Rainbow Six Extraction on Xbox Series X
Rainbow Six Extraction started life as an incredibly popular limited-time game mode for its PvP predecessor, Rainbow Six Siege. Following the positive reception, Ubisoft opted to turn the mode into its own full-fledged game, giving players a chance to step into the boots of their favorite Operator once more and take on the Archaean alien threat. Much like Siege, Extraction offers up some compelling tactical shooter action that can be booted up for a quick 20-minute blast with some friends, or for hours at a time as you grind out XP to level up your Operators. However, also like Siege, Extraction flails a little when you’re not playing with others.
The premise here is simple — following an unidentified Russian Soyuz capsule crashing in the city of Truth or Consequences, an epidemic was triggered and Rainbow HQ launched Operation Outbreak in an attempt to collect data and contain the disease. The event raised questions regarding the handling of future threats and so the Rainbow Exogenous Analysis and Containment Team (REACT) was formed. Unsurprisingly, the outbreak in Truth of Consequences wasn’t a one-off, with outbreaks in New York, San Francisco and Nome, Alaska all succumbing to similar parasitic infestations.
This is where you step in. Either solo or with two friends, you pick one of the Rainbow HQ Operators and venture to these four locations to learn more about the Archaean alien threat and contain it as best you can. Each of the Rainbow Six Extraction’s four locations has three ‘Hot Zones’ which you’ll drop into, which also each have three Sub-Zones, with the Archaean threat growing stronger as you progress through them.
It’s not all about just shooting aliens, though. Every sub-zone presents an objective that must be completed, including scanning Archaean nests by planting tags in them; destroying aberrant nests; capturing or taking down an elite target; carrying an explosive to a target; activating beacons to triangulate a signal; rescuing a VIP; capturing different zones; defending explosive charges, and finally, entering the Singularity to kill the Protean. If you die, your Operator will need to be rescued to recover the XP they earned in their run (and get them back home safely, of course), which can count as an objective when a rescue mission needs to be launched.
The objectives are varied enough and encourage players to adopt different playstyles. Triangulating the signal, for example, often saw me resorting to just heading from one to the other in order to triangulate the signal within the time limit, running and gunning down any enemies that tried to impede me on my all-important mission. Defending explosive charges, on the other hand, saw me reinforcing walls and using my (and my team’s) Operator abilities to create lethal traps to stop the Archaean threat from destroying the charge before it detonated.
Others, such as having to stealth takedown an elite target really test your stealth skills, as, if the enemy detects you, it’ll hunt you down ruthlessly until you manage to break its line of sight to you. In these instances, you’re best trying to remain undetected for as long as you can, using your environment to your advantage. Spot a small gap in the bottom of a wall? Go prone and squeeze through it to catch an enemy off-guard. Discovered your target patrols a set area? Hide in the darkness, out of sight and then creep up behind and stab it in the neck with your REACT Blade… for science! No, seriously, it is.
While I don’t have any grievances with the objectives currently in Rainbow Six Extraction, having spent over 20 hours with the game, leveling up my various Operators, and completing countless Incursions across all locations and their respective Hot Zones, I did feel like some more objectives were needed to keep things feeling that little bit fresher for longer. After you’ve done each a handful of times, things can start to get a little repetitive, an issue I found became exacerbated by a rather basic progression system and, for the most part, lackluster rewards.
Every objective you complete rewards you with XP. As do kills –with bonus XP earned for stealth kills, or melee attacks and other ‘Tactical’ kills– and completing Studies (think Fortnite challenges but limited to specific locations). Any XP earned will level up the Operator you used for the mission, as well as your overall ‘REACT Progression’ which is a 30-tiered rail where you’ll unlock bits of lore, the different locations, Assignments and Project Maelstrom game modes, locked Operators and REACT Tokens which can be used to unlock new gadgets and throwables for your Operators. That may sound like a lot, but you’ll unlock the majority of this by level 17. After that, it’s a largely thrill-less slog to level 30, with the final tier of REACT Tech unlocked after this and some cosmetic items.
The problem is, the cosmetic items just aren’t all that interesting, with the real cool-looking gear available in the game’s store for REACT Credits, purchased with real-life money. Had some of these been thrown into the various progression tiers, I might have felt more inclined to keep on grinding out XP, but instead I was left feeling fatigued by the time I’d reached level 17 and unlocked the final three Operators to bring the roster up to a full 18.
Given I’ve managed to get through a majority of the progression in about 20 hours, I do question how much mileage veteran and long-term players will get from the current progression system. Ubisoft hasn’t mentioned anything about new progression rails coming post-launch, either.
In terms of gameplay, Extraction does feel incredibly similar to Siege. There’s no real secret here that the two share the same engine and basically the same gameplay as far as tactical shooters go. It all remains incredibly satisfying, too. Pulling off synchronized shots with your teammates, or combining Operator abilities to perfect a Hot Zone and its objective never gets old, nor does experimenting with Operators, as the game forces you to do through its health recovery system.
After each mission, if an Operator has taken damage, they’ll be injured and you’ll need to earn XP from future Incursions to earn HP to heal them up. You can choose to use an Operator who’s not at full health, but you’ll start the Incursion at a disadvantage and more often than not, you’re gonna have a bad time when attempting this. In doing so, Rainbow Six Extraction encourages you to try new Operators, which in turn, led me to find new favorites.
Each Operator feels unique, not just because of their abilities, but because of the weapons and tech they have access to, as well as their Speed and Armor stats which drastically affect how quickly the character moves and how much damage they’ll take from enemy attacks. Level up an Operator and you’ll unlock new weapons, attachments, cosmetics, and more, making them more capable of taking on Incursions on tougher Threat Levels, too.
The core change between Siege and Extraction here comes in the fact you’re dealing with AI enemies, rather than humans, and this is where I underestimated Extraction. The AI is actually pretty darn intelligent, and when paired with the excellent level design, each location I was dropped into felt like an ever-changing Easter Egg full of surprises.
The manner in which nests are tucked away, for example, vomiting out more Archaeans seemingly every minute, or the way Grunts and Spikers will crawl through tight spaces or headbutt their way through makeshift wooden walls kept me on my toes. Each enemy has its own unique traits and weak points, constantly forcing you to change your weapon, ability, equipment, or playing style in order to most efficiently dispatch the creature before they howl and bring all their creepy mates with them.
This is also helped by the fact that the Archaean threat mutates and changes with each mission you take on. The way they react and the enemies you face in one mission can be entirely different to another mission played on the same Threat Level (difficulty) on the same map, and so you’re always on edge, nervously anticipating bumping into a Tormentor, Smasher, or even worse, a Predator, around every corner.
While I’m on the topic of Threat Levels, though, I was a little disappointed by the way in which these difficulty settings work. Moderate is the lowest, moving into Cautious, followed by Severe and Critical. These are also unlocked by progressing through the REACT Progression rail mentioned earlier, but only Severe and Critical Threat Levels allow for the full Archaean ecosystem of enemies to spawn into your mission. On Moderate and Cautious, you’ll only face low-level Archaeans, which tend not to put up much of a fight and lack the firepower to force you into a more tactical approach to combat.
If you’re playing with others, this isn’t too much of an issue. Severe and Critical are certainly tough, but they’re not impossible when playing as part of a team. Playing Solo, however, was incredibly difficult on Severe and Critical and so, if you were planning on playing a lot of Extraction on your own, you might want to reconsider.
It’s not just the limited Archaean enemies that plague solo play, either, but the fact that it’s all a bit grindy and repetitive. Rainbow Six Extraction scales the challenge right down if you’re playing Solo and you’re not able to bring in AI teammates to help you out. As such, you’re often left completing very diluted-down versions of the objectives you’ll face in co-op with a less threatening enemy. It was all a little too easy on Moderate and Cautious, but the step up to Severe and Critical felt just too much for a solo player, at least at my skill level, anyway.
Things do get a lot better when you’re playing with others. Even with strangers online, where communication was fleeting at best, Extraction ups the ante. Rescuing MIA operators now had far more, respawning anchor points, as opposed to the few, non-respawning variants I’d found when playing solo. Similarly, the objective tasking you with destroying Archaean spines had two instead of one, and there were generally more enemies about too. It just makes things that little bit more interesting. More intense. The stakes are ramped up and that’s when this alien threat feels most unsettling.
The difficulty never felt right in solo, either far too easy or that little bit too much for a single player to overcome. It finds the right balance in co-op and having played 15+ hours in solo, I can confirm it starts to get repetitive quickly without the spontaneity of teammates, a tougher enemy and more challenging objectives.
Rounding out the Extraction experience are Assignments and Maelstrom Protocol. In Assignments, you’re tasked with taking on Incursions but with slightly different rules of engagement. For example, in ‘Veteran,’ Friendly Fire and a Minimalist HUD are enabled, while ammo remaining in magazines is wasted on reloading. ‘Wall-to-Wall,’ on the other hand sees constant Archaean assaults which grow stronger throughout the experience, and you’ll need to use Security Stations to activate an Unlock Sequence for the airlocks between sub-zones.
Maelstrom Protocol, on the other hand, is almost an endless wave variant on the base gameplay. It’s an extended Incursion within a Chimera-infested environment that evolves from week to week. Increased and more aggressive Archaean activity are the orders of the day here, as you try and complete as many objectives as you can before dying. Only three or four Operators can be used in Maelstrom Protocol each week, too, meaning you’ll need to get familiar with each Operator and level them up if you plan to take this end-game mode on with the best odds. The better you do in Maelstrom Protocol, the better your XP and unique gear unlock rewards will be.
Both Assignments and Maelstrom Protocol are welcome additions to the base game modes, providing unique twists to the gameplay without upsetting the balance of the gameplay between Operators and Archaeans. For those looking for an ever-changing, challenging experience, these are going to be where you’ll ultimately spend a lot of your time.
All in all, then, Rainbow Six Extraction is largely a success in transitioning the tactical shooting gameplay of the series into a PvE format. The core Siege experience of teamwork and coordinated play is certainly required again here on the higher difficulties. Surviving objectives when a large wave of formidable Archaeans are hunting you down requires coordination and forward-thinking in order to survive. The lower difficulty settings of Moderate and Cautious put less of an emphasis on this, though it still works far more effectively than running and gunning your way through the levels.
Whether or not there’s enough content to keep hardcore Rainbow Six fans happy, remains to be seen. Even with Assignments and Maelstrom Protocol offering up more challenging end game experiences, I do have my doubts over how long the current crop of maps can carry the hours upon hours of gameplay needed to level up all of your Operators and reach REACT Progression 30.
Rainbow Six Extraction is good fun when playing in co-op with friends. The tactical shooter gameplay just feels right for this PvE experience and Rainbow Six’s long list of Operators feel right at home with varied, useful abilities that each come into their own for different playstyles.
While I had some grievances with the Threat Levels for solo players and had wished for a few more objectives to bolster the current roster and help reduce the monotony of playing multiple Incursions in a single session, I kept finding –and continue to find– myself eagerly wanting to hop back on and earn level up my Operators a little bit more. Just how long this feeling continues to linger at the back of my mind ultimately comes down to whether any post-launch updates will come to the progression to make it feel more rewarding and less grinding.
- Absolute blast in co-op with friends
- Operators feel unique thanks to individual stats and abilities
- The Archaean enemies feel varied, intelligent and are a challenge to take on
- Atmospheric, eerie tactical shooting
- Level design encourages creative use of Operator abilities and different play styles
- Solo play feels too grindy, and harder difficulties feel out of reach
- More objectives would have helped to keep things fresh
- Progression rewards feel underwhelming for the latter half and may lack the mileage for veterans