I've played a handful of shooters at E3 2015, and I expect to play plenty more. While it's easy to confuse the myriad of blockbuster blast-em-ups on the expo floor for one another, Ubisoft's Rainbow Six Siege stands out by offering something that's become scarce in the genre: tense, tactical gameplay. This new installment takes the long-running shooter series back to its strategic roots, and, after playing it, I'm more eager than ever for its Oct. 13 release date.
The meat of Rainbow Six Siege lies in 5-on-5 competitive action, in which teams take turns attacking and defending a base. Before the action begins, players get to pick one of several unique Operators to play as, each offering their own unique weapon and gear loadout. Composing the right mix of team members is key -- for example, one Operator carries a massive hammer for getting through enemy fortifications, while others can use heartbeat sensors drones to get a drop on the enemy.
After picking my character, I started my match as part of the attacking team. Each round of Siege begins with a pre-match prep period, in which the attackers survey the area with drones, and the defenders fortify their base by setting up traps and barricades.
An Ubisoft rep served as our team leader, guiding us to an enemy fortification before crushing it with his breaching hammer. This opened a hole up for a tense firefight; we saw enemy gunfire coming through, but it was hard to pinpoint exactly where the defenders were. Once you die in Rainbow Six Siege, you die for the remainder of the round, so even the sight of a single stray bullet is unnerving.
While playing Siege on any side is tense, nothing got my heart pumping like playing as a defender. Adding barricades and traps to your base adds a fun tower-defense element to the game, but knowing that an elite team of soldiers are on their way to try and break through your walls and kill you adds a sense of dread I rarely experience in competitive games.
I learned firsthand that you cannot play sloppy in Rainbow Six Siege, especially on defense. After aimlessly climbing up a ladder into an area I thought I secured, an opponent made quick work of me.
I got to play one more round of Siege on offense, and that was when the game's mechanics really shone. Aside from the super-tight gunplay, the ability to use drones and high-tech grenades adds a whole extra layer of strategy during stand-offs. Much of Siege's environments are destructible, and once I saw a barricaded window I wanted to go through, I simply shot it down with my rifle, rappelled up the building and made my way in.
After making that epic push towards the enemy, I found myself in a one-on-one showdown with the other team's last surviving member (the game lets you know the current team count every time someone dies). Unfortunately, I'm not the best at performing under pressure, and my opponent ultimately got the best of me from behind a desk after a nerve-racking shootout.
Rainbow Six Siege conjures the type of team-based tension that I haven't enjoyed so much since I played Rainbow Six 3 obsessively on the original Xbox. Great competitive multiplayer isn't the only thing returning to Siege -- as revealed at Ubisoft's E3 press conference, beloved co-operative mode Terrorist Hunt is back, allowing up to five players to take on waves of challenging AI opponents.
All Terrorist Hunt sessions are randomly generated, so you'll never take on the same exact set of baddies twice. Rounding out the Siege hype at E3 was a story trailer that revealed Six, your stern team leader played by actress Angela Basset. Basset will follow Kevin Spacey (Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare) as the next big-name actor to get fully digitized for a blockbuster shooter.
While I can't wait for the explosive action of Halo 5 and Star Wars: Battlefront, few shooters have my attention like Rainbow Six Siege does right now. The game is due out Oct. 13 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One, and pre-ordering grants you access to a closed beta that starts Sept. 24. Xbox One players get an extra treat in the form of free copies of Xbox 360 classics Rainbow Six: Vegas and Vegas 2, thanks to the system's new backwards compatibility feature.