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Looks like it’s been a long time since Rainbow Six Extraction was announced, but I just searched it on Google and it turns out it wasn’t until 2019? Time flies in quarantine, especially for a game originally titled “Quarantine”. A year before that, Ubisoft proved that a PvP-focused Rainbow Six Siege-based cooperative zombie game could actually run in a time-limited side-to-side mode.
This mode was called Outbreak, and it only lasted a few weeks before it was gone forever. Back then, the fun three-mission campaign gave us some major Left 4 Dead vibes. Ubisoft absorbed the comments, formed a whole new team within its Montreal studio, and got to work to make it a reality.
After a few hours of playing Extraction, I’m starting to think it’s actually the anti-Left 4 Dead. It has safe rooms, special infected types, and rare medical kits, but the pace of Extraction is completely different from the chaos I’m used to in Co-op Zombie Slaughter.
The mission our party of three performed was an almost leisurely walk with small bursts of action throughout. I’ve never encountered that classic scenario where I hurry down a hallway with 23 zombies (Extraction calls its alien zombies “parasites”) behind me in a full sprint to eat my flesh. However, I had to pull Sledge out of a slimy alien cocoon, dodge the fleshy scab growths ambushed from the ceiling, and trudge through the black silt that covers every inch of a room. Rainbow Six Extraction is very disgusting in a good way.
The rhythm of the snail
The slower pace of mining can be attributed to its source: Rainbow Six Siege. Like Siege, the default speed here is a light jog which is noticeably slower than most FPS. Speed is naturally suited to Siege’s close-quarters shootouts, but it feels a bit odd in a zombie game. Perhaps that is why the enemy groups were so sparse. Normal parasitic enemies are about as weak as L4D zombies, but they don’t cluster into hordes. I would often find one or two in a still room, patiently waiting to be hit in the head. It also seemed that it was possible to completely clean an area by destroying the scattered parasite nests. I was surprised how often I felt relatively safe in this dangerous environment.
So when exactly is it not sure? It may depend on how you handle that black slime I mentioned earlier, the “Sprawl”. The nests are constantly pumping out the substance and standing in them slows you down, making you an easier target for enemies. I got caught in the silt a few times and was quickly pummeled by the meandering basic parasites which hadn’t caused me any problems before. Certain types of missions also seem to be more dangerous than others. My group ended up failing in our second mission trying to protect a node as a group of pests pushed us all around. We hadn’t seen this target yet and it had been calm until then, so the sudden assault caught us all off guard.
There are seven types of special parasites that can appear in a given mission. L4D veterans will recognize the bloat-type zombie that wants to explode in your face, but the others we fought were more original – an attacker who shoots needles, a trapper who can also blind players, and a rooter who sends an area. slowdown attacks with far effect. The variety is quite impressive, although it is possible that only a few types could appear in a single mission.
It was hard to tell from just a few parts of a mission, but I got the impression that these “special” parasites are fairly common appearances that might even appear as often as a standard winding parasite. As with Siege, the operators are fragile. Instead of my HP slowly crumbling after a dozen L4D zombie hits, I’d be on the ropes after just a couple of scuffs.
Luck also has a small part in the difficulty of a mission. The enemy types, mission objectives, and where those objectives appear are procedurally generated. Each map is divided into three “submaps” with layouts that don’t change, but the order in which they appear does – the lab environment our mission began in could be the last area of yours. race, for example. The only variable that really mattered to our group was the objectives themselves, which are chosen from a group of 12. Sometimes we had to destroy harmful nests while parasites were constantly breeding or lure an overpowered alien into a trap. We once had to carry special foam injector capsules into an alien node to foam and destroy it, which was good. Completing all three objectives in each of the sub-maps earns the most experience points (working towards a progression system that Ubi wouldn’t talk about), but you have the option of mining early instead of tapping.
Early mining ensures that your operator doesn’t go down, which you really want to avoid with the Extraction “MIA” mechanism. Lost allies are captured by the parasite and cannot be played again until you save them on a later mission (this is the “slimy alien cocoon” I mentioned earlier). Health also continues after a mission, meaning that a Doc who barely survived with 10 HP needs to sit down a few missions before regaining full health.
It’s hard to say how this system will work once the whole game is in front of me, but I really don’t like it so far. Locking out operators seemed like an arbitrary punishment that didn’t really change the game – not having Sledge or Doc doesn’t mean moving around the map is harder or some enemies are harder to counter, it’s just a downside to having fewer options on the character selection screen. It also seems boring having to repeat the same cocoon extraction mission every time I or one of my teammates has an operator to rescue. We did this a few times in the demo and I got tired of doing the same tug-of-war match with an alien tree. Maybe losing a character will be rarer than our demo suggested, but it was easy enough to get down to our intermediate difficulty.
Old dogs, new stuff
Speaking of operators, all checkouts come straight from Siege. We had access to a pool of nine: Alibi, Finka, Sledge, Lion, Doc, Pulse, Hibana, Vigil and Ela. It is clear that Ubi has selected Operators whose gadgets already make sense in a PvE environment. Doc’s Healing Gun, Sledge Hammer, and Ela’s Grzmot Mines handle exactly the same as in Siege with minor tweaks (Doc’s gun doesn’t heal as much in Extraction, but it can still be used to revive allies from afar).
In a few cases, the function of a gadget had to be changed entirely. Vigil’s Jammer Backpack usually allows him to appear invisible on cameras, but in Extraction he becomes temporarily undetectable by pests. Instead of detecting heartbeats, Pulse’s heart sensor can sniff out nests through walls. I was excited to see how Ubi would integrate these gadgets into cooperative play since the announcement of Extraction, although I was disappointed to see how superfluous my operator skills were in action. In Siege, gadgets give each operator a distinct role in a team: Hibana can open crucial reinforced walls, Pulse can watch opponents through anything, Alibi can play tricks with decoys. Mining turns all of these multifaceted tools into somewhat minor benefits. Doc’s healing output is crushed by proper med kits, Vigil’s Jammer makes stealth slightly easier, and Sledge’s hammer seems insignificant when any Operator can bring in Impact Grenades.
Mining just doesn’t seem very interested in gadgets, and Siege’s impressive destruction engine seems to be taking a step back as well. Most rooms have at least one destructible wall, but the breach was not really encouraged or required to complete our missions. One of the few entirely new gadgets I saw was the UV flashlight attached to every weapon in the game which reveals parasites through walls and highlights weak spots. It was pretty cool to x-ray a wall and kill everything behind it without breaking a sweat.
I’m interested to see what other types of variables can be added to make missions feel unique. There are so many fundamental unknowns that will indicate how replayable the game is – Ubi wouldn’t comment on details like total number of cards, how the campaign works (she apparently has one), how many operators and everything related to progression.
Right now the best thing about Extraction is that I already know it’s a good FPS. Armed with Siege’s precise hitboxes and distinctive gun feel, Extraction comes out the door with a major gameplay advantage that a smaller-scale co-op shooter like Back 4 Blood can’t match. Ripping seems expensive, which is only one aspect of the game, but it’s very important in an FPS that you’re meant to play over and over again.
It feels weird to play a game that looks, sounds, and sounds like Siege and yet ignores some of its best qualities. Still, it’s understandable that a completely different team would embrace Siege’s framework and take it in a different direction. I don’t know yet if this direction is particularly exciting. The variety of objectives and enemies is at least a promising start. Rainbow Six Extraction is finally set to launch later this year.