I picked up Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege for the first time in well over a year, and I can’t quite get into this game anymore.
Don’t get me wrong. So much of what I loved is still there. The nail-biting tension of being one half in that one-on-one standoff, the amorphous mixture of shock and acceptance that stems from sudden and untimely death, the thrill of shooting some other poor schmuck in the face before he can shoot me. I’m still stunned to see Tachanka, ever dubious of Glaz, still pained and confused at the sight of riot shield Fuze. But Rainbow Six: Siege isn’t doing it for me like it used to.
The Game I Came Back To
To some extent, it’s to be expected. I’m getting back into it precariously low on its infamous learning curve, with no premade squad and droves of new operators and traps to beware. There are systems and rules in place that have caught me entirely off guard, new maps and unfamiliar reiterations of some old ones. This game has changed, and I’ve failed to sufficiently change with it.
I’m rather fond of some of the additions. The ban phase is a welcome touch to ranked play because, more often than naught, I’m not in the mood to get three-tapped by some Caveira player squatting in a seemingly inconsequential hallway. I have a deep appreciation for the added newcomer’s playlist, a thoughtful addition to a title that can feel inaccessible, where level three players stick out like a sore thumb. And the unranked mode? Game changer.
But the list mostly ends there for me. As I watch my next round load up, I don’t recognize the slab of faces before me. These new operators feel soulless and uninspired, and even after going through their skills, I can’t be bothered to try any of them out. This one has a new trap; this one has a new camera, this one wears glasses. Maybe I’m a bit too critical. Maybe I’m just missing the point. Maybe having a hundred operators is just a touch too many.
The Game I Knew
In my earlier time with Siege, everyone had a part to play. You wanted a breacher, an anchor, a surveillant and so on. The operators on your team could and, more often than naught, would make or break a match. The goal was to prepare for every scenario. Thatcher was a staple because there was always a chance the other team had a Bandit or Mute. Lately, I’ve been maining Thatcher because no one else wants to.
Juxtapose this with something like Apex: Legends. Apex is designed to reduce as many encounters as possible to come down to sheer gun skill. In a Reddit thread introducing season seven’s Fight Night event, one developer commented, “At [its] core Apex is a game where gun skill should matter most.” He went on, “There are niche scenarios where legends are super strong, but as long as that’s mitigated, it keeps the game fresh while staying true to its core.”
Rainbow Six: Siege began with precisely the opposite premise. Sure, gunplay was and is vital. But if you were unprepared, not listening to your environment or flat out less smart than someone on the other team, you wouldn’t make it very far. This strength has been lost with the swathes of new operators who are more engineered to individual play style than team play as a whole.
And with the loss of various aspects of team play, I can reluctantly admit that I also miss some of the old team hostility. The ‘Vote to kick’ button is one such example, albeit a nuanced one. Ubisoft believes the tool was used, above all, to remove toxic players. One piece in Dot Esports asserts that the button was actually weaponized to send players to the lobby for no reason at all (this is demonstrably untrue). Ubisoft wound up deciding the button was a bit superfluous, and to be fair, I can understand as much.
While you can always queue up with some guy who drops C4 in the middle of the room and kills your whole team, headshots the hostage or what have you, Ubisoft’s implemented penalties that help dissuade such things, and encourage you to report players who are toxic for toxicity’s sake. The vote to kick button isn’t as much of a necessity as it used to be.
But the vote to kick button had varied and myriad uses. If you made a mistake, for instance — mind you, an egregious, unforgivable mistake — you were promptly removed from the game. It was how you learned and how we taught. And if not everyone was on board, you got another shot at the next round. Sure, it was brutal as all hell and didn’t allow much room for error. Sure, it was madness, but I think there was a method to it.
It’s been years since the first time I was threatened with a kick. I garnered three out of four votes, only for the last one to send me a message. “It’s okay, just play a little smarter next time.” And I did.
I could go on for hours about these elements, the way we, as a community, decided that some people needed to take a round or a match off, the bickering and arguing, the subtle nuance in playing with your team while playing against them. I know we can’t go back, and I don’t want to go back. I just miss the first two years I had with the title.
I don’t want new operators to disappear or the removal of any playlists; I sure as hell don’t want to play on some of the original maps again or bring back the toxicity I’ve been inflating and swooning over. What I really want, more than anything, is a sequel.
This game was fantastic, and though I play the fool for my nostalgia, I think it is still fantastic. But it’s lost a lot of life over the course of these last few years. It’s been around too long, and like any dead horse, we’re standing beside and taking our best swings. I think Ubisoft overextended their limits and aimed too high, and I think it’s time to lay Siege to bed.
Ubisoft has made no great secret that there are no plans for a sequel anytime soon, though, so for now, it’s just a distant pipedream I’ll keep hanging onto. Maybe we’ll get it someday. Maybe I’ll come back in another year or two to write the same story.