Burnt Horizon is just the start of an excellent year for Ubisoft’s hyper-competitive shooter.
Rainbow Six Siege had something of a rocky start, but Ubisoft’s dedication to its multiplayer-only competitive shooter has seen it go from strength to strength. With the launch of Burnt Horizon, Siege embarks on its fourth year of constant improvements — beginning with the addition of Australia (finally).
Here’s a look at the year ahead.
A Sunburnt Country
The year kicks off with two new operators and a new map. The map, Outback — or Servo, as the locals call it — is a tightly built two storey arena with an emphasis on destructibility. Hanley’s Roadhouse — named for Timothy Hanley, the sole Australian Operator in the original Rainbow Six — demonstrates remarkable growth from the Siege dev team from its outset.
Outback is a tightly built two storey arena with an emphasis on destructibility.
For example, learning Outback is easier than ever thanks to distinctive colouring on the walls. Where other maps have rooms that meld together, Outback is defined by its colours. If the walls are green you’re in the restaurant — be mindful of the camera above the giant shark. If they’re blue, the garage is a quick and easy breach area for attackers.
It’s a bit prone to run-outs — where defenders exit the building to get surprise frags on attackers — and vulnerable to a few cheeky peeks, but it’s not a huge concern. It’s not a map like Kanal, with 400 breakable windows that you need to scan at the start of each round, so once you learn where to look, you can stay safe.
Whether it’s competitively viable remains to be seen, but with around the same square-metre-age as Border — another two-storey affair — it feels possible that we’ll see it in action in the Pro League.
M-m-m-mozzie and The Pests
Whether the new operators are competitively viable is another question. Mozzie, the defender, feels like he should be popular all around. His unique gadget sees him shooting ‘Pests’, electronic devices used to hack attacker drones. Any drones hacked — including Twitch drones — are his to do with as he pleases.
Rainbow Six Siege is an information game first and foremost. When you can die quickly to shots through walls, knowing more than your opponent is a huge deal. So hacking drones is a two-fold boon for the defenders. Not only are attackers denied a valuable information resource, but Mozzie’s team gets extra eyes too. You can place those drones wherever you like once captured, and Attackers can’t tell if they’re good or bad until they see them in action, so if you can successfully catch three drones, you’ll have three new mobile cameras.
He’s middle of the road in terms of armour and speed, which means he’s an anchor. If he was a bit faster on his feet, you could envision him leaving the site to go roaming — especially if the Attackers manage to dodge his Pests — but as a camera operator, he’s better off staying near the objectives.
This Might Sting a Little
Gridlock is the complete opposite. Her Trax Stingers make her a fantastic anti-roamer — she can carpet a hallway in spike strips that deal a considerable amount of damage per tick — but her utility as a counter-retake operator is where she’s at her best.
The Trax Stingers take some time to deploy as they spread out from their source, but once in place, they make it extremely difficult to re-enter the bombsite. They slow defenders, deal damage and make noise. If you storm the site, throw stingers at the entryways and then plant, defenders will have a very tough time getting back in to stop the defuse.
As a one-speed three-armour operator she can wear a decent amount of damage too, but you’ll need to coordinate with your teammates to get the most out of her. The quick site rush won’t really work with her, although she can throw her Stingers a bit late after a rush strategy to further slow the defenders down on the retake.
With a great map and fantastic operators who don’t feel overpowered out of the gate, Burnt Horizon is a brilliant start for Year 4.
An Easier Entry Point
It’s not as glamorous as brilliant new operators or a shiny (dusty?) new map, but one of the bigger tasks Ubisoft Montreal is successfully tackling with Year 4 is the newcomer experience in Rainbow Six Siege.
The first step in the right direction was getting rid of the “Starter Edition” and lowering the price of the regular game. Siege is in a tricky spot because hackers can do devastating things in a game with high lethality, so going free-to-play isn’t necessarily the right move for it. But lowering the base price and removing the confusing “Starter Edition” system — upgrading all Starter Edition owners to Regular versions as they go — is a great move.
Another big step in the right direction is the addition of a Newcomer Playlist. Instead of throwing you to the Lions (and Finkas) in regular casual matches, if your player level is below 50 you’ll be able to queue into the Newcomer playlist. You’ll only play Bomb mode, and you’ll only head to three classic Siege maps — Bank, Chalet and Consulate — but as you work your way towards level 50, you’ll get a better understanding how Rainbow Six is supposed to function.
And if you’ve got friends who are diehards, you’ll still be able to queue with them in the Casual game mode, and once you hit player level 30, you can join them in Ranked.
Casual is getting a boost as well, as players will now be able to select their spawn area as Attackers and they’ll know where their (still pre-selected) bombsite is as Defenders.
You might not have the mechanical skill to compete on the same level as G2 Esports, but watching them can teach you a lot about positioning, timing and oodles of other tiny things.
This is a massive change for Siege’s competitive viability across the board because it means players will begin to think about the bombsite they’re at and what Defenders they should pick for it. Bringing both Kaid and Bandit along to the Trophy/Statue Room on Villa isn’t the worst plan ever — everyone loves a Bandit roam — but with limited spots to electrify, it’s not super efficient. So if you know you’re going to Trophy, maybe you’ll pick another roamer instead of Bandit.
And for esports this is huge. A massive part of what people want out of esports is education. You might not have the mechanical skill to compete on the same level as G2 Esports, but watching them can teach you a lot about positioning, timing and oodles of other tiny things.
The problem is that if what you’re seeing the pros play doesn’t marry with your own experience, it’s harder to learn from it. With this change, players can make informed opinions about what they see in competitions and hopefully translate those learnings into their own game.
This is going even further once the Ranked mode leaves beta starting in Season 2. Picks and Bans — a critical part of competitive Siege — are coming to Ranked alongside its official launch, which will force players to make tactical decisions about which operators they allow their opponents to use, and which ones they block. If it’s anything like the last Pro League Season, you can expect Ying to be a thing of the past.
The Ranked Hub will allow you to measure your performance against others and yourself better. You’ll be able to see your own performance Season-to-Season, see which maps are being rotated in and out of play for the upcoming season, and directly see where you sit compared to other players in Siege’s rankings.
You’ll also be able to tell really quickly what sort of seasonal rewards you’ve got coming, as they will be displayed up front for you. When you want to get super sweaty, Ranked is absolutely going to deliver once it leaves beta.
Season 2 marks the start of Year 4’s dedicated efforts to refine the Siege experience. As well as the official launch of Ranked, it kicks off a series of map reworks that should see some of the less popular maps feel more fun to play. These are not quite on the scale of Hereford Base 2.0, but still looking like a bit more than the Clubhouse remix.
Season 2… kicks off a series of map reworks that should see some of the less popular maps feel more fun to play.
Kafe Dostoyevsky is the first cab off the rank, and the Christmas themed level is getting quite the renovation. The top floor will have more floor space to give both sides additional room to move, the staircases are getting reworked to reduce stair-related accidents, and bombsites are being pushed around to empower defenders a little more. Kafe is staying in the Ranked playlist while these changes happen, which indicates that it’s one of the lighter reworks.
A bigger job will be making Kanal viable. Another original Siege map, Kanal quickly became a scourge to anyone who didn’t enjoy scanning 7000 broken windows for a potential peeker (and a favourite of cheesy goofs the world over). Ubisoft Montreal is adding tunnels and new connectors to give roamers more options for returning to the site, they’re increasing the destructibility and removing some of the windows. This is the significant rework for Year 4, and it’s taken the team a heap of effort to get Kanal into a good place — hopefully it works out and the map can return to Ranked (it’s currently Casual only).
The third map getting reworked is Theme Park, and while details are light, it seems like it’s going to be a bit of a smaller effort. Theme Park isn’t a favourite amongst players, but it has its charms, and it’s still in the Ranked rotation for now. The significant adjustments for Theme Park will be in the Train Room, which should be a good thing — it currently feels like a series of neverending hidey-holes for hobo defenders trying to catch a few zees.
While there won’t be any more new maps in Year 4 now that Outback is in the wild, there will be new operators. The U.S. Secret Service will be joined by an operator from Denmark in Season 2, Mexico and Peru will enter the fray in Season 3, and Kenya and India will see some action in the final season of the year.
It will be interesting to see what each new operator brings gadget-wise, as always, but even better will be seeing the personality these characters inject into the game. It seems like Year 4 is bringing a new focus on storytelling for Siege. The Hammer and Scalpel trailer fleshed out Thatcher (not Sledge) and Dokkaebi, and it introduced us to the new Six (the commander of Team Rainbow, or “Rainbow Six”). Mozzie and Gridlock have oodles of personality too, shown in their teaser trailers and in-game voice acting.
Ideally, the new operators will follow suit, helping new players connect with the operators more as they play.
All up, Year 4 for Rainbow Six Siege is shaping up to be one of the best. The team is putting its eggs in all the right baskets, balancing refining current content with a big helping of new stuff to keep things fresh. And while Burnt Horizon has launched with some bugs, Ubisoft Montreal has shown year after year that the team is dedicated to creating the best competitive shooter it can.
Joab Gilroy is an Australian-based freelancer that specialises in competitive online games and chicken dinner acquisition. You can tweet at him here.