In hindsight, Quarantine was never the best title for Ubisoft Montreal's Rainbow Six: Siege spin-off. Not just because of its unfortunate timing with real world events, but because Rainbow Six Extraction – as it's now known – is concerned with precisely the opposite of quarantining.
Your squad of three Operators aren't supposed to hunker down for weeks with a Netflix subscription and an endless supply of snacks. Their mission is to enter Rainbow Six Extraction's alien-infested zones, complete their assigned tasks, and get the hell out of dodge before things start to turn sideways.
And believe me, having now spent a significant amount of time exploring those zones for myself, I can assure you that no one would want to spend a single minute of quarantine within them, even if it meant getting to enjoy a two week holiday in Seychelles.
"We wanted a name that better reflected where the game had gotten to," says game designer Alicia Fortier of the project's new moniker. "The aim was to make something that is riffing off of the Rainbow Six universe, but in a completely new angle than what people are used to."
Name of the game
Set several years after the events of Siege's competitive showdowns, Rainbow Six Extraction imagines a future where aliens have superseded terrorists as enemy number one for Team Rainbow. A parasitic extra-terrestrial force known as the Archæans have spread across the planet, and it's up to our team of elite Operators to put an end to the outbreak.
You'll do so by heading into their nests and completing up to three randomly assigned objectives of escalating difficulty, which can range from luring an Elite enemy back to base for research purposes, to destroying their bioorganic infrastructure with some well-placed C4. After completing each objective, however, you'll need to make a decision to either to begin the next, or exfiltrate out of the zone with your life still intact. That choice folds a risk-reward dimension into play that echoes a similar structure to Call of Duty's recent Zombies modes, especially as both health, ammo, and Operator abilities are far from infinite, with only a few opportunities to resupply between objectives.
One of the more interesting variants on those objectives borrows ideas from an unlikely source in the form of the XCOM series. Should your Operator fall in the quarantine zone, and your teammates fail to haul your body back to the exil point, they'll become Missing in Action, and you won't be able to play as them again until you rescue them from the map in which they were downed. This rescue mission will take the form of an objective all of its own, as you attempt to pry the Operators comatose body from an eldritch Archæan tree before their life source is drained completely.
While Extraction won't ever kill your Operators permanently, as can be the case in XCOM, this more lasting penalty for failure raises the stakes of each mission, encouraging more cautious, considered, co-operative runs amongst squads, where every life really does count. Fortier does explain, however, that an in-game failsafe assures you'll always have someone to play as, so as to prevent losing all of your Operators until there's no one left to save them.
"The Missing in Action system is really crucial to creating that sense of tension within the game," she continues. "We wanted to make sure that this was the sort of co-op game that still felt fair, but you feel like there's a risk, as though you're putting it all on the line, and whether you succeed or not is deserved based on the actions you took in the match. It's something that was really important to our game loop. But we had to be really mindful about how we implemented it."
And the more Operators you have at your disposal, the better, as team composition in Extraction is as critical as it is in Siege. A number of familiar faces, such as Sledge and Hibana, are still enlisted in Extraction's future timeline, but Ubisoft Montreal has also introduced new Operators specifically designed around the game's co-op, PvE focus. "It's a good introduction to the Rainbow Six universe," says Fortier of Extraction's cast of super skilled soldiers, "but it's also a great attraction for existing Siege players."
No room for error
For those teams that do make it to the third and final objective in Extraction's levels, don't expect a cakewalk. Ubisoft Montreal has intentionally designed a shooter that places a premium on survival, as opposed to power fantasies. Take Sprawl; a calcifying slime which coats the floors, walls, and ceilings of environments in real time, slowing any players and buffing any Archæans who come into contact with it. Players can shoot at the Sprawl to push back against its spread and carve out paths for themselves, but it doesn't take long for entire rooms to be covered in the stuff if you're not careful, creating hellish situations where you're not sure whether to shoot at the goo beneath your feet, or the hordes running headfirst towards your friends.
"We designed Sprawl to be a really dynamic system," explains Fortier. "It considers where the enemies are going to be spawning, it reacts when it's shot, and it has implications on gameplay for both your squad and the AI. Working on the Sprawl has opened a million doors that are way more complicated than you first expect, especially in a game that has destruction, but our tech team really worked hard to carry that through and bring it to the best level of experience."
Ubisoft Montreal hopes to be able to support Rainbow Six Extraction with new content and updates well beyond its launch day later this year. While my hands-on makes it hard to know whether the game holds the same degree of replay value as its Siege counterpart, the ongoing legacy of that live service proves that Ubisoft knows what it's doing when it comes to giving Team Rainbow plenty of new things to do.
Fortier isn't able to give specifics of what that might look like for Extraction, as the team is simply focused on preparing Extraction for launch in the not-too-distant future. After almost two years of radio silence, she says, the team at Ubisoft Montreal couldn't be more excited to finally show what it's been cooking up: "We're lucky enough to have a group of players who are really, really excited for this new experience; people who are very much hungry for a co-op. PvE Rainbow Six game. We're very happy to be able to deliver this to that audience."