Rainbow Six Extraction Proves Just How Great Back 4 Blood Could've Been

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An Archæan enemy, an Apex, in Rainbow Six Extraction.

What technically started as a limited-time event in Rainbow Six Siege, known as Outbreak, soon went on to become Rainbow Six Extraction. Borrowing the characters, weapons, and tactical gameplay of Siege, Extraction throws all of these elements into a brand-new scenario that mirrors the formula of 2008’s Left 4 Dead.

This sounds promising, right? Given the never-ending love for the Left 4 Dead games, and the continuous popularity of Rainbow Six Siege, Extraction definitely goes down a treat. Yet, after spending some time with it, one of the thoughts that I can’t ignore is how Extraction does everything that Back 4 Blood should’ve done back in 2021.

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When Turtle Rock Studios announced that they would be bringing us Back 4 Blood in 2021 – the title that was to build on Left 4 Dead 2 and elevate the formula to a new level – so many fans were high on anticipation. Then, when Back 4 Blood actually launched, disappointment was rampant. So much so, that Left 4 Dead 2 of 2009 still remains more popular than Back 4 Blood. When Rainbow Six Extraction then came around three months later, I couldn’t help but deliberate how much better Back 4 Blood could’ve been.

A team about to leave the Safe Room in Back 4 Blood.

A Developed Story and Characters

The issues with Back 4 Blood begin with the background of it. A strong storyline and developed characters aren’t the be all and end all of any co-op PvE shooter, but they definitely help your actions make a little more sense. That’s what Rainbow Six Extraction taught me. I’ll admit that Ubisoft had an advantage in this respect, considering it employs Operators that have been in Siege since 2015, so it had plenty of time for character development. However, I don’t think that entirely excuses just how much Turtle Rock Studios neglected their roster of characters and the overarching story of Back 4 Blood.

There are a few cutscenes in Back 4 Blood, mainly introducing the characters. Beyond that, the narrative is lacking. There is no sense of storytelling or character development beyond kill zombies and survive. Don’t get me wrong, there are some moments in Back 4 Blood that shine through the rest; primarily that one area with a jukebox in a pub that no player will easily forget. Admittedly, the Left 4 Dead games were not ones that people played for their story, but there was at least some solid character building and backstory to anchor the action to.

As for Extraction, the game is packed with an overarching storyline and lore to discover. Again, most players will likely hop onto Extraction wanting to squad up, slay Archæans, and move on. However, all the entries in the Codex and cutscenes that can be unlocked give the player's actions an additional direction and purpose. This definitely helps to move things along and enhance a player's understanding of the game and why they’re playing it. Back 4 Blood could’ve got away with its lacklustre storyline had it picked up the pace in other areas. As it stands, though, Back 4 Blood needed all the help it could get to prevent it from flopping, and a developed story could’ve certainly helped.

A Grunt and Sower Archæan entering a subzone in Rainbow Six Extraction.
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Balancing of PvE

Those of us who played Back 4 Blood on release know that the balancing between players and the Ridden was inconsistent at best. In some cases, this was part of the fun. Yet, after a day or two of this, the chaos got boring fast. Chaos in a game like Back 4 Blood should come from hordes of zombies, not from poor balancing between players and enemies.

The jump between levels of difficulty in Back 4 Blood was also unbalanced to say the least. I’m no professional at FPS games, but my friends and I would like to think that we know our way around video game gunfights. So, when we hopped into Veteran (the second difficulty of three), we expected a challenge, not total annihilation.

On the other hand, Rainbow Six Extraction has struck its balance perfectly. The second difficulty of four, Cautious, is not easy, but players can give it a good shot without feeling that enemies are overpowered. Back 4 Blood intended to be a challenge, but Turtle Rock Studios didn’t get it right, and admitted as much. Meanwhile, Extraction has pretty much nailed difficulty increases, spawn rates, and how its AI functions. For a PvE game, balancing is perhaps one of the most important aspects of the game to get right. With Extraction hitting the mark, and Back 4 Blood still not quite nailing it, Extraction has been a constant reminder of where Back 4 Blood could’ve done better.

A Tallboy, part of the Ridden, in Back 4 Blood.

A Campaign That Is Fun While Solo

Trying to play Back 4 Blood solo left a lot to be desired. Players were unable to earn achievements or acquire Supply Points, but they could unlock Player Cards. Overall, this was quite baffling, and it seemed almost as though Turtle Rock Studios wanted to dissuade players from taking on hordes solo. The biggest incentive of most PvE games is being able to develop your chosen character's skills and equipment, yet this was initially impossible to do solo in Back 4 Blood, immediately turning some players away from the game.

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As a co-op shooter, Back 4 Blood definitely insisted that you play it with friends, but for those who wanted to put in hours while their friends are offline, the progression incentive just wasn’t there. Meanwhile, players of Rainbow Six Extraction can power through Incursions solo, unlocking new REACT technology and levelling up characters, with nothing holding them back.

A solo campaign is not primary to a shooter that is intended for a team, but in our current day and age where players have a mass of games to choose from each time they turn on their computer or console, solo play has become rather important. Friends aren’t always available to help us progress, and when Back 4 Blood bot players are completely useless, a developed solo campaign with real progression would’ve helped the game substantially.

Three Operators are trying to close a subzone while a Lurker and Grunt Archæan approaches, in Rainbow Six Extraction.

Extraction Released When It Was Actually Ready

One thing you might’ve noticed while reading this, is that Turtle Rock Studios has taken steps to fix Back 4 Blood and improve player experience. Arguably, it’s too little, too late. Personally, Rainbow Six Extraction made a much more powerful impact on me as a player because it was clearly released when it was ready. Meanwhile, Back 4 Blood felt like it could’ve done with a few more months of testing before its release. This could’ve made all the difference, and we may have even seen more people on Back 4 Blood right now than there are on Left 4 Dead 2, had that been the case.

October, just before Halloween, might’ve felt like a fitting release date for a horror game. However, a few more months in development, finding ways to elevate the story and solo campaign while balancing out the power of the Ridden with players, would’ve quite literally been a game-changer for Back 4 Blood. Rainbow Six Extraction has gone on to prove as much.

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Since it launched, I’ve looked back on the excitement I had for Back 4 Blood and wondered if myself and others were simply expecting too much. Yet, the release of Rainbow Six Extraction has cemented these thoughts of disdain towards Back 4 Blood. I’m not saying that Rainbow Six Extraction is, by any means, a great game, because if I’m being honest, the title’s gameplay loop leaves a little more to be desired; but it’s definitely an improvement on Back 4 Blood in most areas, and will likely be expanded upon further in the coming months.

Ubisoft definitely had a lot more to work with, and there’s no denying that. Yet, playing through Extraction both solo and with friends has confirmed one thing to me: everything that Back 4 Blood lacked, Extraction improves on tenfold. I hate to knock games that I desperately wanted to enjoy, and I’ve made multiple excuses for Turtle Rock Studios. Still, Rainbow Six Extraction proves to be a fun PvE, creature-killing experience that could’ve been comparable to Back 4 Blood, albeit more tactical, yet Back 4 Blood still continues to disappoint.

If you’re jumping into Rainbow Six Extraction this weekend, be sure to check out our Rainbow Six Extraction walkthrough. You’ll find guides on the best Operators and best weapons to use, as well as plenty of useful information on the enemies and maps that you'll encounter.