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Rainbow Six Extraction review: the series gets gooey

Rainbow Six Extraction is the latest in Ubisoft and Tom Clancy’s storied line of tactical co-op shooters. This time though, humans aren’t the enemy.

Though the series has been around since 1998, Ubisoft really took it to the world with Rainbow Six Seige. After years of hyper-successful live service for that title, a new game has finally appeared: Rainbow Six Extraction. 

This shiny new entry takes the three-player co-op formula and brings to it an unexpected twist for a series that was always grounded in reality: aliens. In Rainbow Six Extraction, you’re tasked with completing incursions to understand, hinder, and ultimately defeat an invasive force called the Chimera Parasite.

Familiar faces, new ideas

If this sounds a little bit familiar, you’re not imagining anything – Extraction was very much springboarded off the popular Outbreak mode that was added to Siege in its Operation Chimera expansion. The mode also featured extraterrestrial enemies, as well as a number of sandbox changes that made for a more frantic experience.

So a lot of the core elements of what makes Rainbow Six Extraction different are actually borrowed from that limited time event – keen eyes will even recognise a few enemies such as the Rooter or Smasher from Outbreak.  But in the new game they’re called Archæns, rather than Roaches.

Extraction features 18 operators in total, many of them returning. Nowadays they have rallied under the banner of Rainbow Exogenous Analysis and Containment Team (REACT), and their abilities have been fine-tuned for the tense PvE experience this new title is providing.

The core gameplay loop of Extraction is all about Incursions: three-part missions that escalate in difficulty with each new area. Players will have the option to opt out and end the session after any of their three main objectives though, creating a risk/reward balance that definitely adds a spark and forces some (usually poor) decision making.

In these Incursions you’ll be given a set of objectives from a pool of 13, such as trapping a certain Archæn, rescuing an NPC, destroying some gooey egg sacks, and more. Things are generally pretty difficult too, meaning you’ll want to tread carefully, lest you lose one of your valuable operators to the Incursion zone and the enemies within.

And trust me, that’s not something you want to do.

Rainbow Six Extraction punishes losses

If you fail a mission, or your co-op partners extract themselves from a mission with your operator dead or left behind, that operator will be Missing in Action. This means you’ll be unable to play as them on a new Incursion until you return to the same zone, at which point one of your objectives will be to rescue them.

A key new feature of Extraction is the ability to level up individual operators, alongside an account-wide levelling system. Operator Advancement increases their speed and armour, as well as unlocking cosmetics, new tech, new weapons, and upgrading their unique ability.

While some are probably going to dislike having to invest time into 18 operators, I actually like this change. It allows an investment into the playstyles that suit you, and will surely add a bit of pride for players who consider themselves masters of their role. That said, the game does encourage you to play the field.

Health carries over between Incursions, meaning if your Doc barely made it out of his last Containment Zone alive, he’ll need some time to rest up before going on another spin. If you return from a mission with ultra-low HP, that operator will be forced Inactive, meaning you need to play as somebody else too.

And most terrifying of all, operators who go MIA and aren’t rescued in a subsequent mission will lose some EXP towards their next level. While punishing, this certainly adds a blood-pumping injection of adrenaline to MIA missions.

Things are going to get sticky

But my favourite new feature? Goo covering literally everything. Officially called Sprawl by the Ubisoft playbook, this is a creeping area of goo (I’m sticking with that word) that undulates outwards from bulbous orange Nests, slowing operators’ move speed.

The Nests are easily destroyed, but if left unattended, will slowly spread goo over the entire mission area, meaning you’ll be up to your knees in it and at the mercy of speedy, swarming Archæns. With some Nests hidden on the roof or around blind corners, they’re easy enough to miss.

The whole Sprawl mechanic reminded me of some enrage timers in MMO boss fights – mechanics that made it nigh impossible to win if you let the fight progress too long. While it’s possible to find and disable all the Nests in an area, it’s likely that one or two will run amok, leaving you increasingly desperate to complete your objectives before being overwhelmed.

This really encourages players to get out the gates fast, minimising the amount of time spend in stealth, and generally creating a frantic atmosphere that’s heaps of fun.

Should more games have goo? Probably not. But the goo in Rainbow Six Extraction is special, and I hate it and love it.

The verdict on Rainbow Six Extraction

Without a whole lot of time to dive into each operator’s progression and experience higher difficulty Incursions (of which there are many, with escalating rewards and unique enemies), it’s hard to make a be-all-end-all call on a game that has so much more to give.

What I do know is the core gameplay loop is a whole lot of fun, and goes to show that a couple of well-placed changes to a known formula can really freshen up a series.

The other thing I know is that Ubisoft has a ton of post-launch content planned for Rainbow Six Extraction, and if the long-term success of Siege is any indication, you can expect it to also be pretty damn good.

 

Rainbow Six Extraction is out January 20th on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC. Find out more here.