Rainbow Six was my first introduction to the world of Tom Clancy. Subsequently, it’s also the Tom Clancy franchise I’ve more closely aligned to since the original game hit the Nintendo 64 back in 1998. That being said, the Rainbow Six games always had you tackling a terrorist threat backed by a story of political intrigue. Never would I have expected to be fighting aliens in a Rainbow Six game, let alone a Tom Clancy one. But, differences aside, Rainbow Six Extraction is a surprisingly well-put-together experience that I enjoyed much more than I ever had imagined.
Keen players of Rainbow Six Siege would be familiar with the Outbreak event, which Extraction follows on from. Several years after the events of Siege, a meteorite falls in New Mexico, bringing with it a slew of deaths caused by a deadly pathogen, eventually discovered to be a parasite. Extraction has members of Team Rainbow entering areas ravaged by the parasitic outbreak, now called the Archaen, to collect intel on this new threat and save the locals. The plot is a nice bit of set dressing for the world of Rainbow Six though it ultimately plays little role in the game overall.
Rainbow Six Extraction takes the core concept of Rainbow Six Siege, flipping it from a competitive experience to a cooperative one. A purely PvE experience, you’ll tackle a set of objectives (called “incursions”) in groups of up to three people. Each of the areas you’ll be infiltrating is infested by the Archaens, and objectives are more than just killing them. Sometimes you’ll have to lure them back to a specific area. Other times you’ll have to cross an interdimensional portal to defeat a powerful boss. It’s kookier than you’d expect for either Rainbow Six or Tom Clancy, but it is something different.
There are around twelve or so objective types. They’re on such regular rotation that things rarely get as tedious as you’d expect them to.
After selecting an area to infiltrate, the game creates an incursion for you. Each incursion is divided into three phases of increasing intensity, with a specific objective being assigned to each stage. The further into an incursion, the better the rewards, but the more difficult the approach. After each phase, you can choose to progress to the next one or “cut your losses” and extract. Extracting yields the most points, but going deeper is almost always tempting to promise more points. It’s risk-reward in its purest form, and it’s addictive enough that I rarely extracted when I should have.
When I talk about risk, it’s more than just losing your progress or points. Each of your operators you take into an incursion is at risk of being injured or missing in action. If you get downed and aren’t rescued by your teammates, your character will be lost in that area until you revisit it. The next time you play it, one of the three objectives in the incursion will be a rescue mission of sorts that’ll add them back to your roster.
The kicker is that each of your characters’ won’t count towards your rank until they’re rescued. So, losing your best operator means will impact your team’s level more than if you lose one you’ve barely played with. Sometimes, it might even be more strategic to leave your partner behind during a mission as the risk of leaving the objective for rescue might be greater than the reward. It’s these on-the-fly changes in objectives and priorities where Rainbow Six Extraction really shines.
Thankfully, failure to rescue someone doesn’t mean they’re gone forever. While it could be a fun temporary twist, Permadeath isn’t a feature of Rainbow Six Extraction. Failure to rescue someone from their parasitic prison means they’ll still return to you, but with less experience points. It feels like a reasonably balanced way to punish sloppy plays without being needlessly cruel to the player. It’s so reasonable, in fact, that I’d want to jump straight back into a map to rescue an operator as soon as I lost them and try it all again.
Repetition and procedurally generated elements of games often leave me feeling short-changed or bored as things begin to repeat endlessly. Extraction does a great job at remedying this, drawing from a wide pool of variables – be it the Archaen you’ll encounter or the objectives themselves – to offer a unique incursion every time. It’s the type of repetition that fosters addiction, and it’s the reason I always kept Extraction feeling fresh, whether I was succeeding or failing.
The Archaen themselves add a lot of spice to the proceedings. Amongst all the types, they’ll alert the others and nearby nests to produce more if you’re seen. These moments, though seemingly impossible, are survivable but will often leave you crippled in some way or another. The enemy variety here is excellent – some will melee you, others take shots at you. Some might even explode when damaged, though they can damage fortifications you might set up too. Like mentioned previously, some even mimic other operators (like Sledge) in boss battle-like encounters.
When you bring together all the things that Rainbow Six Extraction does, it feels different from other PvE experiences on the market. So many of them are wave-based, action-packed thrillers that rarely require a true sense of strategy. Extraction feels more strategic in its approach. You can attempt to speed run the levels, but you’ll often be met with failure or severe crippling to the point where you’ll rarely make it to the end of an incursion scot-free. Stealth is the name of the game here, as pulling off takedowns and headshots literally clears a path through the player-slowing sludge the parasite creates, allowing you to move without hindrance through the maps.
In terms of progression, I previously eluded how the game handles your rank. The stronger your roster, the stronger your rank. Successful extractions with bigger groups also multiply the points you bring back with you. Being an entirely PvE experience, Extraction’s progression and rewards aren’t merely cosmetic. You’ll unlock new gadgets, new weapons, and other improvements that give the game an almost rogue-like sense of progression. There are still cosmetic customisations, some of which can be bought with real money, but nothing feels egregiously grindy. I’d often find myself trying “just one more” incursion to see what I’d get next. However, the lack of grind does make me wonder what will happen when players get to the end of the very achievable progression tree.
Enter the Maelstrom Protocol. Rainbow Six Extraction’s endgame mode remixes more or less everything, offering weekly assignments with specific operators that are more challenging than previous engagements. At the time of writing, it was difficult to grasp what Maelstrom Protocol looks like beyond its first week. Still, it has the potential to lengthen the replayability and replay value of Extraction well beyond what was initially expected.
While Rainbow Six Extraction does so much right, there are a few niggles I experienced during my time with the game. Less seriously, we often encountered a glitch where holding a button to revive a teammate wouldn’t work correctly. Whether this resulted from a congested connection or a simple glitch has yet to be seen. More subjectively, Extraction doesn’t really put its best foot forward when playing solo either. Perhaps this is a moot point given that this game is ostensibly designed for multiplayer, but it is worth mentioning for anyone who wants to tackle it all by themselves.
From a presentation standpoint, Extraction doesn’t break much new ground, if any. From a technical perspective, Extraction is a very dark affair. However, it uses this darkness to offer some moody lighting which is disappointingly not quite as good as it could be due to a distinct lack of HDR. That being said, the artistic direction and musical score are both fantastic. The parasite and its surroundings feel genuinely alien, and wading through these dark and infested worlds for the first time is a true treat.
All in all, we could argue about just how Tom Clancy or Rainbow Six the experience Extraction offers is, but at the end of the day it’s a remarkably strong if not modest PvE experience.
THE PLAYSTATION 5 VERSION WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL COPY OF THE GAME WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction thinks outside of the box to provide a well-realised PvE experience that builds upon Siege’s already solid core tenets. While its longevity has yet to be proven or seen, Extraction’s addictive blend of cooperative, rogue-like, and stealth mechanics offers an engaging Rainbow Six experience, even if it’s a bit out there.