Everyone celebrates Heritage Day differently. Most commonly, South Africans get together for a good braai and generally let off some steam. We did things a bit differently over here at htxt.africa, as we spent the day playing the Rainbow Six Siege beta.

To say we had high expectations for this game is putting it lightly. While we usually take all trailers and promotional material for games with a large pinch of salt, when we saw the gameplay premiere for this game last year, we were blown away.

With that very trailer fresh in our minds (after another rewatch), we ventured over to the event and played the beta in a tournament against several other teams. Did the game meet our expectations? Was the trailer at all factual? Deon and I will let you know below.

A little disclaimer here: our opinions below are based both on a media-only event as well as the closed beta which is active until the end of the month. As far as we could tell, the only difference between the two versions was the fact that all the unlocks were available in the event, as well as some developer options to get games going quicker.

Deon – Looks great, but feels a little sluggish

I didn’t get to play on the day of the event as I was called away by a family emergency before I got the chance to, but I have played the beta on my own gaming PC at home for a fair few hours since.

I stuck with the Terrorist Hunt mode, in which I and five other human squadmates were tasked with – wait for it – hunting down terrorists in various training environments.

Initially, I didn’t like how the controls felt, as the game seemed to play like my character was wading through water, and my actions felt exaggerated and slow. Lifting my gun to aim down the sight felt particularly sluggish, but I adjusted my expectations and play style and soon adapted to it. Moving to an Xbox One controller from a mouse and keyboard helped as well. I told myself I’d probably also be a little slow all encumbered by armour and equipment like that.

Finding the terrorists involved storming the level they occupied and then using teamwork, tools (flashbangs, breach charges etc.) and guns to flush them out and eliminate them. We were always outnumbered by a factor of 5 to 1 (five humans vs. 26 AI terrorists), requiring each squaddie to add their share of the kills. I found, though, that even if I died early my team rarely had any trouble dispatching the enemy; I was playing on Normal, and not Hard or Realistic so perhaps that had something to do with it, but ultimately I felt like it wasn’t a major challenge to succeed in the game. Fun, yes, challenge, no. Next time I play I’ll up the difficulty.

Once you die you'll have to spectate until the round ends.
Once you die you’ll have to spectate until the round ends.

Breaching doors and floors and walls, though, is a hell of a lot of fun as it opens up the tactical options quite nicely, and being able to deploy barricades on any and all windows and doors in order to funnel the enemy down certain corridors was a neat touch.

I was particularly fond of the many places I was able to rappel, with my most memorable moment coming from multiple kills that I scored while lowering myself head first down a rather picturesque stairwell.

The game looks pretty good, too, and I love the fact that nearly everything that should be destructible when met with real-world weapons was, and that I was offered many tactical options with which to tackle levels. The levelling-up system is quite cool, too, giving gamers something to work towards as levelling unlocks more character classes to play and obviously weapons and equipment too.

My favourite was “Sledge”, an Operator (the name given to player classes) who comes with his own breaching hammer that let me make holes in walls without resorting to explosives. Talk about feeling like a badass.

Multiplayer gaming is not my thing so I’m more looking forward to the game’s single-player campaign [which, unfortunately, it will not have – ed], but I know enough to be pretty sure that fans of tactical, squad-based multiplayer are going to get their money’s worth when Siege launches in early December.

Update 28/09/2015: I did indeed up the difficulty to Hard this evening, and Siege’s Terrorist Hunt became a very different game. With tougher enemies, I had to think harder about my tactics and I worked far more closely with my teamies, I felt more tense going into each round than before, and I loved it! It makes a huge difference knowing you’re actually quite vulnerable if you don’t play properly.

The rewards are higher as well playing on a harder difficulty: I earned more Renown (required to unlock new classes and equipment) and more XP after each round than I did on Normal, giving me more of a sense of achievement and progression as I played. 

As a result, my opinion of Siege is a lot higher now than it was before. What a game (so far)!

Clinton – Counter-Strike, with more toys

Does this game play like the trailer above? Yes, it actually does, and it’s a lot of fun too. I played mainly muliplayer at the event, and I think that was the optimal environment to do so. Not only did the developer options make the matchmaking painless (which is definitely not the case in the closed beta), but the proximity to actual players and the inclusion of headphones meant that communication was easy and I could shout to my team-mates to pick up the armour I graciously left them.

The event really highlighted something about the game: your enjoyment of multiplayer is entirely hinged on your team. When the team is familiar and working well the game will be a blast, but when they’re not (or you’re playing with strangers) it will be a shambles. This was demonstrated when a member of the defending team in a hostage situation ended the round by killing the captive five seconds in. Whoops.

Once actually in a round there is a huge division between attackers and defenders. The defending team (either looking after a bomb or a live hostage) will need to fortify their position with barricades and traps. The attackers won’t sit around with their glocks in their hands, though, as they’ll send out RC cars to survey and find the objective.

Waiting for the attackers to come through a wall A(or ceiling, or floor) to get to the objective is quite tense.
Waiting for the attackers to come through a wall A(or ceiling, or floor) to get to the objective is quite tense.

Once the allotted time to prepare is done all hell breaks loose. The attackers will use every gadget, explosive, robot and gun in their arsenal to get to the objective. Playing as  the defenders always felt like the more difficult fight, however, as hunkering down to defend usually ends in being breached, and running out to engage in combat usually ends in quick death. With all the tools the defenders have to entrench themselves, the lines are (more often then not) easily broken by the attackers’ sledge hammers and explosives.

A further blow to both the multiplayer, terrorist hunt and the game as a whole is the lack of team work, or rather the need for it. A single lone wolf with ample skill can win a game for their team quite handily, and running gung ho into the opposing team can work out for you if you’re smart about it. This game is so focused on the art of the siege, yet it continually awards risky, lonesome play.

We’ll have to give it the benefit of the doubt, though, as things may change as the game environment matures and the developers incorporate the feedback they’re asking players to provide in exchange for playing the beta.

Rainbow Six Siege beta preview: Conclusion

This game, once you’ve jumped the hurdles of matchmaking, unlocking and bad team members, is an awesome experience. The mechanics of really using your environment as either a defensive or offensive tool is just so well done we actually took the time to explore maps for advantages rather than just learning a floor layout. Once you get accustomed to the feel of movement and gunplay, that too is solid. For once a game actually delivered, on a mechanical level at least. And this is just the beta – we expect the final game to be even more polished.

Unfortunately, especially after Deon learnt of the lack of multiplayer, we can’t recommend this game yet, as it is just too thin in terms of content. Even with additional weapons and Operators, the lack of singleplayer is a real killer here. The only hope for Rainbow Six Siege is many more game modes to make the online (and thus, the entirety of the game) worthwhile.

We’ll know more once the game comes out, which happens on December 1st for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.