Yesterday Rainbow Six Siege got its most substantial update since release—a wave of fixes, rebalancing, and the first portion of Siege’s season pass, “Operation Black Ice.” Black Ice adds two new operators (exclusive to season pass owners for a week) and a new map, Yacht (free). Here’s what I think about the new stuff.
Two Canadian operators, Frost and Buck, bring Siege’s character count to 22. Both are good additions that will refresh Siege’s meta, which was beginning to stagnate.
Frost, the defender, will have the biggest impact. Her ‘Welcome Mat’ floor traps pose a novel threat because they can be placed almost anywhere on the floor, and accounting for them had me treading more carefully. The traps are strong counters against window entry—detecting them requires careful peering while rappelling, which itself exposes you to gunfire from defenders on the inside. I like how clever you can get with the mats: they’re hard to spot in dark corners and edges, and you can place them almost anywhere. I suspect they’ll also find some use behind deployable shields that block doorways.
Though the addition of another defensive trap is welcome, Frost’s kit will probably wane in effectiveness a little over time, arguably the natural progression of any competitive game. That’s been the case for Kapkan’s laser tripwires, which took many lives in the first week or two after launch when new players were still figuring out how to manage them.
Buck is more straightforward. Like Glaz, Siege’s primary sniper, Buck is almost entirely focused on shooting. His weapons attach a shotgun to two different types of rifles, a pairing that is already paying dividends for some players. Buck’s flexibility makes him great at scaring enemies out of position, and I think his ability to quickly poke holes in unreinforced walls will cause defenders to allocate their resources slightly differently. That said, he won’t flip Siege’s meta on its head—shotguns and rifles are plentiful in Siege, Buck simply duct tapes them together. I do wonder how much use Buck’s CAMRS rifle will get—it’s a unique pairing of a longer-range semi-auto rifle and a shotgun, which makes you effective at short and long range but weak at medium.
Yacht is immediately one of the best maps in Siege. It strays completely from the boxy configuration of its most predictable maps (Hereford Base, House) with a layout that’s wonderfully complicated. There are four floors, and no single staircase threads through all of them. Bulkheads connect a cavernous kitchen and engine room with a casino, and cockpit lined with narrow exterior decks. You have to navigate in S-shapes to move through it all, minding your back as you pass open doorways and exposed staircases. With the exception of a couple of very long hallways, there’s seemingly few opportunities for Glaz to snipe here, which is welcome: Siege is at its best when it’s messy and improvised, not precise and impersonal.
I also love the visual contrast Yacht brings. Although there’s a handful of reused assets inside, a lot of the interior is frosted over, and the exterior is a pure, polar white that stands out from Siege’s more military, compoundy settings.
My only complaint is that I wish Black Ice was arriving with two maps instead of one. Yacht is a great addition, but it’ll have to last until the next wave of season pass stuff opens up in April.
The fixes and rebalancing
Equally welcome is the wall of bug fixes and more modest set of balance changes (outlined in detail on the Siege site) that rolled out in unison with the patch. Some big annoyances were addressed with this update, including a few matchmaking errors and exploits, like the ability for defenders to leave the interior area during the planning phase on some maps. Anecdotally, Siege’s anti-cheat seems to be banning players at a faster clip than before.
The balancing tweaks are small but smart. The tracers of suppressed weapons are harder to see, making silencers a more viable weapon attachment. Flashbangs, likewise, get a buff with a doubling of their effect radius. One of the most welcome changes is a microscopic one: the operator selection phase now displays the name of the map and mode, which was inexplicably hidden before.
A major remaining issue, the prevalence of match abandonment in casual play, will be a tough one to address. There’s essentially already a solution for it: ranked play, which penalizes players for leaving mid-game. The matchmaking system feeds new players into empty slots in casual, but in my 160 hours, I’d guess that one in three of the rounds I play aren’t played five-on-five.
There’s a handful of other issues nagging at Siege (like the tendency for C4 to teleport), and I’d also like to see Ubisoft explore what new counters can be introduced for shields (should Tachanka’s static MG be able to penetrate it?), but all together this is a bright moment for what was already a compelling competitive FPS. If the maps and operators to come are as interesting as Buck, Frost, and Yacht, Siege has a chance of being a game I’ll play on and off throughout the year.