Tactical Superiority: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege Closed Alpha Preview

Sector Clear.

Tactical shooters have been moved to the wayside these past few years as more action-oriented shooters have grown in popularity. For gamers like myself who enjoy teamwork and methodical gameplay it's been an unfortunate turn of events. 

There is one game arriving later this year that is aiming to deliver something much different than the first-person shooter genre has been used to seeing. That game is Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege, and it's a game with a heavy emphasis on team coordination. I've played a few hours of its Closed Alpha and learned not only what it's about, but that it has a huge opportunity to deliver an exceptional experience.

Serving on a five-man team during my time playing Rainbow Six Siege, I took turns with the opposing team playing on offense and defense. In the Closed Alpha the only available game mode is centered around a hostage that can be placed in multiple locations, as specified by the defending team. It's a simple format, but the game's mechanics make it a highly sophisticated experience.

When playing on offense, a large part of the objective is spent identifying the position of the enemy and hostage location. Doing so should be performed with great care, as losing even one teammate—permadeath appliedbefore a breach can have significant consequences. The defending team has the advantage of being able to setup wall reinforcements and take up cover to guard major entry points. So, it's absolutely critical that entry is planned and timed by the offensive team. With that, the more offensive players charging in, the more chaos the defending players have to deal with.

In order to accomplish a strong entry strategy there are a multitude of gadgets and mechanics to employ. Take for example the breach hammer, which one player can use to tear down a wall in one swift blow. The wall's destruction can be followed up with a gas grenade, explosive, or one of a number of other effective items that the team will be equipped with. The key is timing, though. Since each player is granted a specific role with only two item types at their disposal, complementing each other in a coordinated fashion is the key to victory.

Playing on defense isn't as comfortable as it is in many other tactical shooters due to a fully-implemented destruction system. Nearly every wall can be a breach location if hit with explosives or gunfire. While there may only be two to three doorways to gain entry to a room, you can create another one if you desire. Just make sure the entry location is in the best interest of your team.

Rainbow Six Siege's destructible environments are perhaps its greatest asset. The Closed Alpha only comes with two maps, and even then I haven't found myself bored of them since their layouts become dynamic during each round. Let's say you're defending a garage that has two garage doors and a doorway that leads to the house. A team can blow a hole in a side wall to create another opening. This is significant for a game of this nature where finding advantageous angles is so important.

During my first match it became abundantly clear to me that you can't just walk into the game and expect to perform well. Rather than being a game that emphasizes quick aim and out-positioning your enemies, it's more about tactics and using teamwork to get a leg up against the opposition. That means that those who invest time into learning the ins and outs of the game's mechanics and how to effectively convey information using voice chat will find success more plentiful than others. Nothing is more frightening than a team of five players who work well together, let me tell you.

Rainbow Six Siege does a superb job of incorporating elements of modern-day counter-terrorism into its gameplay. For example, at the beginning of every round the offensive team will command small robot cameras to investigate the premises. This opportunity to gain intelligence is extremely important in setting your team up for success, and if you keep your camera alive it can be accessed mid-gameplay using a remote camera viewer. Also, every player can rappel up walls and then throw themselves through windows to gain entry. Stairways aren't the only means to access higher levels of a structure. This, combined with the destructible environments, means that there is a ton of different options when choosing how to force your way into a heavily defended location.

If you're a Counter-Strike fan like myself, you're likely wondering how Rainbow Six Siege compares. I'm happy to say that it has the same general vibe where you're urged to play intelligently and cautiously. It's one that is exciting to watch due to the high value of each player's life. You find yourself spectating other players often, and sometimes that leads to truly exciting moments when a player scores a win for the team under pressure.

However, in its current state its engine isn't nearly as solid as those in Counter-Strike 1.6 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. It's running on AnvilNext, the same engine that Assassin's Creed Unity was built on. It already has some of the same great lighting technology impressing on the visual front, but the gunplay feels a little off. There are times where I felt that the engine was a larger contributor to my death than my aiming skills. Hopefully this changes by the time of release.

Rainbow Six Siege's Closed Alpha does suffer from some technical issues, too. Thankfully, these issues are the sort of thing you expect from an Alpha months out from release (not counting delays . Of these issues two in particular harmed my experience. The first is an irritating bug which causes the scoreboard to flash in-between rounds. The other is the loading times, which are the worst I've ever encountered—yes, worse than Bloodborne​'s. There is also a lack of settings in the options menu, including one for disabling microphone auto-detect. Once again, I fully expect these shortcomings to be tackled in the coming months.

The foundation of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege is as good as it looked during its E3 debut. However, this is a game that I foresee being divisive due to its heavy tactical nature. Only those with patience and a willingness to co-operate with teammates are likely to get everything out of the game that it offers. For those that this game is styled for, a thrilling first-person shooter awaits.