubisoft
- Release date: 20/1/2022
- Platforms: Xbox Series S|X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC
Rainbow Six Extraction trailer
Rainbow Six Extraction is set amidst the backdrop of an alien invasion. This time around, though, it’s not an Independence Day-style all-out war. Extraction’s battles are fought in containment zones, where players are tasked with learning about the Chimera parasite.
In each containment area, this parasite manifests as the Sprawl, a gooey, squishy film that slows Operators, while also forming nests that create Archaeans.
Boiling Extraction down to its simplest components, you’ll head into any of the game’s incursion locations through an airlock and complete one of many randomized objectives. These range from killing a specific elite creature, to sneaking up and placing trackers on nests.
Once your objective is complete, you’ll have a choice to make – do you extract, and take the XP you’ve earned into your next sortie, or head into the next sub sector for another new objective. This “stick or twist” idea means that while the rewards are greater in the second and third areas of a mission, you’ll be led entirely by your own knowledge of the map and knowing what the objective is.
Enemy positions, and types, rotate each incursion, so the poison-filled bloaters you so easily picked off last time might be replaced by a Lurker, capable of cloaking and sneaking up on you. That makes the decision about whether to move on or to ship out a tough one because you never quite know what could be through the airlock.
The digestible nature of Extractions missions will likely prove divisive. Each map is spacious enough to hold multiple objective opportunities, but not big enough to really justify sticking around to explore once your objective is completed. That means once you’ve seen it all, it’s possible to get through many stage one objectives in a few minutes, before extracting with your meager XP gains.
Others will no doubt wish maps were larger and maybe have more to find, outside of lore tidbits, but I found myself regularly jumping into Extraction when I had a short window of time to spare just to level up my Operators.
While not all of Siege’s roster make the cut (there are only 18 Operators here at present), fans of that game will likely gravitate to one or two of the Operators available in Extraction (although many do need to be unlocked).
While many of their abilities are maintained from Siege (Sledge still swings a big hammer, and Pulse can scan through walls), others have had their abilities tweaked. Many of Extraction’s objectives, like planting charges (Sabotage) and locking down certain areas (Serial Scan) are a great chance to use defensive characters like Gridlock.
Some feel too situational, though. Vigil’s ability to render himself cloaked, for example, feels pointless in all but the most stealth-oriented objectives, while Tachanka has his pre-rework turret emplacement. On the lower difficulty levels, Operator abilities feel superfluous, but as things ramp up you’ll be glad you have them.
Each Operator can be leveled up individually through use, by completing objectives and killing enemies. In fact, unlike Siege’s more grindy progression system, I always felt like Extraction was respecting my time as a player. Even those bite-sized, “easy mode” solo incursions I mentioned earlier felt rewarding – either through improving my Operators, or just helping progress me towards new REACT tech.
This unlockable gear comes in all forms, and I soon swapped out the default camera drone for additional body armor or a self-revive kit on the occasion I knew things would get hairy.
And they do get hairy, because Extraction is a tough game. Even playing with a three-player squad, the game constantly ups the ante without feeling unfair. Part of this is to do with there being enough ammo to blow through a firefight or two, but not enough to keep you in the same sub-sector for long. It’s finely balanced, and health can never be truly recovered within a mission, either (only buffed for a period), meaning you’ll feel the urge to retreat without losing an Operator more than you may expect.
If (or when) you do lose an Operator, they’ll be placed in stasis and held hostage by a creepy Archaean tree in your next incursion into that location. To get them free you’ll need to initiate a tug of war with the ferocious foliage, taking out root nodes around it with the help of your team. Get it wrong, and you’ll lose your chance to extract your comrade, but get them home and they’ll be able to recuperate.
It’s not quite XCOM levels of squad management, but I appreciated the macro side of the game as much as the minutiae – could I really afford to go on another incursion elsewhere when I’d left my teammate in San Francisco?
Sadly, the downside of having so many available objectives is that many of them feel much easier than others. Decontamination, for example, requires destroying nests to trigger a “horde mode” style standoff, often with explosive enemies. That’s tricky enough in the final stage of an incursion, but it can also prompt an early extraction simply because of how much health you lose.
It’s also worth noting that while the majority of enemies can be felled with a shot to the head (or another weak spot), Archaeans deal a lot of damage with just a hit or two, meaning you’ll definitely want to spread responsibility throughout your roster rather than relying on just one or two characters.
Dripping in atmosphere
In Rainbow Six: Siege, the tension comes from preparing to attack or defend a heavily guarded room. Extraction is no less tense, and just as unpredictable.
Superb audio design helps isolate the sound of wandering enemies, while the Sprawl beneath your feet squelches (at least until you shoot it to make it fade). Rumbling synth breaks the silence every now and again, while the blood-curdling scream of some of the game’s tougher enemies means this is a game begging to be played with headphones on.
Using Siege as a foundation has also ensured environmental destruction is part of Extraction, albeit not quite to the level it is in its predecessor. Here, it’s possible to get the drop on an enemy by chipping away at a wall or door, but it’s never mandatory. Similarly, reinforcing certain walls and chokepoints is handy when defending objectives, but it’s easy to forget the option is there until you hit the higher difficulty levels.
As with any game as a service, Extraction will see post-launch content in the form of the Maelstrom Protocol, a new endgame mode. The mode narrows down the available Operators, while adding tougher enemies and additional objectives. This will evolve from week to week, but our first impressions are that it’s definitely going to be a challenge, and that even with a max level Operator (level 10), it’ll rely on teamwork and communication.
Rainbow Six Extraction successfully transplants Siege’s excellent gunplay and reliance on coordination into a tense battle for survival.
While its objectives are inconsistent in terms of difficulty, they’re almost always thrilling to complete, and making it out alive with just a few bullets left, with a teammate slung over your shoulder always feels exhilarating.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, Lion has gotten himself captured in Alaska again.
Reviewed on PC
Where to buy Rainbow Six Extraction
Jumping into Rainbow Six: Extraction at launch? Be sure to check out our guides below.