Remember the time when Rainbow 6 was more about the detailed planning to mesh your expert teams of Special Forces? Perhaps you also remember the straight up shooter that was Rainbow 6 Vegas? If you liked either of those, there is something for you in the Rainbow 6: Siege beta.

First of all, let me reiterate that this was the technical and the early days of the public beta. As such much of the polish and tweak on not only the mechanics and balance, but also the matchmaking and server stability is still being changed. However playing it did give me a solid idea about the direction Ubisoft Montreal decided to take the franchise as well as how the culture and climate of the multiplayer is shaping.

Rainbow 6: Siege relies heavily on teamwork and planning, thus bringing back an easily accessible form of the complex mission planning that made the franchise so successful. In a typical game, you will do a minute’s worth of reconnaissance with drones and then quickly discuss a plan of attack when you approach the enemy position and then finally you will react to the obstacles that interfere with your strategies to see who comes out on top.

By separating these phases out in the game, it achieves a sense of tension many other shooters fail to do. Not only does the anticipation and guessing of the enemy’s’ tactics provide a nice quiet moment to fret with your friends, but the fact that you have some investment in a plan you have agreed to or even created (however grudgingly) heightens the experiences to a brand new level where groups of strangers truly feel the fun in communicating and cooperating to survive.

So how does it play beyond the philosophical/atmospherics? First off the return of very deadly firearms from the old games made fire fights efficient and deadly, allowing the easy execution of fulfilling traps and ambushes. The gun play on its own isn’t particularly fancy, but it is smooth, responsive.

However when accompanied with the addition of a wonderfully destructible environment and a set of innovative classes and special equipment, the gameplay is varied in possibilities and length. As an example: Do you have a ballistic shield? The gun fire from one enemy is suddenly nothing to you, but if he has a grenade or a friend to shoot you through the wall, your slow armoured bum is dead meat. Is the enemy team holed up against all the doors? That’s okay, use the ceiling, windows and walls with explosive to make quick work of what would be a nasty and prolonged slug out in another shooter.

It took a while for people online to get accustomed to the level of teamwork to survive, but in the brief few days of the technical beta, players adapted from their quiet and deadly lone wolf personas and started to not only communicate and strategize, but also accept opinions which are normally a toxic experience in other hooters. That was all down to the incredibly low life expectancy of a solo player.

So here’s my experience of Rainbow 6: Siege Beta

In the first few days, I had experiences where even with only one other friend on a microphone, we would take out a full team of five lone wolves without breaking a sweat. The community is shaping up to be the unusually healthy, but elitist kind in slightly more tactical shooters. You will get established parties kicking you off the team for being a liability, but you won’t be shunned for talking and working with them, contributing and compromising. In the space of a few days I have accumulated a few strangers who I can call upon to have great games with.

The learning curve of this game isn’t’ exactly low since there are quite a few gadgets and tools to learn to use. However it is worth mentioning that even with a less reflexive player, this game is forgiving since your mastery of level design and terrain exploiting plays a more significant role in achieving victory. It is surprisingly easy to be considered the MVP on your team without firing a shot. A feat I value highly in the current climate of more individualistic shooters such as Call of Duty.

A quick mention should go to the sound design. Sure, gun sounds and explosion effects are quick good and common nowadays, but as much as R6: Siege doesn’t’ excel at the actual sounds themselves it does in the merging the terrain gameplay with very accurate sound locators. This is a game to enjoy with head and ear-phones in. Hearing people about and around you stepping on metal or wood, preparing bombs or shields intensifies the experience to a completely different level.

Siege is a word that might bring an image of a long slog between armies and castles, but Rainbow 6: Siege is a peak tension highly tactical team game that is rapidly paced, exciting and gratifying. Whether they do more than an excellent execution of concept remains to be seen in the full version of the game, but Rainbow 6: Siege is shaping up to be an excellent online multiplayer experience.