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Who would have thought that a Rainbow Six game would be one of the highlights of this week's E3?
Ubisoft started a trend two years ago when it ended its E3 press briefing with the world's very first look at Watch Dogs. It was a proof of concept more than it was actual gameplay, but that early look at what next gen technology could do captured gamers' imaginations.
Watch Dogs rode that initial wave of hype all the way to its (delayed) release date almost two years later, and while the game may have its detractors, its success has been phenomenal, setting up gaming's newest top IP.
Last year it unveiled a second new IP, Tom Clancy's The Division, hoping and succeeding to replicate that initial Watch Dogs success. This year however Ubisoft turned to a classic franchise that hasn't been seen on consoles since 2008.
The best thing about Ubisoft's 2014 surprise was that while yes it is a shooter, and yes it has Tom Clancy's name on it, it was different to those of the last two years. Their demo showed a small, blisteringly fast 5-v-5 multiplayer match set between a team of hostage takers and a team intent on freeing that hostage.
It took place in a fully-destructible suburban house, with players able to shoot through walls and blow huge holes in them, and in floors in order to access rooms. That may sound like a shallow whirlwind of destruction but it's juxtaposed by a focus on pre-game planning, with player's able to stake out the environment, and look for methods of entry and attack.
Plans often go wrong however, so, if the game is anything to go by, multiplayer sessions will often descend into chaos with a focus on quick-thinking and on-the-fly decision-making. All the while you're constantly aware that attack could come any time, from any angle, with bullets that kill near-instantly – itself a rarity in gaming.
It being playable, and it looking near-finished (at least in this portion of gameplay) also differentiates Siege from Watch Dogs and The Division. Each of those games has and will have to navigate the perils of a lengthy build-up and the ever-increasing expectations that come with that.
More tactical, thoughtful multiplayer is a recent trend that I hope continues and is picked up by the masses, and this is at the core of Siege. Maybe Ubisoft's game is geared more to the dedicated gamer than the Call of Duty masses, a Counter Strike-style game made a little more accessible by Ubisoft's knack for polish and grand ideas.
There's a lot more to come from Rainbow Six: Siege before its planned 2015 release date (though I can see a delay until early 2016) but hopes are high already.
What those who played it say:
"We only saw a brief slice of what the game will ultimately turn out to be, but so far our expectations are high since the hands-on time we had was impressive. I do want to be clear that the demo shown during the Ubisoft conference did have an extra sheen of polish on it, many parts appeared to be scripted and the pre-alpha PC build we played wasn't quite up to the level shown at the press conference, but it was close, and I left our hands-on session only wanting to play more. I was really impressed at this stage of development." – Tal Blevins - IGN
"This E3 demo sold me on Siege's potential as a competitive multiplayer FPS, something the PC desperately needs more of. Like CS:GO's competitive mode, I'm ecstatic to see another multiplayer shooter emphasize timing by giving players a meaningfully-short round clock. Siege is absolutely a different style of FPS; if CS:GO is 30% strategy and 70% execution (positioning counts but most rounds come down to marksmanship and reaction), Siege feels more like it's 70% strategy and 30% execution, but that proportion feels in the spirit of the Rainbow series." - Evan Lahti, PC Gamer