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Rainbow Six: Extraction review: A clash of concepts

Rainbow Six: Extraction has the foundation for a decent game, but suffers from balancing issues

Rainbow Six Extraction screen grab
(Image: © Ubisoft)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Rainbow Six: Extraction tries – and fails – to bring the Rainbow Six: Siege paradigm to PVE multiplayer.

Pros

  • +

    Environmental design is good

  • +

    Interesting concept for a PVE multiplayer game

  • +

    Controls and gunplay are tight

Cons

  • -

    Weird, unbalanced difficulty curve

  • -

    Alien AI fluctuates between blind and omnipotent

  • -

    Operator health and MIA systems are too punishing

  • -

    Massive potential for griefing

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Extraction puts a player-versus-environment (PVE) spin on Rainbow Six: Siege's gameplay. This game isn't a horde shooter, so you won't be mowing down hundreds of aliens, no matter how cool that may sound. No, this game is much more reliant on stealth and teamwork than your typical PVE co-op shooter.

Unfortunately, the jumble of ideas that combine in Extraction have a tendency to clash horribly. My time with the game was frustrating and tedious in equal parts. Read on for our full Rainbow Six: Extraction review.

Rainbow Six: Extraction review: Story

In Rainbow Six: Extraction, aliens called Archaeans have attacked our planet, and operators from the world's various special forces units have combined to form the Rainbow Exogenous Analysis and Containment Team (REACT). REACT deploys to locations around the world to fight against the Archaeans and complete objectives that will damage the alien's cause.

Rainbow Six Extraction screen grab

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Other than the above, there's not a lot of story. Extraction is a multiplayer game with no solo campaign (though you can deploy solo into a multiplayer match, if you so choose). We can likely expect the game to get the Overwatch treatment (lots of lore in supplementary media) if Ubisoft decides to expand the story past its initial premise.

Since this game is a PVE experience, I would have liked to have seen at least some exposition in the campaign mode. Ubisoft delayed Extraction three times, so it's not as though the devs didn't have time time to add more story elements.

Rainbow Six: Extraction review: Gameplay

Given its conceptual similarity with games such as Left 4 Dead, Back 4 Blood and Killing Floor, you might think that "action" is the word of the day in Rainbow Six: Extraction. However, that's not the case. Rainbow Six: Siege is pretty slow-paced, for a shooter, and Extraction is even more methodical than that.

Rainbow Six Extraction screen grab

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

To eliminate the Archaean threat, players must team up to complete incursions. Each of these incursions is set on one map, which is further split into three sub-maps. Each sub-map contains a mission objective. These can be simple, such as taking down an elite enemy, or slightly more complex, such as rescuing an MIA operator.

Rainbow Six Extraction screen grab

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Unfortunately, the difficulty in Extraction is markedly uneven. The alien AI is godawful, at least until it's not. As long as you remain stealthy (which mostly consists of crouching), it's as if you're wearing a cloaking device. You can close within ten meters of an Archaean grunt, and they'll give no reaction. However, if you use a firearm without a suppressor near them, or cross the invisible line that triggers their razor-sharp awareness, they'll start screaming. Then, suddenly, every enemy in the level will know exactly where you are.

Rainbow Six Extraction screen grab

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Unfortunately, this leads to boring gameplay. Most enemies die from a single headshot, so you and your teammates will creep around the level, slowly taking out foes and popping nests until you complete your objective and head through the airlock to the next sub-map.

Rainbow Six Extraction screen grab

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Most of the excitement in Extraction comes from mission objectives that spawn waves of enemies. However, each operator has so little health that this quickly becomes frustrating. A few hits from even the most basic enemy will have you on your knees. You can recover from a downed status only once or twice (depending on the gear and operator you're using) before you're out for the count.

Rainbow Six Extraction screen grab

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Once you go down, a teammate can extract your operator so that they can return to your roster and begin the process of healing. Alternatively, if your team leaves an operator behind, you'll need to rescue them if you want to use them again.

Rainbow Six: Extraction review: Operator system

The twist in Rainbow Six: Extraction is that it has a risk vs. reward element. Players can extract at any time, and they'll gain XP based on enemies defeated and objectives completed up to that point. Each successive sub-map features more enemies, as well as a higher chance to spawn more powerful foes. In turn, players gain more XP for completing later objectives.

Rainbow Six Extraction screen grab

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

The biggest risk in the game is having an operator knocked out or becoming MIA. There are 18 operators available in the game, with 12 available right from the beginning. If one of your soldiers is eliminated in an incursion, they'll be unavailable to play for several missions while they heal up. To rescue MIA operators, on the other hand, you must redeploy to the map you lost them in, then complete the required mission objective and extract them.

Rainbow Six Extraction screen grab

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Each operator can level up, and has their own weapon selection, gear and abilities. I get where Ubisoft was going with the game's health and MIA systems. It does make you think about which operator you're willing to risk losing if something goes south on a mission. However, given the inconsistent difficulty, it feels a bit too punishing. Additionally, it's way too reminiscent of energy systems in free-to-play mobile titles, which give me some bad vibes. At present, there's no way to pay to speed up your operators' healing or return them from MIA status. But such a thing wouldn't be hard to implement.

Rainbow Six: Extraction review: Multiplayer and comms

One of the biggest problems with Extraction is that it overemphasizes communication. Matchmaking with someone who doesn't have a mic will put you at a major disadvantage, and may render a run worthless, or worse. Many of the objectives require one player to perform an action while the other two protect them, or trigger multiple waves of enemies that attack from more than one direction. As such, an uncoordinated team will quickly find itself whittled down to nothing. 

Rainbow Six Extraction screen grab

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

If any member of your team rushes ahead, it can trigger an alert phase that will likely end in everyone's death. There are red, pulsating nests that start spawning foes when nearby enemies are in alert mode. You can quickly find yourself taking on a neverending torrent of aliens if you're not careful.

Rainbow Six Extraction screen grab

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Usually, when you get an uncooperative teammate in a game, you can quit with little or no penalty. However, in Extraction, your operator becomes MIA if you leave a match prematurely. In effect, trolls have effectively unlimited leeway to grief other players here. They can run into a level, alert every enemy, and let you get killed, while they run to trigger a premature extraction.

The emphasis on teamwork and the lack of bots make this game almost impossible to play solo. You might be able to complete some objectives, but others, like rescuing MIA operators, are tough or impossible by yourself. That means that once the player population declines, the game will be effectively unplayable, especially on greater difficulties.

Rainbow Six: Extraction review: Visuals and sound

The visuals in Rainbow Six: Extraction are just fine. Most of the game is spent in dark, alien-infested buildings, and that's precisely what they look like. The lighting and environmental design combine to heighten the tension of searching out your alien foes. However, the various maps start to blend together after a short time. One dim or dark corridor is the same as any other after a while, and there's just not that much variety in the setting.

Rainbow Six Extraction screen grab

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Fortunately, I didn't encounter a single bug of note during my time with the game. It ran terrifically on my Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, and it features Nvidia DLSS, which gave a welcome boost to framerates.

The sound design is excellent in Extraction, and you'll often hear the aliens before you see them. In a game like this, sound effects that give the player information they need while also augmenting the atmosphere help to enhance the overall experience.

Rainbow Six: Extraction review: Verdict

Rainbow Six: Extraction will likely appeal to players who aren't interested in Rainbow Six: Siege's PVP gameplay. However, Siege's methodical style doesn't translate very well to a PVE design. When you're playing against other humans, the slower gameplay heightens the tension before reaching a crescendo when the two teams clash. Here, it's more frustrating than anything. More often than not, you'll fail because of infinitely spawning enemies, bad teammates or the lack of healing.

If Extraction gets rebalanced to be a little less punishing, the game would be better for it. The concept isn't terrible, and most of the aspects of the game work well on their own. Unfortunately, the disparate parts just don't come together cohesively enough to make an enticing whole.

Brittany Vincent has been covering video games and tech for over 13 years for publications including Tom's Guide, MTV, Rolling Stone, CNN, Popular Science, Playboy, IGN, GamesRadar, Polygon, Kotaku, Maxim, and more. She's also appeared as a panelist at video game conventions like PAX East and PAX West and has coordinated social media for companies like CNET. When she's not writing or gaming, she's looking for the next great visual novel in the vein of Saya no Uta. You can follow her on Twitter @MolotovCupcake.