Rainbow Six Extraction (Xbox Series X) Review
- Great co-op set-up
- Tense fight or flight mechanic
- Motivation to mix things up
- Not exactly R6 style
- Can feel repetitive
- Questionable longevity
Rainbow Six Extraction was born from the short-lived Outbreak mode that was added to Rainbow Six Siege a few years back. As with Outbreak, Extraction uses a lot of the same FPS mechanics seen in Siege, as well as a lot of familiar operators (and their toys) but with a couple of unique twists. Firstly, the game is strictly PvE, replacing the tension of a slow-burning shootout with a scenario where the number or potency of AI enemies raises the stakes in much shorter, almost bite-size encounters. And secondly, those are very much close encounters with an enemy not from this planet.
It’s certainly a set-up that’s not strictly within the usual parameters of a game carrying Tom Clancy’s name, and there’s no shortage of early dissenters piling on the game for all the things that it isn’t – when compared to the likes of Siege at least. Consider it more of a spin-off then and give the game a little bit of time until you’ve got past the basics and Extraction really does begin to take on a life of its own. It’s worth noting that the game is fully playable in single-player, with a suitably toned-down threat level for lone wolves, but it’s clearly designed to be enjoyed more as part of a three-person squad – whether that’s with a couple of friends or having to quickly figure out the motivations of strangers.
The game is fully playable in single-player but it’s clearly designed to be enjoyed more as part of a three-person squad
The set-up is relatively simple, which is where a sense of repetition can arise, but the execution is rarely quite so straightforward. The action is split across four maps, each split into a number of sub-zones, with each map getting progressively more difficult – but with a big XP bump at each step. After choosing your backdrop of choice you’ll be given three randomised sub-zones to fight through, each with a single randomised objective in it, and inside each area is an extraction point and an airlock leading to the next zone. The ultimate aim is to complete all three objectives and escape in one piece, taking maybe 20 minutes or so, but often just getting out alive is a reward in itself.
One of the true sweet spots in Extraction is that everything you do within that zone is entirely up you and your squadmates. You can run and gun your way through, though it’s rarely advisable as the enemy reacts to noise (including egg-like nests that will spawn new foes indefinitely until destroyed). As a result, it’s often wiser to opt for stealth, moving slowly through the zone using takedowns and suppressed weapons to thin the herd without setting off any enemy calls to arms, while also mopping up ammo, health and gear supplies. Although almost invariably the fan is going to get coated sooner or later, and when it does the action is impressive throughout, with that rock solid R6 gunplay offering a noticeable variation to the effectiveness of the many weapons on offer and nice tactical variations on how to best implement your special abilities and choice of throwables or other perks.
The ultimate aim is to complete all three objectives and escape in one piece, but often just getting out alive is a reward in itself
The real beauty, though, is that the biggest choices often boil down to a simple fight or flight dilemma. You see, you’re free to head to the extraction point at any time and bank any XP you’ve gained up to that point. Likewise, you can fail an objective, or simply ignore it completely, and still head for the airlock and proceed to the next zone. So, depending on the health of your squad and/or your motivations to risk everything you’ve earned up to that point in order to take on the next zone, there can be a great deal of tension in making the best call – and one that suits everyone in your squad.
This leads into one of the more defining hooks of Extraction. If you get downed in combat, you typically have one chance to be revived (there are gear choices that can increase this). Get dropped again and you’ll be entombed in a stasis suit, unable to move. The only way to survive is if a squadmate can carry your body to the extraction point and drop you into an evac pod. If not, your operator will be considered MIA and you’ll lose everything gained in that mission, plus face a further XP penalty. You will get one chance to recover an MIA agent (and regain the lost XP), with rescue missions one of the 13 different mission types on offer, but if that fails they’ll be dropped from your roster for a short while – as will those who return with low health.
It’s not a huge deal, and any lost XP won’t affect your in-game progress, but it can be something of a kick to your pride. It also means that while the missions themselves can be repetitive (even though the locations of enemies, nests and so on are procedurally generated with every playthrough), that ‘grind’ is offset by the fact that you’ve always got something to lose. Bearing in mind that losing a third of your firepower can also make a huge difference to your squad’s chances of making it through the next zone alive (let alone completing the objective), because even at the lower levels you can often be in for a very tough fight once the enemy gets your scent.
As for the operators themselves, there are 18 in total, nine of which are unlocked from the start. Although the weapon types are your standard assault rifle, shotgun, SMG and pistol variants, plus a combined pool or throwables and other perks to choose from, each operator gets their own unique weapon options, with more options unlocked as they level up. Similarly, each also has their own special gadget or ability, which can also greatly improve as you build them up to the maximum Level 10 – to the point where seemingly ‘weak’ characters early on can be transformed into one of your top go-to operators once they’ve picked up some new tricks.
This, combined with the need to level up everyone to really make the most of them (with weapon and armour upgrades crucial for the tougher levels), means that you can’t just stick with the same two or three agents and instead need to be constantly mixing up your loadouts. This adds just that slice of variety to your playing style – both individually and in playing a role within your squad, with support and recon options coupled with explosives, traps, turrets and more. Finding operators who compliment your preferred style (and the objective requirements!) and the abilities of others can be a great find – which makes playing as part of a like-minded squad all the sweeter.
While the missions themselves can be repetitive, that ‘grind’ is offset by the fact that you’ve always got something to lose
This applies even more to the ‘endgame’ content, with difficult weekly missions available from launch and more “free content” to follow. Right now you’ve got the extended Assignments and the super-tough Maelstrom Protocol to deal with – the latter upping the mission quota to nine stages, each getting increasingly difficult. However, in this mode you get the same missions in place for its duration, so you can learn and adapt from one playthrough to the next. Needless to say, everyone needs to bring their A-game and a Level 10 operative to that fight if you want to make it even halfway through. But the rewards are usually worth it, if not the sheer satisfaction.
Whether this is enough to really push Extraction’s longevity remains to be seen. Certainly the £45 price tag (£34 on PC) suggests that Ubisoft can’t quite justify this as a full release, but you’re still looking at anywhere from 50 to 100 hours by the time you’ve maxed out all your operators and cleaned up everything on offer at launch. And what’s there is great for the most part, with some typically slick gunplay matched by some creative use of the various gadgets and perks that are often best deployed with a little tactical know-how across your team.
At times, and with a well-drilled squad by your side, the action can feel beautifully fluent and rewarding. At the same time, things can rapidly descend into a frenetic battle for survival, with enemies appearing from nowhere to tear chunks off your health bar – and that can make simply dragging each other back to the evac pod a massive relief. Either way, Rainbow Six Extraction might not have a vast array of variety about its set-up, but that doesn’t mean you know what you’re going to get from one quick playthrough to the next.
Graphics & Audio
Visually the game is pretty strong with a crisp 4K finish, although given that we’re mostly talking about close-quarters combat in tight indoor locations it doesn’t exactly get the chance to stretch its legs outside of some short-lived cutscenes. That said, there’s some nice detail in the various lighting and shadow systems, with the option to drop the resolution to 1080p for higher quality performance in those darkened corridors that can add just that little bit of extra menace to each setting – especially with the black ‘sprawl’ that frequently coats the walls and floors, slowing down your progress unless you clear it with your weapon.
That menace can be amplified with a good headset or surround set-up, with plenty of subtle audio cues to identify nearby threats, from the squelch of an active nest to the low growl of a Smasher ready to go on the rampage. You can also make good use of the voice chat system – which is great with friends or just fun to listen in on (as we did with two German guys who were clearly hammered but having a great time!) – although there are enough in-game prompts on offer to express some decent direction without getting mic’d up.
We also had no problems at all with the framerate running at a smooth 60fps throughout. Indeed, in light of the recent problems with Battlefield 2042, rather refreshingly our time with Extraction was pretty flawless, except for the game resetting all of our operators’ loadouts if we left it long enough to kick us off the servers (or punishing US with a 5-minute lockout because it lost connection), and some glitches with the revive system meaning we’d often have to try two or three times to get it to work – rarely ideal in close-quarters battle.
Every encounter feels like you’ve got something to play for – even if that is just making it out alive
Rainbow Six Extraction (Xbox Series X) Review
Within the wider Rainbow Six universe, Extraction isn’t going to be for everyone as it does feel more like a side-dish than a main course, and we’re still to be convinced about its longevity once you’ve got a full roster of Level 10 ops. However, there’s a great rollercoaster ride of desperate defeats and heart-pumping victories to savour along the way, and while the parameters might be quite repetitive, every encounter feels like you’ve got something to play for – even if that is just making it out alive.
We’re deep into double figures for our own playing hour count so far, and therefore have few complaints about value-for-money (bearing in mind it’s ‘free’ on Xbox Game Pass right now as well), and can imagine Extraction becoming one of our go-to co-op games whenever a friend or two jumps online in the weeks and months ahead. Though playable on your own, Rainbow Six Extraction is definitely at its best when you’ve got a couple of good allies by your side – or at least some like-minded strangers who won’t leave you in the dust just to save their own skin…
The games console used in this review was kindly supplied by our gaming partner Smyths Toys Gaming, the No.1 choice for next-gen Gaming