Sometimes I think critics -- and the consumer -- expect all games to be all things to all people. Take a game that only has a strong single player campaign. What! No multiplayer support? the critics complain. Or take a game like Rainbow Six: Siege which effectively has no real single player component. What rubbish! the critics cry. Players deserve a complete single player and multiplayer experience or the game is garbage.
This attitude of entitlement is curious. We don't expect any other form of entertainment-- or really, any consumer product -- to have such broad appeal. That comedy was great, but it should have been a drama and an action film, too. Or: that was a fantastic mystery novel, but it would have been better had it also been a romance, horror story, and sci-fi epic. In fact, in most forms of entertainment, a narrow focus is what makes a film, or album, or novel successful. Trying to be too broad usually means no one is happy. Yes, critics argue, but games are expensive. So are live concerts, plays, and musicals--and they're much briefer experiences.
Which brings us to Rainbow Six: Siege. We can talk about its gameplay and visuals, story (or lack of story), framerate and music and supposed authenticity and whether it does those things successfully, but it is what it is: a tactical multiplayer team shooter and not a single player game. The developer's choice to move the franchise in that direction is up for discussion but it should not impact how we evaluate the actual product at hand.
Since debuting way back in 1998, the Rainbow Six franchise has garnered fans for being one of the more "realistic" tactical team multiplayer series of games, where its slower and more methodical play contrasted with the frenetic FPS games like Call of Duty. Many thousands of gamers became familiar with real-world counter-terrorism tactics from playing the games. Siege's storybrings the Rainbow team out of retirement to help fight a new terrorist organization armed with deadly chemical weapons, and while the well-acted opening cinematic does a great job of establishing the game's premise-- a premise all too believable -- the individual missions or situations aren't tied together with any form of narrative arc.
The game begins with a number of "Situations," which are both the game's tutorial and primary single player component, as the Situations can be replayed for higher scores and bragging rights on the leaderboards. The Situations teach the player the primarily tactical components, weapons, and gadgets of the game and are entertaining, though they only take a couple of hours to complete. There is a Horde-type mode that can also be played by a single player against waves of AI.
From there, it's off to the multiplayer core of Siege, which is built on a couple of modes. The primary mode is a five-on-five attack or defend encounter, with varying objectives and set in 11 different urban environments. Although not a graphical showcase, Siege's levels are both tightly designed and often constricted spaces with multiple spots for entry and multiple places to hide. Nearly everything is realistically destructible, too, so shooting through walls, or tearing out large chunks of drywall to gain line of sight is always an option.
Players earn Renown, which is used to unlock Operatives (i.e., classes) and additional weapons and gear. It doesn't take long to unlock most of the Operatives and in fact, character progression plateaus pretty early on. Players who want to unlock everything without the bothersome necessity of actually spending time in the game, can purchase upgrades and Operatives with real money. It's absolutely true that Siege is a thin soup when it comes to content, but it's equally true that there is nearly an infinite number of ways for a team to creatively attack or defend their objectives using the tools and toys provided. In a game like Siege, fun hinges almost entirely on successful teamwork, which requires verbal coordination. Call of Duty players who treat every situation like it's a team deathmatch level both ruin the experience for the rest of their team and also quickly find themselves incapacitated and on the sidelines. One assumes that in short order, Siege's community -- if it forms -- will consist primarily of the faithful, headset-wearing team shooter fans who play the game "as intended."
Rainbow Six: Siege delivers on what it promised to be: a well-made, multiplayer-focused, team shooter. To criticize it for not having a stronger single player experience is accusing it of a pretense it never made, and consumers will decide whether the product has broad enough appeal to warrant its price. Beyond that, the game would benefit from more visual detail and polish, and a coherent narrative that placed the matches in context or part of an arc and while the levels are well designed and the weapons and toys are satisfying to use, the game wildly and incongruously strays here and there from its realistic roots. A "healing gun?" Really? Right now, Rainbow Six: Siege feels like a framework onto which much more content could be added.