Rainbow 6: Patriots had been one of my most-anticipated games since it was first announced three years ago, and its narrative — focusing on homegrown terrorism and the economic plight of the middle class — seemed to be offering something different from both the series’ past installments and other contemporary shooters. The target gameplay footage below showcases a bank executive becoming a temporary playable character as you are forced to hold down a bomb’s detonator kill hundreds of innocent civilians. But what made Patriots seem so special was that its villains were fighting for something that wasn’t just relevant thousands of miles away in the Middle East, but right in the middle of the United States.
Perhaps with a story so heavily influenced by the now largely irrelevant Occupy movement, Ubisoft felt that the concept no longer made sense for a Rainbow Six game, but the inequality problem in the United States is worse now than any time since the Great Depression. More than half of high-income Americans admit that the system favors the wealthy, and these statistics aren’t from a few years ago when Patriots was first announced; they’re from December of last year.
Of course, this is a video game site, and I’m not here to argue the merits of the Occupy movement, but with the recent announcement of Patriots’ replacement Rainbow Six Siege, I think it would be a shame to ignore the themes of Ubisoft Montreal’s now-cancelled tactical shooter. With the new take on multiplayer that Siege is introducing, there are also plenty of things it can do to stand on its own as well, so let’s discuss what the game needs to do to make me more than just intrigued.
Diversity In Destruction
The debut gameplay trailer for Rainbow Six Siege features a single hostage in a house, barricaded in a child’s bedroom. The counter-terrorists enter through windows on the roof of the building via a helicopter and turn the building into Swiss cheese with grenades, shotgun blasts and breaching charges, but a single-building approach to multiplayer could get a little homogenous from map to map. What could make for a nice change of pace is a house-to-house mobile shootout like in True Detective’s amazing fourth episode. A house gets ripped to shreds, and the baddies take their hostage out the garage and burst through the front door of the house next door with a Rainbow Six team in pursuit.
Tactical shooters have long relied on choke points and cover to create tense, white-knuckled matches, but with the ridiculously destructible environments of Rainbow Six Siege, this could turn into a situation where one team gets trapped in a corner and has no chance of escape. With a multi-building approach and several points of entry/exit for each, the tactical shooter could be both fast-paced and, well, tactical.
More Splinter Cell, Less Titanfall
Don’t misinterpret this: Titanfall is the epitome of modern multiplayer twitch-shooter design, but its “campaign” is just the standard multiplayer matches with a half-assed story thrown into the mix. It gives a good foundation for what to expect in the various modes Titanfall offers, but nothing else. On the opposite end of this spectrum is Splinter Cell Blacklist, which included a campaign, co-op mode and adversarial multiplayer within the same story, but separate enough that they could stand on their own. The main story followed Fourth Echelon on their mission to stop the Blacklist attacks, the co-op saw two of the team members attempting a rescue of a character from the previous game, and the adversarial mode saw agents battling for information relevant to the mission. It could all stand just find on its own, but taken together it became an even more impressive package.
What worries me is Ubisoft Montreal’s creative Vice President Lionel Raynaud’s explanation of the game’s vision. “We want the same level of intensity and surprise scripted scenes used to have, but within a multiplayer game,” he told IGN. “It’s dynamic, meaning we will bring new content as players play the mission.” That sounds a lot more like Titanfall than Splinter Cell.
With the trend of multiplayer infecting single-player experiences, the reverse seems to be getting more popular, as well, but this risks diluting both experiences. Hearing the voice-overs from Sarah in Titanfall was a nice change, too — at first. After that, it became an extra bit of fluff that only served to remind you of what you already know about multiplayer shooters: you are doing the same thing over and over again, and that’s fine, but there’s no need to accelerate that realization.
Use The Clancy Name Well
Tom Clancy’s political thrillers were massively popular, but this wasn’t just because of his descriptions of explosions or big planes or people getting shot in the face; his novels dealt with real political threats facing the nation, and unlike the other “Tom Clancy’s” properties that Ubisoft produces, Rainbow Six was a book before it was a game. With the basic formula for Patriots as a good jumping-off point, Rainbow Six Siege must deliver as a true Clancy game, with all the geopolitical drama for which the series is known.
Obviously, this doesn’t — and shouldn’t — have to be on the same scale as The Division or Ghost Recon, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t get a sense of motivation behind the antagonists in the campaign. Perhaps they could incorporate ideas from Patriots into it, after all. Maybe the lady in the gameplay trailer is a Wall St. hotshot, or perhaps she’s an anti-war activist and the militants are on the far-right! Whatever Ubisoft chooses, it has to be deeper than just “these guys are bad, and you have to stop them before they do something bad.”
I’m still very interested by what was shown of Rainbow Six Siege thus far, but I hope that Ubisoft can reinvent its multiplayer component without feeling like those changes have to influence every facet of the game. If they can pull of the other areas of the game as well as they’re handling the adversarial mode, this could be just the game the series needs.