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E3 2014 impressions: hands-on with 'Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege'

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The last time a Rainbow Six title was released on a console, Amy Winehouse had won a Grammy, No Country for Old Men won Best Picture at the Oscars, Bill Gates stepped down from Microsoft, OJ Simpson was convicted of kidnapping and armed robbery, and Call of Duty 4, Assassin’s Creed and Rock Band were among the big titles from the previous holiday season.

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It was 2008, and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 would become the last Rainbow Six title released on consoles (Ubisoft did release a Rainbow Six title on mobile platforms in 2011), at least until sometime next year, when the upcoming Rainbow Six: Siege launches.

Faster forward to this year, and gone is the previously announced, Rainbow Six: Patriots. Ubisoft revealed that Rainbow Six: Siege will be the next title in the storied franchise. At E3 this year, Ubisoft doubled down on Siege and brought along a multiplayer demo.

Fans of the first Rainbow Six game on PC will remember the initial tactical planning stages very well. It helped define the series, but eventually was removed in later titles to assist in the transition to console gaming. Siege brings back the tactical pre-fight planning, albeit in a much more accessible manner.

Prior to the beginning of a match, both attackers and defenders have a short time to explore the premises and plan out their strategy. For the attackers, they can use a camera attached to a small remote controlled drone vehicle to enter and preview a building. The camera will allow the attackers to view in real time what the defenders are doing, and in which room the hostage is kept. If the defenders are paying enough attention, they can spot and destroy the attackers’ drone, so it is important for the attackers to keep the drone moving and out of sight.

As for the defenders, they can survey any entry points and try to fortify their defenses with deployable barriers, shields, barbed wire, and explosive charges. The barriers cannot be counted on to be impervious however, since they can be shot through easily, but they will slow an attacker down. The rattling from the barbed wire will alert any defender to an intruder’s position.

All of the walls and floors are destructible with gun fire or explosives. This gives players an extraordinary amount of freedom, and can cause the dynamics of matches to swing in favor of another team in an instant. Familiarity with the map and excellent communication between teammates are therefore imperative to securing a victory in Siege.

Pacing is obviously quite different from most shooters these days. Instead of flying around a sprawling map, players must creep swiftly and use cover liberally, particularly since it doesn’t take many bullets to bring players down. The amount of tension felt during a match is exhilarating; you never know if a wall you’re standing next to will be breached, or if an opponent is waiting for your around the corner.

Siege has excellent graphics as well. Despite the demo being an early build, the lighting, particle effects, and textures all looked stellar. It helps that there aren’t miles of terrain to compute, but Ubisoft made Siege look awesome.

The gameplay in Siege is solid, exciting, and tense, and combines meaningful tactics, close quarter combat, and a highly-destructible environment in a way we have not seen in quite some time. For these reasons, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege is my pick for the best shooter at E3 2014.

As stated above, this title has not yet secured a specific release date, but is slated for 2015, only on PC, Xbox One, and PS4. Pre-order it at Amazon.com.

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