If you’re planning on taking over the world, you want to start by making quite a statement. According to the alien parasite known as the Archæan, the best way of doing that is to annihilate New York’s Liberty Island while simultaneously destroying and encasing the remains of the Statue of Liberty in unsightly black goo. This is the situation facing the Rainbow Six Operators in the spin-off title Rainbow Six Extraction, but it’s not one that can’t be handled. Whether the game can handle stepping out of the spotlight currently occupied by Rainbow Six Siege is another matter.
Rainbow Six has set up a new unit called REACT to research and take down the new threat. They’ve done this by setting up quarantine zones in some of the most infected locations in New York, San Francisco, Alaska, and New Mexico, the latter being a nod to the limited-time Outbreak mode in Rainbow Six Siege. Up to three Operators have to complete incursions into these zones to control the threat.
A different type of mission
Incursions have three stages, each of which has its own mission objective randomly selected from 12 different mission types. This could mean you’re having to collect a sample from an alien target after taking them down by stealth, extract a trapped scientist that holds vital research, or even pump expanding foam into a root network to kill the alien parasite.
Despite the new enemy, Extraction‘s PvE gameplay is standard Rainbow Six fare, albeit with a complete lack of cover mechanic. The environments are still partially destructible and there’s an ability to reinforce walls and hold aliens back for a while. Gunplay is satisfying and accurate, and weapons can be customized as players see fit. Each zone has supplies to find, some of which are located in the supposedly safe rooms between each zone. I say “supposedly” because some of those rooms also had aliens that were decidedly unsafe.
Like Rainbow Six Siege, each of the Operators have their own starting weapons and unique gadgets, although REACT equipment is universal. Some of those gadgets have been altered to fit the new PvE situation, like Pulse’s Cardiac Sensor that now only detects certain types of enemies. Nine Operators are unlocked from the start although a grand total of 18 Operators become unlocked as players progress. Each has their own progression system to unlock new weapons and improve their abilities. The aim seems to be for players to mix up their strategies and choose the right Operators for the job, although it doesn’t always work out this way when just one mistake can be the difference between success and failure.
Downed teammates can be extracted by their fellow Operators, but if an Operator dies during a mission, or players run out of time, that Operator will go MIA. At this point, they’re encased in a yellow foam to prevent them from becoming infected but this means they have to be rescued from that location. There is one chance to do this. If players are successful, the MIA Operator keeps the majority of their progress with the loss of a little XP. Being unsuccessful means that all of that Operator’s progress is lost and they have to start again.
Every mission becomes an analysis of risk versus reward. Players can choose whether they want to complete the mission objectives, skipping straight to the next zone if it’s something that seems too difficult. When an Operator’s health gets too low, extracting early is also an option but players seem to be penalised for playing it safe. Operators with less than 50 health are kept out of service while they recover, whereas a rescued MIA agent can return to near full health immediately. The process feels like a forced way to use all Operators rather than reusing a favored couple over and over, but the ease at which MIA agents can be recovered means it doesn’t work as intended.
Adjustable difficulty settings can make things easy for casual players or as difficult as experienced squads wish. The higher the difficulty, the greater the range of Archæan aliens to take down and a greater risk of mutations to add extra danger, like aliens leaving Sprawl trails to slow Operators down. On the higher difficulties, incursions become an extremely tense experience where squad communication is a must. While there is a ping system in the game, it will never replace voice communication when deciding how to move on.
While all of this does serve to add variety to each incursion, other factors can start turning the game into a grind. Some missions are repeated frequently in a short space of time despite the large number of mission types. When you start to learn where the objectives are usually located, it starts to breed a sense of complacency that can come at a cost especially for those wanting to go lone wolf. Solo incursions are perfectly possible as the game matches the number of aliens to the number of players, but some objectives still become far harder on your own with no AI bots to make up the numbers. The game is definitely aimed at co-op with friends.
Each incursion also has research to collect. There are points of interest in each location that yield interesting information, although these didn’t always allow you to interact with them. There are also research studies, small tasks to complete while carrying out your mission objectives. They help players familiarise themselves with equipment and enemies, such as pinging supply crates, killing grunts in their weak spot, or taking out nests using stealth.
Knowing your enemy
Completing these gives a hefty XP boost, but only three studies are available at once. All three must be completed before more are unlocked. The catch is when they ask Operators to take down specific aliens, those aliens aren’t guaranteed to spawn during the mission. When given research studies to ping and kill grunts, it took three full incursions before these basic enemies spawned and this felt like a lot of wasted time going through the motions before I could progress further.
As players progress, they unlock more locations, weapons, cosmetics, difficulties and intel. It isn’t until the later levels that the game’s endgame content is unlocked. There are extremely challenging missions known as Assignments that rotate weekly, or the Maelstrom Protocol that is the equivalent of ranked play. Here players face incursions with nine missions, and completing these earns seasonal rewards and points to increase player rank. It isn’t much at the moment for those who have made it through to the end, but extra post-launch content has been promised by Ubisoft.
Rainbow Six Extraction Review: The final verdict
Rainbow Six Extraction is a game that struggles to leave the shadow of its predecessor behind, but that sounds like a bit of an injustice too. Ubisoft has tried to replicate the success of Siege‘s Outbreak mode and the game is a fun, challenging, and competent co-op shooter for groups of three friends. Unlike other co-op shooters, it can even be enjoyed by solo players to an extent. However, the repetitive mission objectives and forced grind mean that long periods of play can become tedious. There’s also not a lot of endgame content right now to keep players coming back, unlike Siege that is still going strong many seasons later. Only time will tell if this game will achieve that longevity.