Rainbow Six: Extraction takes the intense action from Siege and moves it over to a fully cooperative experience. Throughout a series of unique maps, players will have to work together by completing an objective to acquire intel about a sudden alien threat, and then get out alive. Extracting successfully is the key, and it’s a fitting game title, as its most unique ideas revolve around this mechanic.
Unfortunately, Rainbow Six: Extraction is not something I’d recommend purchasing, but fans of first-person shooters should try it. Its most difficult moments are tense, and although it’s overwhelmed by tedium, its strict approach to taking away progression if you fail to recover an operator is admittedly bold. As a result, it’s an ideal addition to Xbox Game Pass; it’s hard to justify a $40 price tag when there are so many opportunities for it to disappoint, but there’s enough to like that it’s worth the shot.
Every day that I’ve jumped back in, the first or second match of Extraction is satisfying, but each subsequent mission results in more and more exhaustion. This is because every mission plays similarly: Sneak through a building, burst nests in every room, complete the objective, and run to the next building. Different objectives can make things feel fresh, but once you’ve done them a couple of times each, they start to evoke a similar level of tedium. And unfortunately, they’re not always fun. Some have the player stealth takedown a special elite, others force you to unload bullets into an alien with lots of health, and another requires you to defend a point as enemies rush into the scene.
These objectives lack multiple facets. Clear the building, do one thing and move on. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy, as certain enemy types can be quite a pain to deal with, but it lacks creativity. However, things change when tasked with rescuing operators, as players must tightly balance pulling the operator out of the Archaean Tree while destroying the pods that try to feed that tree. These pods regrow, and there’s a bar at the bottom of the screen that indicates how much more juice the Archaean Tree has to fight back. Out of all of the game’s objectives, doing this has yielded the most intense encounters. Players actually have to diversify their focus and cover different parts of the room, all while enemies swarm them. This compliments the complexity of tactical action, yet most of the game’s objectives revolve around accomplishing a single task.
Engrossing game feel
Extraction is most satisfying when the player carefully sneaks through a level, tactically clearing each room before attempting the objective. In the best cases, you’ll have no alien threats to deal with by the time you’re completing the mission at hand. This is a gratifying feeling, as the game can get overwhelming if you don’t prepare and take out as many nests and enemies as possible. Having a successful stealth run feels good, but in other cases, aliens will spawn when you interact with the primary objective anyway, which can feel a bit cheap.
Regardless, blowing holes in the Archaeans feels good; each gun has a tactile punchiness to it, as the intense recoil and visceral audio from every shot provides a realism that contrasts well with turning each corner and expecting an Archaean to charge at you. This captivating atmosphere can be quite spooky at times, and it’s only enhanced by the realism of your firearms.
Unfortunately, enemy deaths aren’t as satisfying as they could be, as each alien fizzles out into dust when you kill them. At best, this provides a sensation of relief when dealing with a monster that might blow up if you fire at the wrong spots, as seeing anything besides an explosion is a good sign.
Players receive experience based on the number of objectives they complete in a match, their kill count, and the amount of health they had by the end of extraction. Additionally, completing research prompts yields substantial experience, so keep in mind what challenges are required of you while running through a mission. Extracting is the most valuable component, as it provides a 90% bonus to experience gained if everyone gets out uncaptured.
Yet with all of these methods of receiving experience, Rainbow Six: Extraction’s progression is overly simple. Each new level through the React Milestone system gives the player Tech Points to spend on unlockable items. However, these give you either an Explosive or Gear item, and considering players can only have one of each at a time, the changes feel miniscule when these are switched out. Players also unlock new maps through this progression, but there’s not much more to do as far as character customization goes.
Each operator is put on a linear path to level 10, which grants them passive bonuses, weapons and cosmetics. The player has no agency in deciding what they unlock through this progression, as leveling up just guarantees what you acquire. Before a match starts, you can select which weapons to equip, but each operator only has a few to pick from. You can even switch out certain attachments, yet these barely have an impact on gameplay. The most pressing decision you’ll have to make is whether or not your gun needs a silencer. From this menu, you can even select an Explosive or Gear item to equip, which is the game’s most complex form of customization.
Switching between a recon drone and a self-revive kit certainly changes what you’re capable of within a match, but minor shifts like these would befit a game that is so engrossing in its moment-to-moment gameplay, that the existence of overly deep progression systems would hinder the experience. Unfortunately, the gameplay loop is so barren that this simplicity only contributes to a complete lack of engagement. Extraction failed to hook me, as each new match presents a checklist of tasks and objectives played on repeat. By the time I return to the main menu, I never have the motivation to keep playing.
Progression feels even more limited due to the long-lasting damage Operators can face. If you lose health during a mission, that will not be healed until that Operator is back at base. The only way to restore their health is to continue doing missions and earn points; these points are not received at a particularly fast pace either. I had to keep four operators on rotation. This is certainly a clever way to force players to use different Operators, but the consequences aren’t dire enough. Instead, it’s just mildly inconvenient.
However, the possibility of losing an Operator strikes fear into my heart. If one of the player’s Operators goes down during a mission or does not make it to the extraction point, they will need to be saved in a future mission. If you fail to extract them, they will lose 30% of their experience. This, admittedly, has made the prospect of failure far more intense. During missions where I need to extract a previous operator, I try extra hard to ensure I don’t lose that little bit of progress. It turns losing into something way more than just trying again, and it is quite an impactful utilization of fear.
Ubisoft Montreal understands diversifying map design is a good way to increase investment, as the game would be even more repetitive if the player was strewn across a small set of areas. Extraction features 12 unique levels, each with three sub-zones. And although they all boast dim lighting and are mostly made up of interiors (some areas have you go outside for a brief time), each area attempts to nail specific themes.
One of my favorite areas has the player completing objectives in a UFO Museum, with one room in particular featuring tons of mock alien vehicles patrolling a model city. Players will be stepping between mini-streets as they try to stealth takedown the real alien threat. Even in this same level, fun little details like seeing a mural on a wall depicting The Creation of Adam painting but with aliens is hilarious.
Every time the player enters through a door, that next room is sure to evoke some sort of distinct quality. Whether you’re stepping into a garage, a bank vault, a console control room, or an office overwhelmed with red fog, there’s something notable enough about each subset of a level that makes the location easily communicated during gameplay.
It’s a clever way for the tacticality of Extraction to be more pronounced. If you understand the layout of a map, you could call out the details of a location and someone would be able to find you. Distinct environment design is as important in bolstering visual engagement as it is in shifting the tacticality of gameplay.
Rainbow Six: Extraction is reminiscent of a tertiary gamemode present within a more robust package. This limited scale is similar to something like Halo’s Firefight; it’s fun to play, but it’s best enjoyed in short bursts. Firefight is far more satisfying, but the point is that many Halo titles also benefit from launching with an excellent campaign, tense competitive multiplayer, custom matches that encourage hilarity, and the mind boggling creative opportunities presented with Forge.
“Extraction” would feel more appropriate attached to a grander package. But in the game’s current state, Rainbow Six: Extraction quickly overstays its welcome when each match plays out too similarly to the last. This isn’t to say that Extraction is inherently weaker due to the method of its release, but it lacks the depth and diversity that could make this type of game addicting.