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Rainbow Six Extraction Review | Get Out Alive

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Extraction Review

The Rainbow Six series began back in 1998 with the titular Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, a tactical shooter revolving around the world of counter-terrorism and challenging stealth-oriented combat. The game went on to be a big hit allowing for multiple expansion packs and sequels to release every few years following its initial release. The series rose to new heights with the release of 2015’s Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, a competitive squad-based multiplayer shooter with hardcore elements reminiscent of the original Rainbow Six games and a focus on intricately crafted destructible environments. Flash forward to 2022 and we now have Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction, a squad-based tactical shooter about an alien parasite epidemic and a group of trained operators that are tasked with learning about the alien threat and putting a stop to the outbreak and any that follow. 

Developed by Ubisoft Montreal originally under the title Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Quarantine (the name was changed due to world events surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic), Extraction borrows a lot of elements from Rainbow Six Siege but is able to carve out its own identity. The same playable operators, first-person shooting gameplay, and destructible environments are here, but Extraction does a lot to stand apart from Siege not only in its Sci-fi theming, but also in its core game design. It’s not without faults, but Rainbow Six Extraction is a fun and engaging time that is characterized by hair-raisingly tense and highly replayable gameplay with a focus on the concept of risk vs. reward. 

The most interesting and engaging part of Extraction comes with its systems and gameplay loop. The game has four main locations that hold three levels each, the first of which is set in New York followed by San Francisco, Alaska, and New Mexico. Each is unlocked as you play through the game. After selecting a level, Extraction procedurally generates a list of objectives for players to complete in each of the level’s 3 subsections. After selecting which character to play as and customizing their loadout, players will be placed in a randomly selected starting point and they will set out to complete their objectives. Objectives are usually not marked on the map or the HUD, so players will have to explore each level while taking on alien creatures that get in their way. The placements on enemies and objectives in each level are also randomly generated each time you play, which lends itself well to the nature of replaying the same objectives on the same levels over multiple “incursions”. 

To draw a specific comparison in regards to the replayable aspect of the game, while playing Rainbow Six Extraction I was reminded of my time spent playing Overkill Software’s Payday 2. Both games use light procedural generation in their levels and objectives that make replaying ostensibly the same content refreshing each time you play. This may vary from person to person but in the 20 hours that I put into Extraction, while certain objectives I may have favored more or less than others, the act of playing through the same levels and objectives never began feeling old or tiring. There are enough different gameplay permutations that change each playthrough that aid in keeping things engaging.

I should also take a moment to mention that the game does feature “Games as a Service” elements, such as weekly challenges, rotating challenge modes, and a cosmetic microtransaction shop. The shop at the time of writing the review appears to only contain cosmetic items, no gameplay or player boosts of that nature. And as long as there is a healthy level of post-launch support, timed events and challenging end game modes are another way the game provides a tweaked experience that makes sure that the gameplay never begins to feel stale. 

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Extraction Gameplay

Back to Extraction’s gameplay, once players complete an objective, they are presented with a choice, extract from the level with the XP they have gained, or go further into the level and face tougher enemies and objectives in return for greater XP and rewards. This risk vs. reward system is the crux on which all the other systems rely on. Perhaps the player completed their first objective unscathed and feels the next objective will be easy to take on so they push forward, or maybe while they were sneaking around the level, a Bloater (an enemy that will run up and explode right next to the player) caught them by surprise and after fighting many an alerted enemy, they find they are too low on health to continue on and decide to extract. Players are actually given the option to extract or continue onwards regardless of whether or not they complete or fail their assigned objectives. 

Rainbow Six Extraction makes these decisions weigh heavily on the player due to how it handles its difficulty and the consequences of success or failure. Extraction offers a number of difficulty modes that can be selected before each level you play; Moderate, Cautious, Severe, and Critical. These difficulty levels don’t just increase the damage a player takes and call it there. Higher difficulties will introduce new enemy types to contend with like heavily armored Smashers and the enemy-spawning Apex as well as add gameplay modifiers in the form of mutations. “Sprawl Overload” is a modifier that enables enemies to leave a trail of sprawl (a black substance that slows player movement) everywhere they move, or “Armored Nest” which forces players to take out the enemy producing nests with a melee takedown are just some of the modifiers that get enabled when choosing to take on harder difficulties. Why add on these extra challenges? Well, but ratcheting up the difficulty you earn significantly more XP on the completion of objectives which will not only level up your operators faster, which unlocks new cosmetics, weapons, and gear for them to use, but will also allow you to unlock those later levels to play in. 

The other interesting gameplay system to discuss is the MIA or “Missing in Action” system. Should a player become overwhelmed and die during an incursion, the character they were playing as will become “MIA”. Basically, players who have a character that goes MIA will not be able to play as this character again until they mount a rescue operation to the same level they lost the character on and attempt to extract them back out of the level. If a character goes MIA, the XP they earned for the game’s progression system is also removed until they are rescued. It is a system that isn’t as suffocating as a permadeath system (which completely eradicates a character’s progress), but adds the perfect amount of punishment to make it really hurt when you make a mistake and temporarily lose your favorite character. Sometimes rescuing an MIA operator is a simple in and out affair, but other times depending on how the game decides to generate enemies or objectives, you run the risk of losing multiple operators just trying to rescue the one you previously lost. But don’t worry, the game has systems in place to assure that you will never lose the ability to play by losing all operators. 

Knowing the risks that lay ahead of you during an incursion and knowing the consequences should you not be able to meet the risks head-on ensure that you as a player are constantly balancing and questioning what your next move should be, which is the most engaging aspect while playing Extraction. During one of my early incursions in New York, my first objective was fairly straightforward, I had to stealth take down an enemy. I did so with relative ease and decided to move to the next area and the next objective. Here I had to capture an elite enemy which basically meant I had to lead a tough enemy to the extraction platform and capture it in a trap. I was able to achieve this but I did take a little bit of damage trying to get the enemy back to the platform. Even though I took some damage I felt relatively confident I could complete the third objective so I pushed on. For this final objective, I needed to take out contaminated spawning nests as well as bring a sample of the contamination with me when I moved to extract. As I was scouting ahead with my recon drone (a little RC drone that players can use to survey an area and spot enemies making a return from Siege), I was spotted by a Grunt that alerted everyone in the area to my position. What followed was a hectic firefight, taking out many Archaeans (the name for the parasitic alien-humanoids) that were firing projectiles at me and running up trying to hit me with melee attacks. I attempted to retreat down a corridor, to which I was met with a number of Bloaters ready to bounce and blow me to bits. I was able to keep enough composure to take out the Bloaters and escape my assailants, but with a measly 5 health points to my name. 

Now I was on a desperate search to just find the exit and get out with my life. I used the recon drone again to scout ahead once more. I discovered my extraction platform up ahead with a few Archaeans in my path. I looked around for any health pickups but wasn’t lucky enough to find any. So I began sneaking my way over to the extraction pad, taking out any enemies I needed to with extreme precision being extra careful not to alert anyone. Once the coast was clear, I made my way out to the pad, and it would have been over there had I not noticed my objective just inside the building I previously exited. Once more I popped the drone out, made sure the coast was clear, ran in, destroyed the nests, grabbed the sample, and extracted it on the verge of death. I received so much XP my character leveled up twice, I unlocked a new weapon, and I was filled with so much relief that I made it out alive, I physically exhaled and clapped my hands. These are the kinds of moments that Rainbow Six Extraction is able to give you through its gameplay systems alone, and it's an incredible achievement for a game that on its surface may seem like just another horde shooter in a genre that's been making somewhat of a resurgence in recent years.

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Extraction is Intense

The more I thought about it, many of the game’s elements reinforce the idea of tension. The risk vs. reward system I detailed above certainly is the main driving force behind the tension felt while playing, but even things like the music contribute to that building tension. The music is fairly minimal but the way it begins to intensify as you begin escorting a VIP scientist out of hot-zone or how a single sustained note continually rises as you pull an MIA operator off an Arch tree holding them in captivity complements the tension that the gameplay is providing. It honestly feels quite similar to playing Rainbow Six Siege in that way, just replacing the tension created by other human players in a multiplayer setting with deep gameplay systems and the use of music and sound. Not to mention many of the levels feature prominent yellow colors to add to that sense of caution and unease. 

And the elements that Extraction borrows from Siege are carried over fairly well. The shooting feels impactful, the controls feel weighty yet maneuverable for the most part, and all of the characters' special abilities are fun to experiment with, even if some feel a little redundant or less useful than others. If you have played any of Rainbow Six Siege, the controls will feel very familiar to you. 

The technical performance of the game is also quite impressive. The load times on PlayStation 5 were incredibly fast, the frame-rate was so solid I didn’t even realize I was playing on the graphics mode (the game offers the choice between graphics or performance mode in the settings), and with the exception of a few minor instances of texture/object pop-in my experience was bug-free. So major kudos to the team for delivering on the technical aspects, something that other developers in the space should aspire towards. 

I mentioned at the top of the review that the game was not without faults, and possibly the most disappointing aspect of Rainbow Six Extraction comes from its storytelling. Unfortunately, the story of an alien parasite causing an epidemic and a repurposed military group setting out to combat it, suffers from being overly generic. The game has very few cutscenes outside of an introductory cutscene and a few cinematics when you unlock new areas or equipment. Small tidbits of story content can be gleaned from interacting with “points of interest” in each of the levels, but this usually just results in an offhand remark or comment. The player can also unlock background information about characters or story events by unlocking challenges called “studies”, but this information is buried in text entries in a “codex” menu. So the story is there for people who want to read more about what is going on in the plot, but outside of brief moments of environmental storytelling in the levels themselves, there isn’t much of a drive for people to seek out the story by reading text logs in a menu. 

This is also a weird decision in regards to the characters, because it feels as though the game expects you to have a pre-established connection to the playable characters (possibly through having played Siege?) but the game gives no reasons for the player to care about these characters. They seemingly have personalities, but have nothing to say. They don’t really interact with one another in any meaningful way, so outside of picking a character because their special ability sounds cool, there isn’t anything to grab onto from a narrative standpoint. Each character has a biography in the codex, but just like the story entries, there isn’t much of a reason to read up on them beyond personal curiosity. It also doesn’t help when so many of the characters aesthetically look very similar to one another from similar color schemes, to headgear, to similar-sounding vocal performances. 

While on paper the idea of operators from Rainbow Six Siege having to deal with an alien threat may come off as interesting to some, it is a pretty significant departure from the series history which has largely dealt with global politics and counter-terrorism. While I personally wasn’t affected by this in any great way, longtime fans of the Rainbow Six series might find the pivot into science fiction a bit odd. The way that the Siege operators are just slotted into this situation with little explanation makes it all the more conflicting. It comes off as a way to have easy brand recognition of the Rainbow Six name to be able to market the game to a wider audience more so than an interesting creative decision. While the “game feel” of Extraction is reminiscent of the tactical combat of a Rainbow Six game, it does give pause when thinking whether the game really benefits from its crossover elements with Rainbow Six, or if the game would be any less successful as an entirely original IP with gameplay inspirations from other games developed by Ubisoft Montreal. That’s up to each person to decide, but I ultimately believe that the Rainbow Six connections detract more than they add. 

There are other gripes to discuss in regards to the design of the game. Hit detection in certain situations felt very inconsistent. Particularly when shooting small objects like weak points on enemies or these small spores that contain toxic gas. The game requires such levels of exacting precision that even if your weapon reticle appears to be right over an object, your shots will miss their mark. Perhaps it is a symptom of a game designed for mouse aiming before the controller, but on a controller with far less fine aim tuning this can be very frustrating, especially when missing a shot leads to the player losing a character in the resulting firefight.

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Extraction Visuals

Similarly, enemy AI can be a little temperamental at times. Occasionally the enemy AI feels like it is way overly aggressive for the difficulty you are playing on and certain objectives will become unachievable due to the AI being stubborn. In one incursion, I had to stealth kill a Spiker enemy and due to some clumsy stealth, I alerted the enemy. Sadly, the alert level of the Spiker never reduced back to normal no matter where I went or how long I waited. Every time I got near, it sensed I was there and would immediately turn and shoot me. And I had no gear on my character to distract or neutralize the alertness so I had no way of completing the objective successfully. When the enemy AI acts in an inconsistent manner, it only serves to annoy the player when it feels like the results of an encounter are up in the air regardless of which actions they took while playing. 

I should also mention that during this review period I primarily played Extraction as a solo player but was able to get a few levels of co-op play in. Unfortunately during this play session, I did lose connection to the game’s servers and I did incur a penalty for disconnecting even though that was out of my control.

While the replaying content was largely entertaining throughout my time playing Extraction, there are some elements revolving around the replayable nature that were not given as much consideration as the gameplay, specifically in overly repeating dialogue lines and the structure of the “studies” challenges. Speaking to the dialogue first, throughout the incursions, support characters over the radio will tell you about objectives you have to do, whether you should move on to the next area, or comment on certain situations that arise throughout the gameplay. However, this dialogue was performed in such a way that it won’t usually comment on specific information, that way they can use the dialogue in each level for each objective no matter which order they ultimately generate in. For example, if you are going to rescue an MIA operative, the radio support will only refer to them as “our MIA operative” and not the specific character’s name. Unfortunately, these audio lines repeat frequently and it breaks the illusion of the game adapting to the randomly generating situations and feels more artificial and copy-pasted. 

The game has a number of challenges they label as “studies” which are framed as tasks for you to complete in order to learn more about the Archaean parasite. By completing these challenges you get a little codex entry unlocked containing some lore, and you also get a decent chunk of XP added to the progression bar that allows you to unlock new characters, gear, levels, and modes. On paper it's a decent system but it ends up being frustrating in its implementation due to a number of factors. For one, challenges may require you to take out a certain number of enemies, but the procedural generation won’t always spawn the enemy type that you need, effectively halting your progress seeing as you can’t move on to the next set of challenges until the ones you are currently working on are all completed. Studies are also specific and exclusive to each level hub, so if the study you are working on wants you to kill a Tormentor in Alaska, and you kill a Tormentor in New York, the challenge won’t track any progress. 

And serving as a mix of several issues, some objectives in the game paired with the difficulty feel like they are designed with multiple players in mind to the point where playing them solo does not feel viable. To be fair, the game at large seems to primarily be designed around Co-op play, but it does shine at least a little focus on single-player, being referred to in-game as going “lone wolf”. But some of the objectives such as defending a timed explosive or capturing small areas of a level while waves of enemies keep spawning nearby on harder difficulties feels unbalanced for solo players. And on top of that, some of the studies I mentioned above require challenges to be completed with a full squad so if you prefer playing as a lone wolf, then those challenge trees are just halted until you do decide to play with others. All of these factors compile to just make the systems feel more annoying than fun. They could be improved with some tweaks here and there like being able to complete studies on any level, or making additional minor adjustments for those playing single player. 

While these gripes may seem numerous they really are just minor gripes and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction is a tense, fun, and highly replayable shooter that stands out in a sea of similar contemporaries. While the story is painfully generic and some elements of the gameplay weren’t given as much focus as others, the core of this game will keep players entertained for many hours, especially those who are already fans of Rainbow Six Siege.

Rainbow Six Extraction | 8 | Great

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