Rainbow Six Siege review: three years and 1,000-plus hours later

When I boot up Rainbow Six Siege today, I’m playing a completely different game than the one Ubisoft released in 2015. After three years and change, there isn’t a part of the tactical multiplayer shooter that hasn’t been chopped and screwed. The operators, weapons, menus, servers, destruction — nothing has been deemed untouchable in the eyes of both its developers and its fans. In 2019, Siege is one of the finest multiplayer experiences around. But even folks who don’t play the game can appreciate how it carved a new path for the sustainability of AAA games, and for the possibilities of cooperation between developers and fan communities.

There’s a lot that keeps me coming back to Siege after over 1,000 hours, thanks to a near-constant drip of new tweaks and additions. Every few months, Ubisoft drops two operators that shake up the game’s malleable meta. Alongside them, we get additional tools and environmental challenges: one-way mirrors, laser drones, holograms, spike traps. Content is delivered on a strictly scheduled roadmap that gives me a sense that my investment in the game is matched by its creators.

[Read our original review of Rainbow Six Siege from its 2015 release.]

Unlike Blizzard’s vague hints about new Overwatch heroes that eventually become announcements, a new Siege season feels more like the scheduled return of your favorite TV show. After the success of Siege, Ubisoft applied the same seasonal model to For Honor and Ghost Recon Wildlands. Even Apex Legendsupcoming roadmap looks familiar.

The side effect of Siege’s frequent injection of new mechanics is near-constant bugs. Ubisoft has made big strides in the past year to increase its bug-squashing efficiency, but issues persist. A bug with breaching charges last year turned Blitz into a hip-fire demon. Another exploit with Jäger allowed players to attach a deployable shield to his weapon, creating an unstoppable monstrosity. As every big patch fixes old bugs, new operators or maps spawn new issues that stick around for weeks or months. Rarely is any one bug or exploit game-breaking, but it’s frustrating that Siege never feels as smooth and polished as traditional shooters.

Rainbow Six Siege - Mozzie and his motorcycle Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft

I’ll always have a sizeable list of ways Siege should be better. Ranked play has major flaws that keep it from feeling competitive; bugs take too long to fix; and Blackbeard’s dumb rifle shield is overpowered (don’t @ me). Still, I love the mess. I’ve made peace with the fact that if a developer regularly makes big changes to a game, it will regularly be a little busted because of them.

Siege first hit the scene before “games as a service” was a buzz phrase. The game sat quietly in the background while monster hits like Overwatch, PUBG, Fortnite, and now Apex Legends rose to worldwide popularity. Despite the stiff competition, Siege’s player base has only grown over time, recently hitting 45 million players. It continues to succeed because the other popular shooters of today aren’t really its competition.

There is no Pepsi to Siege’s Coke. No other game has attempted Ubisoft’s unique blend of tactical gunplay, asymmetrical roles, operator abilities, and freefrom level destruction that makes every match feel different. Across the 26 operators introduced since launch, Ubisoft has successfully crafted gadgets that add twists to the meta without any one character feeling too samey. Some modify the environment (like Maverick’s wall-melting blowtorch) while others focus on intelligence and countering other tech.

Rainbow Six Siege - action on Skyscraper map Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft

A personal favorite of mine is Jackal, an intelligence expert who can activate his Eyenox visor to see enemy footprints and track down their locations. Playing Jackal is like playing two games: the one where I clear rooms and shoot things, and the one where I sift through a jigsaw puzzle of footprints on the ground to discover if someone is hiding around the corner. The newest defender, Australian adrenaline junkie Mozzie, flips the basic concept of droning on its head. He can deploy tiny robotic “pests” that hack enemy drones and turn control over to him. Gone are the days I could carelessly drone the map and shrug if my drone got shot. When there’s a Mozzie in play, I have to be careful not to lose my drone and give the enemy another camera in the process.

It’s been a joy to watch Siege grow more inclusive over the years. The game launched with only three women in its roster of 20. Every single post-launch season has added at least one woman for every man. Of the 26 operators added since 2015, 14 are women, many of whom are women of color. Characters represent different cultures, body types, and personalities. As more operators have been added, the number of countries represented has grown from five to 16. Country of origin has no bearing on what an operator does or how they play, but the character variety is one of my favorite things about Siege. Ubisoft seems to genuinely care about representing different cultures (possibly to better market the game in other territories, but I sense a less cynical mission for diversity as well).

In some ways, Siege feels like an active rejection of both the sticky machismo and self-serious military espionage found in Tom Clancy’s original novel and the early Rainbow Six games. Its tone is more idealistic, focused on teamwork and cohesion instead of a global conflict and politics. An absence of traditional storytelling in-game becomes an advantage, allowing the gameplay itself to set the tone. Siege is part gripping reflex test and part cooperative chess match. I don’t care why all of these operators are gathered together fighting against each other. It doesn’t make sense, and it also doesn’t matter. My investment in the lore happens outside of the match, reading about an operator’s life or watching a world-expanding cinematic short in which Thatcher clocks a hooligan with a billiard ball.

Rainbow Six Siege - Gridlock and Mozzie Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft

More so than most of its contemporaries, Siege knows itself. Its creators understand when to focus on tactics and realism. And they equally understand when to leave that mission at the door to make their game’s gadgets exciting and its roster inclusive. This has only become more true over time.

Siege is at its most thrilling when I squad up with a few friends. Information is half the battle, so having teammates you can trust to make accurate and useful callouts is often how the hardest fights are won. Dying early in a round sucks, but it’s equally fun assuming control of cameras and helping in the limited way I still can. Watching a friend use the intel I’m feeding them from a hallway camera to get the round-winning kill is more satisfying than the win itself.

When I’m not playing with friends, good teamwork can be a coin flip. Siege’s growth in popularity has also brought about a huge toxicity problem. Some changes, like reverse friendly fire, show promise. But despite good intentions, Ubisoft has been slow to offer reliable solutions for player communication. If someone is abusive in chat or in the game, the only thing I can do is hit the report button. For a more robust report, I have to go through Ubisoft’s support site. The text chat filter nullifies attempts to use racist or homophobic slurs, but the burden of proof for verbal toxicity or hacking falls on the victim, who is expected to record the offender.

Rainbow Six Siege - Para Bellum art Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft

As a straight white man, I have it pretty easy: I’m not attacked simply for how I sound. But I still constantly see Siege’s toxic culture in action. In a game where verbal communication is everything, muting garbage people and hoping my report helps isn’t good enough. There clearly isn’t enough of a reason for assholes to not be assholes, and it has a real effect on my motivation to play. Nowadays, I won’t play at all if I’m not with at least one friend to brave the wilds alongside me.

If a year from now, I’m still sitting here wishing Ubisoft did more to punish its worst and protect its best, I don’t know if I’ll be among them. I don’t expect game developers to entirely solve toxicity, but I do expect them to do everything they can to thwart it. Siege doesn’t right now, and that failure could have lasting effects.

Siege feels different than other service games. It’s not a relaxing distraction to play while chatting with friends; it’s closer to an intense, regular game of pickup basketball or amateur league softball. It sounds weird to unwind from the workday with a game that causes further stress, but its escapism is unmatched. We’re invested in every round, transitioning from English to a makeshift language of two-word callouts (“Sledge classroom” or “movement southwest”).

It’s still a social experience, but one about building bonds and improving teamwork. A friend who also plays Siege and I know each other so well that now we operate like a single unit, supporting each other and covering flanks without saying anything at all. I crave the golden moments of pulling off something clever with him. Ubisoft has an incredible game on its hands, but it needs to be more nimble to fight off its problems. I have hope that it’ll get there. I want to keep loving my favorite game.

Source: Polygon.com

SNL found an extremely weird way to spoof Jordan Peele’s Us

Before premiering his new film Us at the 2019 SXSW film festival, writer-director Jordan Peele leaned into the conceit of his seeing-double, home-invasion thriller. The movie was about America, yes, but it also preyed on the innate fear of the doppelgänger.

Is that a thing? Even after being completely knocked out by Us, I couldn’t quite shake the idea that being confronted by a secret twin was one of the top 10 scariest threats lurking in the shadows. Peele says his fascination with the “tethered” began with “Mirror Image,” one of Rod Serling’s original Twilight Zone episodes. I assumed this was a had-to-be-there strain of paranoia … that is, until Saturday Night Live reminded me that America’s been dealing with unsettling, splitting-image doubles for some time now, and if you’re a TV watcher, on a regular basis.

The terror stems from those Discover Card commercials in which people with credit card problems call a help desk and receive assistance from their doppelgänger. The sales pitch is harmless: Instead of a robot greeting your credit-induced rage, an actual Discover Card employee, someone just like you, will pick up the phone and help out.

The commercials provoked a faction of the internet that couldn’t tell if the doubles were actual twins, versions of the same actor wearing different costumes/makeup, or two different people entirely. Speculation ran rampant. An Us-like fear was born. Finally, someone asked, and Discover cleared the air.

To spoof Peele’s nightmarish vision, Saturday Night Live connected the dots between the commercials and the year’s biggest horror movie. One of the show’s newest cast members, Ego Nwodim, took over both Lupita Nyong’o roles, playing someone in need of Discover Card assistance, and Red, her “tethered,” working the help desk. The master plan in the SNL version? Credit card fraud.

Between Mueller report gags and a smatter of Sandra Oh-led sketches, SNL caught up with Us as it ascended to phenomenon status. After a second weekend in theaters, Peele’s sophomore feature has grossed over $128 million at the domestic box office. With a number like that, chances are slim that Peele will be calling his Discover Card helpline doppelgänger anytime soon.

Source: Polygon.com

5 Ways Your Phone Still Can’t Beat Your Laptop

Image: Gizmodo

It seems as though with every passing year the smartphones in our pockets become more powerful and capable—and more prepared than they’ve ever been to be the only computing device we need in our lives. However, before you give away or sell that old laptop without replacing it consider these scenarios where you really can’t beat the functionality of a computer.

1) Managing email 

Screenshot: Gizmodo

A lot of us now check our emails on our phones and tap out responses when needed, but is this really such a good idea? Try turning off notifications from your mobile email client for a while and see if you actually miss it.

What’s certain is you can’t manage your email on a phone the same way you can on a computer. Take Gmail on the desktop web and Gmail on mobile, for instance. Here’s just some of the stuff you can do on the web but not your phone: Drag emails between categories, email groups of contacts, quickly switch between plain text and rich text, and send money with a message.

You can’t create filters on your phone either, one of Gmail’s most powerful tools, and you can’t use multiple types and colors of stars. Add to that the inconvenience of typing on a small screen and it’s a big win for saving the emailing for when you’re at your desk.

Some email clients only exist on mobile, and these phone apps do admittedly make it easy to sift through and sort your messages while you’re stuck on the subway—archiving and deleting with a flick—but for serious emailing you need to go back to the computer.

2) Editing photos

Screenshot: Gizmodo

Phone apps are good for slapping filters on top of photos and that’s about it. If you’re doing anything more than uploading something to Instagram then you need to really consider whether a laptop or desktop is better for the job.

The reasons are manifold. First, you’ve got a much bigger screen to work with, and that means getting a better view of your pictures and the edits you’re making. Second, you’ve got the benefit of a keyboard and mouse—much more precise tools when you’re trying to cut out pixels or blend shapes or crop a particular area.

Thirdly, the software is much better on a computer than a smartphone. Phone apps excel in certain areas, but photo editing is not one of them—Adobe keeps promising it’s going to put a ‘full’ version of Photoshop on the iPad, but until it does we’re yet to be convinced.

Do your photos a favor and wait until you’re back at your computer to edit them. You’ll actually be able to see what it is you’re doing.

3) Curating playlists

Screenshot: Gizmodo

Music goes everywhere with us thanks to our phones and we’re by no means suggesting you uninstall Spotify or Apple Music from your mobile device… but there’s a whole host of extra functionality available in the desktop apps that you don’t get on your phone, especially when it comes to curating music.

For a start, you can just drag and drop songs or even entire albums into new playlists. You can create new folders for your playlists on the desktop (via File, New Playlist Folder), and you can change the order of playlists much more easily on a computer too.

The desktop apps for Windows and macOS also let you edit playlist cover art (just click the image to change it), and view a more detailed song history of what you’ve been listening to (click the queue button in the lower right-hand corner then History).

It’s also possible to import local files into the Spotify desktop app too, which can then be synced to your mobile apps—handy if you’ve found some gaps in the Spotify library that you want to plug (they are there).

4) Writing and editing anything

Screenshot: Gizmodo

Obviously, you can’t tap out your next great novel on a phone screen as easily as you can on a keyboard. But the benefits of writing on a computer rather than a mobile go way beyond the convenience of the input device.

There’s the ease with which you can highlight, copy and paste, for example—the keyboard shortcuts come in handy here—which means you’re not hampered as soon as you want to do anything other than just type.

Let’s not forget how simple a computer makes it to get up multiple windows on macOS or Windows, making referencing and cross-referencing substantially easier than it is through the multitasking available on Android and iOS.

In short, any sort of extended typing—from essays to newsletters—still can’t be easily done through a phone, even if you’ve got a keyboard attached. Perhaps that’s why Samsung and Huawei are pushing desktop modes for their phones.

5) Getting online

Screenshot: Gizmodo

Every modern browser comes with a mobile equivalent that will happily sync across browsing histories and passwords and bookmarks—but spend any extended time on the web and it’s clear the mobile experience just doesn’t stand up to what you can get through the browser on your desktop.

Most sites are suitably optimized for online viewing, and so flicking through stories is straightforward enough… but screen real estate is massively reduced, which means menus and icons get pushed to the edges, which means getting around the web becomes much more of a chore than it should be.

If you can still see menus, filters, and checkboxes, they often become too small to use. Encounter any kind of form-filling situation or Content Management System and working inside a mobile browser becomes an exercise in frustration—as you’ll know if you’ve tried to make a forum post or book a hotel on the web in a mobile browser.

Loading new links in background tabs until you need them—the staple of today’s browsing experience—suddenly becomes a long and drawn-out process that hardly seems worth the effort. On top of that, you have all the multi-window and copy-and-paste points we raised above: So just leave the serious web browsing till you’re at your laptop or desktop.

Source: Kotaku.com

Top 10 UK Games Chart: Yoshi’s Crafted World Beats Division 2 And Sekiro To No.1

It’s a somewhat busy time for new game releases, and one of those new titles claims top spot in the UK physical sales chart this week. Nintendo’s new Switch platformer Yoshi’s Crafted World was the best-selling game in the UK for the week ending March 30, according to sales monitor Chart-Track.

Crafted World becomes the first Yoshi game ever to get to No.1 in the UK, though it was a close battle this week–the Switch exclusive beat The Division 2 by just 63 copies, according to GamesIndustry.biz. Below those two games is last week’s No.1, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which falls two places to No.3.

The other new entries are Assassin’s Creed III: Remastered, which debuts at No.9, Generation Zero at No.19, Telltale’s The Walking Dead: The Final Season at No.23, and Outward at No.24.

Yoshi’s new game has enjoyed a positive critical reception, including an 8/10 in GameSpot’s Yoshi’s Crafted World review. “Yoshi’s Crafted World is at its best when it’s relaxing and pleasant,” wrote Kallie Plagge. “The 2D-to-3D level design keeps you curious while the go-at-your-own-pace approach keeps the pressure off and leaves you to appreciate the small, imaginative details. Its most interesting ideas never evolve past their first introductions and are frequently confined to one or two levels, but individually, those levels both reward your curiosity and your willingness to slow down and look at what’s around you–and it’s those simple pleasures that provide the most joy.”

You can read the full top 10 sales chart for this week below, courtesy of UKIE and GfK Chart-Track. Note this table does not include digital sales data, and so should not be considered representative of all UK game sales.

  1. Yoshi’s Crafted World
  2. The Division 2
  3. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
  4. FIFA 19
  5. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
  6. Far Cry: New Dawn
  7. Red Dead Redemption 2
  8. The Lego Movie 2 Video Game
  9. Assassin’s Creed III: Remastered
  10. Forza Horizon 4

Source: GameSpot.com

Watch 20 Minutes Of Outer Worlds Gameplay Footage From PAX East

The Outer Worlds is one of 2019’s most anticipated games, and developer Obsidian Entertainment showed off a lot more of it at the gaming convention PAX East over the weekend.

During a panel, developers from Obsidian gave a 20-minute walkthrough demo of the game. It’s a fantastic, deep-dive look at the game, and hearing directly from the developers provides an even better understanding of what you’re seeing and the thinking behind various elements. The video showcases a number of unique and beautiful environments, as well as a series of weapons and numerous characters. Take a look for yourself in the video below from YouTube channel MrRedRivers.

The Outer Worlds is a sci-fi RPG made by Obsidian, the developers of Knights of the Old Republic II, Fallout: New Vegas, and South Park: The Stick of Truth. The game is being published by Grand Theft Auto parent company Take-Two Interactive’s indie label, Private Division, and that’s still true even after Microsoft acquired Obsidian.

The Outer Worlds is in development for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Even though Microsoft owns Obsidian, the title will still be released on competing systems such as PlayStation 4. One noteworthy detail about the PC edition is it’ll be released on the Epic Store and Windows Store first, before coming to Steam a year later.

Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, who worked on the original Fallout, are heading up the team making The Outer Worlds. The game is showing a lot of promise, and as mentioned, it’s set for release sometime in 2019.

Source: GameSpot.com