It’s no secret that I am not a fan of the direction Rainbow Six has went. Rainbow Six was originally a serious tactical shooter, and it eventually devolved into an online competitive shooter with the “tactical” becoming more “tacticool” than anything else.
Still, it has been popular, and I don’t begrudge people for liking what they like. I’m just a grumpy old man.
When Rainbow Six Extraction was getting near release though, we already had signs that things weren’t looking good: First, they dropped the launch price from $60 to $40. After that, it was announced that it’d be available day one on XBox Games Pass (which is how I played it).
When a AAA title goes from super-dramatic hype to dropped launch price and launching on a subscription game service, you know the confidence in the game is already low from the publisher’s perspective. Let’s get into the review.
What is Rainbow Six Extraction’s deal?
Rainbow Six Extraction is a coop PvE horror-themed semi-tactical stealth shooter.. And a mouthful.
Unfortunately, that mouthful is more than what the gameplay itself actually offers. Rainbow Six Extraction’s gameplay is severely lacking in any real.. Substance.
If you’ve played Ghost Recon Breakpoint, you’ll know about the faction missions: Randomly generated daily missions that put an objective in an area. Some of them are fine, letting you play how you want.. Clear a base, take out a VIP, rescue a prisoner, etc. Others, however, were just bonkers: Extract data from a computer out in the middle of nowhere while waves and waves of enemies come at you to blow it and you up.
Rainbow Six Extraction’s objectives are more like the latter.
In the mission shown above I had to activate a scanner and stand in 3 different spots for a brief amount of time while waves of enemies charged at me. If I left the spot (which is blindingly obnoxious with the motes of tech visuals flying in my face) the timer would stop.
Another required me to kill an “elite” enemy: Elite enemies are essentially bullet-sponge versions of regular enemies (and some are just bullet sponges by default already). This one killed me, which meant my next mission had me rescuing my operator.. Which sounds cool at first, until you actually do it. I swear, they must’ve just googled reflex, coordination and timing tests for children.
You’ve start by tugging your operator out of a tree with blackened hands grasping them (it’s a solid visual at least). A little meter will show you playing tug of war with the tree.. And then little bursts start to fly in from the left on the meter. That means the organic power cables connected to the tree are drawing power from these little blisters around the room, so you’ve got to stop tugging, shoot the blisters and/or the power sliding down the cable (I am not even kidding – alien power delivery systems are apparently REALLY SLOW), and then get back to tugging before the operator gets reclaimed. You do this a few times until the tree finally lets your operator go.
The horrific visual? 10 points. The gameplay that kills the horror of the visual? -12 points.
Or, we can take a look at the mission where I had to rescue a scientist who was trapped.. Right next to a couple enemies that explode. But they don’t care that he’s there. Seriously, they just sat there while he cowered, so I dropped smoke and CQB’d them both to death. What was worse was that after I rescued him I had to fight all new enemies that magically appeared in places I already cleared; I meticulously cleared the entire region of everything just to make sure I wasn’t in a firefight while I was escorting this guy, but instead had to deal with a handful of groups of foes while I held this idiot’s hand..
The missions just continue to get more ridiculous, having extra mechanics just to make them a little more challenging. These mechanics tend to feel more “tacked on” and kill any sense of immersion, like the operator rescue mission I described earlier, or luring an elite enemy to the extraction point and activating a computer to grab it before it kills you (that one was absurd – I shot at him a couple times, and I honestly had to wait for him to figure out his AI pathing to follow me).
Most of these mechanics are less of an issue if you’re playing coop.. Which makes me think they were literally just added to try and force you to play coop rather than the solo mode.
On top of objectives you’ve got these “studies”, which are yet another attempt to plump out the game. These are essentially “challenges” to complete, except these are pretty much critical to continue to earn XP and progress fast enough to not get bored.
Finally, each time you play a region it’s “different”.. In that your objectives, foes and more are all randomly placed each time (except for the core regions themselves; we’re not talking Diablo-level random here). Sometimes you’ll encounter your objective right next to the extraction point you start at (separated loosely by some Geiger-esque “trees” and misc. decor), other times you’ll be hard pressed to find the objective and have time to move on before the timer runs out.
Anyway, the rest has been covered to death by other reviewers: The “should I go to the next, more difficult part of the region or extract now” mechanic. Operator progression and XP systems for your operators as well as your team. XCom-lite style research for tech. Unlock systems for other mission regions.
All of these are added to plump out an essentially limited sort of gameplay to make it feel expansive and detailed.. Which it most definitely isn’t.
How is the stealth of Rainbow Six Extraction?
Stealth is the entire reason I even touched Rainbow Six Extraction, so let’s talk about it’s stealth mechanics.
It’s.. Stealth. It honestly isn’t anything great. While they did make things a little different regarding how you’re detected (and how you know you’re detected), it’s fairly basic, but absolutely required in order to succeed (especially if you’re playing solo).
You basically crouch and avoid doing anything that’ll make too much noise. That means using suppressors, not breaking stuff (like windows), and not missing your shots on foes.
There is a melee kill mechanic that you can use on most standard enemies, and you’ll want to stick to it as much as possible (if only to save on ammo, which will get critical if you opt to go to the 3rd objective). You can also drop smoke, making it easier to take enemies down in CQB.
One nice piece of design is that the explody foes get a different CQB takedown animation: Rather than grabbing them from behind and stabbing them, you kick them in the face.
Monitoring your success in stealth is also interesting. Your HUD will note when you hear footsteps or other noises, and what direction it’s coming from. You can also utilize your special blacklight attached to your weapon to see enemies through some walls. I say some walls because honestly, this only works on walls that are thin enough to be penetrated by you or your foes: Wall penetration is something that was retained from Rainbow Six Siege, and it’s a solid mechanic that does add an extra dimension to the game.
You’ve also got a variety of tools to help you, such as a little rolling drone you can send through small passages sized just right for it. You can also make your own holes for the drone if you like, but most of the time it’s not worth it, just because it’ll take making some noise to create the hole, defeating the purpose of stealthily droning your way into the next room to see what is there.
Operators come with special abilities as well; some are stealth-focused, allowing you to utilize a drone to highlight movement nearby (which bugged out for me about 50% of the time), a heartbeat scanner (that will show nests or people to rescue, but not actual enemies early on), or even optical camo that makes you invisible for a brief time so you can creep up on (or past) enemies.
That leads me to a serious bit of criticism: You’ll rarely be able to stealth your way entirely through the missions. Besides the timer rushing you to get stuff done, when you trigger certain events in many objectives you’ll cause new enemies to spawn.. Even if you’ve cleared every single one out of the region as well as the ways they spawn new ones when the area is fully alerted (by the howl of the obnoxious foes).
On the subject of enemies, the AI itself is just.. Awful. The only thing that really makes them truly challenging is that the elites are bullet sponges. If you play in coop you can literally just kite them around while your buddies shoot the hell out of them. I literally was able to lead one elite around in circles, despite them having plenty of avenues for crossing what I was circling to get to me faster. If even a chest-high wall was in the way (which both you and your foes can vault over) it would slow them down. You could see the advanced calculations going on in their head while they tried to figure out how to get to you.
Verticality isn’t even embraced here: Most enemies just stick to the standard paths or bust through a wall or door to get you (including the magic hand-print doors shown above that have no explanation for why they exist in the area; I’d hate to be the construction crew required to go in and put them up). I can’t tell you how many times I shot at someone at a level above me and then had to wait for them to come around and go down the stairs to get to me when they could’ve vaulted down and beat me senseless.
There are some enemies that are especially obnoxious; one of the few times that vertically is embraced is the sludge that just hangs out on the ceiling waiting for you to get below it so it can drop on you and leave you covered in nastiness that’ll explode, cause a minor bit of damage, and blind you.
Of course, in most cases once stealth fails, things are FUBAR and there is no way to get back to stealth. There is no “let’s hide here and let things calm down”. Once you’re spotted, you better take care of the enemies fast before they alert the rest of the region.. And if you didn’t clear out all the nests? You’ll be dealing with an infinite spawn of foes until you do.
Finally, one oddity that I never found useful at all was that you could go prone. It limits your mobility, and with the tight design of the levels you never really have to worry about getting discovered unless you are acting like an idiot.
Final thoughts on Rainbow Six Extraction
Failure is costly in Rainbow Six Extraction.. For both you, and Ubisoft.
Ubisoft really didn’t deliver here. The horror aspect is pretty much non-existent: The only time my heart rate rose was when I was getting pissed off at the game, or running from the bullet sponge elites trying not to die.
Sure, you do get a sense of relief at completing a mission and extracting, but in my case, it was moreso a “well, glad that’s over with”. There were very few instances where I truly enjoyed my experience.
Extraction honestly feels like a total conversion of Rainbow Six Siege than a full game. It most certainly doesn’t feel like a sequel. Each mission just feels like the worst of Ghost Recon Breakpoint’s faction missions combined with The Division.
For me, deciding whether I wanted to continue to the second or third part of a level was moreso a question of if I wanted to continue the dull experience and lack of real suspense that is the core game (and potentially risk my favorite operators).
More often than not.. Yeah, I wanted out.
It can be fun for brief periods of time, but honestly that fun can best be described as “fun in comparison to the rest”.. Like eating a stale cookie after not having food all day.
If you’re a fan of GTFO, coop in The Division, or Rainbow Six Siege you might enjoy this briefly.. But I wouldn’t pay full price for it. Actually, I’d say just play GTFO: It does this sort of thing so much better.
If you’ve got XBox Games Pass, that’s where you should get it.. And if you don’t, give it a shot for $1 for the first month. The game uses the same engine as Siege, so 60 FPS is reachable easily for a lot of people (I myself had everything maxed at 1440p and was able to sustain 100fps easy on my 3080 rig).
Finally, if you’re looking for a game that you can enjoy solo.. Definitely don’t bother to keep it. Early parts of certainly playable, but it’s clear that Ubisoft doesn’t want you to play it solo at all, unless you’ve got the twitch reflexes of a healthy teenager on cocaine. Older, arthritic gamers (like me) need not apply.
It actually bothers me significantly that developers like Ubisoft will include solo play mechanics when they clearly don’t want you to play it solo at all.
I keep thinking to myself.. “You know, I should hop in and do another mission. Maybe this time it will be better”. That is one area where Ubisoft succeeds: The desire to try again after a brief break. However, every time I’ve done it, I am disappointed. Every. Single. Time.
This one is a pass for me.