Aliens are a familiar concept to Rainbow Six. 2018's Outbreak event in Siege saw us taking down an alien invasion in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, but they've yet to take centre stage - until now. Ubisoft’s now brought us Rainbow Six Extraction, a tactical FPS spin-off based on Outbreak that feels both familiar and like a significant departure.
Extraction utilises 3-player co-op teams, swaps Siege’s PvP focus for PvE gameplay, seeing you fight parasite-like aliens called Archæans that threaten humanity. Rainbow Six Extraction arrives on January 20 for PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Amazon Luna, and Google Stadia, but we went hands-on with it for a four hour preview session, carried out via cloud streaming, and got a good idea of what to expect.
Out of This World
We were joined by two other outlets and got to work following a quick solo tutorial. Primarily, our time was spent between two expansive playable locations, New York City and San Francisco, each divided into their own sub areas. Two additional settings - Alaska and Truth or Consequences - were not available during the demo.
Rainbow Six Extraction included twelve operators - Doc, Ela, Sledge, Pulse, Alibi, Finka, Hibana, Lion. Vigil, IQ, Jager and Rook. More were unlockable after reaching levels 10 and 17, but we didn’t get there during this session. Like in previous games, each operator has special skills that allow for different playstyles. For example, Doc’s Stim Pistol heals 20 HP per shot and also allows self-revival when downed. Rook drops equippable armour plates, while Hibana fires explosives that detonate remotely and stick to surfaces.
Missions are split into three map objectives. Prominently during this session, we had Biopsy, which involves attacking Archæans with your knife to collect DNA samples. Hunt saw us eliminating alpha rated “Regular Archæans” before the Elite variant arrives. Sabotage had us planting explosives on two structures called Arch Spines and defending our position for a set time, while Specimen is about luring Archæans into a trap while they're still alive.
Not Your Ordinary Squad
There are plenty of additional objectives too, and it's (almost) never guaranteed which ones may pop up. Failing the first or second one doesn’t end the mission either. Instead, you can carry on through an airlock to attempt the next one. Alternatively, if the team’s already struggling, you can cut your losses and escape early. One thing was immediately clear though: if you can’t work together, things in Extraction quickly go south.
Enemies were suitably challenging, capable of removing significant HP in a single hit even on lower difficulties, and Archæans come in multiple varieties. They range between your standard base grunts, elite units with specific weak points, bloaters which do AoE damage, and more, so it never felt repetitive fighting them across rotating objectives.
You’ve got to be tactical and while FPS games aren’t my standard go-to, I had a considerable amount of fun during this preview. We had a few slip ups in the early stages, sure, but tell me who hasn't when starting a new game. More importantly, we learned from these mistakes, and completing objectives was pretty satisfying. The environments were fittingly creepy too, backed by solid audio design that kept us alert.
Once you’ve escaped a mission, progression comes through a generous XP share system. There is an element of risk, though. Losing operators during a mission removes 30% of that XP, and if a teammate's downed during a mission, they're only revivable once. Should they fall again, they’re gone, requiring you carry them to an Extraction pod. Failure to do that means they’ll be unavailable for the next mission, mandating you to rescue them as an objective.
Levelling up also provided us with plenty of unlockable tech, which you can swap between in your operator loadouts. Between glue grenades, better armour, revive kits and larger ammo pouches, I appreciated the customisation choices on offer here, though with only two slots available, you’ll need to make a carefully considered choice.
Admittedly, I wasn’t the biggest Siege fan when I tried it, but across these four hours, I thought Extraction looked promising. While some objectives proved particularly challenging, I found a genuinely enjoyable PvE experience within, elevated by great teammates, varied gameplay and strong level design. We’re not far off the full launch now, and I’ll be interested to see how it turns out.
Previewed on PC through cloud streaming.