Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Extraction is a long time coming. Revealed at E3 2019 and originally scheduled for release the following year, the co-op multiplayer shooter has since been delayed three times by way of Covid 19-related complications. Two years deep in the ongoing global pandemic, and terms like 'lockdown', 'vaccination', and 'social-distancing' have since wormed their way into everyday parlance. The word 'isolation' now immediately conjures thoughts of being locked away from society, and the word 'quarantine' is less tightly bound to the realms of sci-fi.
Rainbow Six Extraction well understands this. Because, as you may recall, Rainbow Six Extraction began life as Rainbow Six Quarantine. For game director Patrick Methe, though, despite all the hardships the last two years have levied on life and game development alike, that name change was, in fact, a no-brainer. "The more we worked on the game, and the more the pieces of the puzzles came together, the more we realised that extraction was the one key element in everything," says Methe. "No matter how good you are, no matter how skillful you are, no matter how accurate your shooting is – if you're unable to extract, then everything you've invested will be lost. Extraction, then, is the name of the game."
Game Rainbow Six Extraction
Developer Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Release January 20, 2022
Methe is right, and I speak from experience. An experience which saw me go hands-on with Ubisoft's upcoming online co-op shooter for four hours with two teammates, as we fumbled through objectives spread across levels in New York, San Francisco, and Alaska. From freeing missing-in-action NPC comrades out in the wild, to carefully planning and planting bombs to obliterate alien strongholds; from incapacitating otherworldly creatures in order to retrieve DNA samples, to luring hostile elite-tier beasts into makeshift traps before bagging them up and sending them to the lab – there's much fun to be had in that very extraction process.
At E3 2019, Rainbow Six Extraction was first billed as a spin-off of Rainbow Six Siege's limited-time, alien blast 'em up mode Outbreak that launched in 2018, but Ubisoft has since pitched the former as a standalone experience for those less keen on PvP multiplayer fare. There's still plenty of crossover between the two, granted, not least on the operators front – there were nine to choose from in the demo segment I played – each of which comes with familiar special abilities that can be used to give you an extra leg-up in battle. But there are plenty of distinct differences too, most notably in mission structure and Extraction's 13 alien parasite Archean antagonists.
During one excursion, my two squadmates and I did battle with a horde of projectile-hurling Spikers before finding ourselves cornered and critically low on ammo and health. Our mission objective was to locate and rescue a stranded VIP who, in this instance, was situated on the other side of a concrete wall, inside a room brimming with toxic gas-spreading Bloaters. To enter the room through the door would mean circling back into the area's central thoroughfare, wading through the thick grey sludge exuded by the dead Spikers, leaving ourselves exposed in every direction with no scope for escape.
After a few minutes of pondering, we decided to go Route One – which saw Sledge, as operated by one of my buddies, batter the wall down with his mallet; me, operating as Alibi, tossing in a smoke bomb; and Pulse, controlled by my second peer, clearing the competition with a volley of shotgun fire. This degree of open tactical thinking is what helped Siege stand above its genre competition in practice, and it’s great to see the same fluidity applied to Extraction as you weigh up the pros and cons of offensive and defensive strategies on the fly and in real time.
By virtue of its co-operative PvE makeup, Extraction is a more thoughtful game than Siege – one which, to paraphrase Methe, can reward players for firing on all cylinders or for thinking things through with tactics and, if required, stealth. So long as the job gets done, it's entirely up to you and your squad how you extract, which in turn adds a layer of freshness and idiosyncrasy to each level. While Siege is at its best amid its most unpredictable and circumstantial gunfights, Extraction thrives when a haphazard plan precariously falls into place.
Which is to say: I firmly believe Extraction packs enough punch to both appeal to Siege players looking to break from its high-octane player-versus-player bouts, and an entirely new audience who might never have played a single round of Siege in their lives. Which, as you might imagine, is exactly what Ubisoft is aiming for.
"For us, Extraction is a 'what if' scenario," continues Methe. "We took the operators from Siege, and we put them in a very unexpected setting. We think it gives us two big advantages. We have the solid and beloved Siege operators, but in a totally brand new setting, facing a very special trip. So it gives us a totally different experience. And a totally brand new game."
As for Extraction's identity moving forward, how closely does Methe reckon this game will fly to its older cousin, Siege? "With all of this, we're super eager to see the reaction from the community," he says. "We already have a very strong plan for the year following Extraction's launch. But who knows? If the community is really there, we'll certainly listen to the feedback and see where we're going from there."
All throughout January, GamesRadar+ is exploring the biggest games of the new year with exclusive interviews, hands-on impressions, and in-depth editorials. For more, be sure to follow along with Big in 2022.