Before covid-19 spread around the world and killed millions, Rainbow Six Extraction was first known in 2019 as Rainbow Six Quarantine. As the pandemic grew, the game went radio silent for a bit before understandably being renamed as Extraction. Now, after all that, Ubisoft’s newest and weirdest entry in the Rainbow Six franchise is finally out and I’m not sure what shocked me more: is it how much I’m enjoying killing aliens or that Extraction manages to be fun in an already crowded genre?
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction is a (presumably) non-canon entry in the long-running tactical shooter franchise that features characters and weapons from Siege. Extraction is directly based on a limited-time mode first seen in Rainbow Six Siege, and the original level in that mode is present in Extraction. This time around, the eclectic cast of operators from Siege aren’t fighting terrorists or other human soldiers, but instead alien parasites called…*searches around keyboard,* the Archæans. The game often refers to them as just aliens or arkies, so I’ll do the same. These nasty creatures are infecting humans and turning them into dangerous alien monsters. It’s up to Team Rainbow and R.E.A.C.T to come together and stop the alien invasion one infected room at a time.
To defeat the aliens, teams of three Rainbow operators are sent into various locations around the United States, like NYC or Alaska. Each location contains three maps and each map is split into three small zones. While each zone is handcrafted and stays the same, they contain randomly selected objectives that change each time you play. You might have to kill a specific target, save someone or activate some bombs.
Unlike Left 4 Dead, Back 4 Blood, or The Anacrusis, in Extraction, you aren’t shooting hundreds of enemies and taking on large waves of unending baddies while rushing to an exit. Instead, Extraction is slower-paced and more tactical. You can be stealthy in Extraction, sneaking up behind enemies to quietly take them out, or you can opt to take advantage of the destructive malleability of the levels to make your own paths around the rooms full of infected baddies. Once you complete an objective, either by using stealth and gadgets or via brute force and loud explosions, you can move on to the next objective. Or you can leave. And you might want to, given how the game handles injuries and “death.”
In Rainbow Six Extraction, taking damage matters. While you can temporarily heal during a mission, that health is removed once you leave and your operator is left injured and unplayable until you earn XP using other operators. Earning XP heals injured staff, allowing you to bring them back into the fight. And once they reach a certain point, you can send them out early with less than 100 health. It’s risky, but sometimes needed if you prefer a certain operator’s abilities.
For example, I love the sensor held by a character named Pulse that lets him track objectives and alien nests through walls, along with the ability to ping them for teammates. He’s very useful, so I try to keep him healthy. That’s led to me ditching a mission via an extraction point because I took some damage and didn’t want to risk taking more. And if an operator runs out of health and is knocked out during a mission, you can’t use them until you rescue them in a later mission. Fail to do so and you will eventually get them back, but they take an XP hit and are injured.
This whole system reminded me of XCOM’s character management. While you can’t permanently lose any operator in Extraction, the added threat of getting injured, losing XP, or not being able to play as them for a few missions is enough to make missions more tense and exciting.
Of course, this is a Tom Clancy game developed by Ubisoft so you’ll need to deal with some of the usual propaganda. There are lots of American flags getting knocked over or destroyed, symbolizing the fall of the country and its values, blah blah blah. In this world, police and SWAT are gods, or at least superheroes who will save us all from the evil threat of inhuman parasites and not the quick to kill and impossible to trust assholes we see in reality. So much of the world is covered in this veneer of patriotism and propaganda that it can be hard at times to not laugh or roll your eyes every few minutes. As someone who has played and enjoyed a lot of Tom Clancy games over the past 20 years, I’m used to it and just laugh at it these days. But playing with someone who hasn’t touched many Clancy games did remind me that all of this is weird and feels very out-of-touch in 2022.
If you can stomach some weird copaganda and don’t mind gross alien stuff, like goo and pulsating flesh pods, then I think there’s a lot to like about Extraction. If co-op shooters are starting to blend together these days, all of them relying on hordes of enemies and fast action, Extraction seems to be the perfect alternative, offering up a more tense, tactical, and unique “zombie shooter” that ditches the crowds of infected for self-contained levels and neat squad management systems. Add in a solid and satisfying progression system that doles out meaningful upgrades frequently and you have something that I can easily see hooking a lot of folks.
It also helps that the game launched on Game Pass, so many of you can download it and try it for nothing. Just don’t forget to laugh at some of the more absurd Clancy bits.