There are large numbers of people (members of the Stuff team among them) who have spent many years, decades even, on a fairly small number of maps like de_dust and de_italy in Counter-Strike.
Those maps remain interesting because it’s interesting to play against other people: no enemy AI can beat the aggression, unpredictability and tactical thinking of a human opponent. Plus, it’s a lot more fun to know you’ve just fragged a fellow ape and it’s always satisfying to work as a team.
So, while some of the most impressive games at E3 this year feature vast maps you can spend months exploring, the new Rainbow Six makes the point that as long as you have other people to play with, a single house can offer as much fun. Especially if you've got explosives.
The premise is fairly simple. Rainbow Six: Siege is, like Counter-Strike, a tactical multiplayer shooter with a team of bad guys and a team of armed police. Unlike Counter-Strike, they're separated by a wall, and they can see each other. Before each round, the bad guys decide where to hide their hostage by voting for a room. Then the round starts with a preparation stage: by fortifying walls and barricading windows, the terrorists rearrange the map based on where they’ve hidden the hostage and what they think the SWAT team will do. Meanwhile, the SWAT team send camera drones into the house to do reconnaissance.
We played two rounds as the bad guys, and one as the po-po. Although they took place in the same house, with the same teams, they were entirely different games each time: in one, our team hid the civilian in an upstairs bedroom, fortified walls and barricaded windows (and blew out a wall or two, to allow for better lines of fire) and covered a potential entry-point each.
It worked well, with each team-mate taking out one opponent. On our second round we hid our hostage in the basement, sealed up several walls and used the building more like a fortress, but we’d neglected a weak point. The SWAT guys blew a hole in the ceiling, poured a load of flashbangs through it and wiped us out.
This is real strategy: not just finding the one way to win a fixed map, but constantly having to adapt your plan based on what the other team is doing. And you do know what they’re doing, because you have CCTV cameras in the building (if you’re a bad guy) and camera drones if you’re a SWAT operative. Being able to see the approaching enemy makes the battle more about adaptive strategy and less about being a fast runner and an accurate shot.
Tom Clancy's Rainbox Six: Siege review
Playing as the SWAT team is also huge fun: again, you can only win by planning well, adapting that plan and communicating. As the SWAT team you get more use of the highly destructible environment, blowing up walls and windows to create access points and shooting holes in things to create lines of sight. Each round was fairly quick, but we can imagine this fairly simple concept playing out into a huge variety of scenarios.
Unlike Tom Clancy's The Division, Rainbow Six: Siege has been spared another delay: it'll launch in both Europe and North America on 13 October for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. The release date trailer above shows a bit of the intense action promised when this long-in-gestation game finally drops.
Pre-ordering the game guarantees access to an online multiplayer beta test sometime before launch, which hasn't yet been dated. Surely there will be other avenues in (such as giveaways), but that's the surest route if you're eager to play before October rolls around.