rainbow six extraction

Rainbow Six Extraction review

Ubisoft's Siege spin-off is a thrilling and messy take on zombie co-op.

(Image: © Ubisoft)

Our Verdict

Rainbow Six Extraction is a fun and unremarkable co-op shooter with some very good ooze.

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What is it? A co-op spinoff to Rainbow Six Siege
Expect to pay $40/£40
Developer Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher Ubisoft
Reviewed on RTX 3060, Ryzen 7 5700G 3.8Ghz, 16GB RAM
Multiplayer? Co-op up to 3
Link Official site

Rainbow Six Extraction was announced in a world we no longer live in: the world of 2019. Back then, the co-op Siege spinoff FPS was called "Rainbow Six Quarantine" (ha!). It was an unlucky time to be making a game about a parasitic virus, but a great time to bring back the dormant co-op zombie shooter. Siege's 2018 Outbreak event was a brief but excellent taste of what Left 4 Siege could be, and I hoped Extraction would blow that 2-hour mode out into a sprawling collection of campaigns.

Three years later, not only is Extraction one of many co-op shooters on the block, but it's hardly recognizable from the original Outbreak campaign. It's the anti-Left 4 Dead—a precise, grueling survival game about keeping your head down and never poking the bear. If you do, Extraction's sadistic AI takes over, eager to punish the smallest lapse in judgment.

It's a mean game that can produce some great thrills, but its strict rules make some awkward design choices stick out. Extraction is also a smaller game than I anticipated—Ubi's decision to lower its price to $40 and introduce it to PC Game Pass at launch makes sense now. I really liked mastering each of the dozen objective types and maps, but missions start to get samey really fast. 

Screech and clear

Extraction missions are, at their core, maps with three objectives randomly pulled from a pool of 12. Objectives have to be tackled in order, with each one occupying its own chunk of the map.

Your squad of three (or just you, if you're flying solo) are dropped into these locales with no other context than the current task at hand. There's no campaign with connecting goals like "find the safe room" or "cross this rickety bridge." You simply do the job and get out with as much XP as possible. During the first 10 hours, when I was learning how each objective worked and trying out operators, the sparse format worked. Every mission was throwing one or two obstacles my way I hadn't seen before, be it a new alien enemy (called Archaeans) that can plant sneaky flash bombs or a modifier that makes the black "Sprawl" goo slowly coating every surface hazardous to step on.

I also died a lot early on, way more than I usually do when I pick up a new FPS. It took a while to realize you can't play Extraction like other co-op shooters. Where Back 4 Blood is about managing hordes while running to the next goal, sprinting around a building full of Archaeans is asking for death.

My squad was always better off when we crouched or walked everywhere, carefully choosing which enemies to engage or avoid. The format is seemingly inspired by the stealthy gameplay of GTFO, a survival horror co-op shooter that recently escaped early access. Operators can go down in just a few hits from Archaeans, and even if they survive an encounter, they can never get lost health back permanently. Health can be temporarily restored by medkits or gadgets like Doc's stim pistol, but it fades over time. This fragility builds tension as we step deeper into enemy territory trying not to alert an Archaean long enough for it to scream. A screaming  Archaean is kinda like alerting the witch in Left 4 Dead, except way worse because every nearby nest starts spawning enemies until destroyed.

Crit chance

Thankfully, thousands of hours of Rainbow Six Siege reflexes come in handy. Extraction's shooting and movement are identical. It feels pretty cool to methodically clear rooms and one-shot-kill basic grunts in the head. Every gun that isn't a shotgun comes with a suppressor that you should never take off.

I've had countless close calls where I walk past a doorway, get spotted by an Archaean, and snap to a headshot before it can make a peep. I was also surprised at how much I enjoyed dealing with the Sprawl—black ooze that rapidly spreads as nests are disturbed. The sound of it crawling its way across every surface is gross and I never got tired of shooting it to "draw" a navigable path through a room.

Once my squadmates and I got into a groove headshotting everything in our way, stealth-killing nests to halt enemy spawns, and shooting the nasty black stuff, the lower two difficulties (of four total) that mostly spawn grunt enemies became way too easy.

Things get a lot less balanced when you crank it up to Severe or Critical difficulty. With the heat turned up, basic navigation becomes a chore. Bigger enemies won't go down in a single shot to their weak point, and even if you kill them fast, they'll still probably alert everything within earshot and kickstart every nest to spawn more of them. There's seemingly no limit to how many Archaeans can spawn from a nest, so if we couldn't destroy every nest before that happened, they'd pump out more aliens than we could reasonably shoot.

This can get frustrating not only because dormant and active nests look and sound basically the same, but because it basically doesn't matter how well we perform after a billion enemies show up. Best case, we extract from the mission early and take a loss, which usually means a small enough XP reward that it wasn't worth our time in the first place. Worst case, we soldier on and probably die, which just creates a new annoying chore. Characters lost in the field become "MIA" operators who can't be used again until you rescue them on a subsequent mission. I like having to switch up my operator choice when they're injured or go MIA, but having to do the same mission for every rescue gets old fast.

Back 4 Blood also had early trouble with difficulty tuning. Similarly, I think Extraction could use some adjustments to enemy spawn rates. What I've encountered feels less like an AI director dynamically deciding what we can or can't handle and more like an open faucet randomly spewing out powerful enemies unless we shut it off.

The operators

For how much of Extraction can be confusing, it's nice to tab over to the Operators and see a bunch of familiar faces from Siege. Ubi has plucked 18 operators from its existing roster and lightly modified their existing kits to suit alien zombie murder (they aren't Rainbow Six ops anymore, they're members of REACT).

Most operators slot in pretty well to PvE action—Doc and Finka's healing tech and Rook's armor plates needed virtually no changes. Others have been lightly tweaked, like Pulse and IQ's sensors, which now detect nests and spare ammo from a distance instead of heartbeats and enemy gadgets. It's cool to see operators that I've never really jived with in Siege become favorites in Extraction. Alibi's holographic decoys are pretty bleh in a PvP setting, but they're amazing for luring Archaeans away from me.

I also love that you can level up operators with permanent upgrades, like extra stim shots for Doc or a longer range scan for Pulse. After years of using these operators in a static configuration that's carefully balanced to be good, but not too good, it feels great to "overclock" my favorite operators past their Siege limits. Ever wish that Rook could run twice as fast or Sledge's hammer could make gigantic holes in walls? Now they can.

It's a shame that most of the operator gadgets (and side gadgets) are only situationally useful. Hibana, one of Siege's most popular operators thanks to her hard breaching pellet launcher, is basically just a slower way to throw an impact grenade in Extraction. Jäger's ADS turrets are nice to take down a few enemies before they blow up, but they're too slow and clunky to deploy in a fight. IQ can find ammo across the map, but it's not hard to find stuff without her. Because of Extraction's high lethality, our squad could rarely justify bringing operators who don't contribute to armor or health in some way.

rainbow six extraction

It's kinda neat to use guns that Rook never gets to in Siege, like the 417 DMR. (Image credit: Ubisoft)

Secondary gadgets have the same problem. Ubi cooked up a bunch of new throwables for the Archaeans, like a scan grenade, a "glue" trap that slows enemies like the one in Prey, and a literal forcefield that blocks ranged attacks, but those were all made instantly obsolete in my mind when I realized a single impact grenade can stun an enemy, clear Sprawl from the area, destroy nests, or destroy a wall between you and your goal. There's also a third slot where you can equip extra ammo or a drone, but those seemed like needless luxuries when I could take a self-revive kit or extra body armor instead.

As I slowly discovered with Extraction's mission variety, there's surprisingly little to work towards once you unlock operators. For hours I kept pecking away at locations I've been to, completing the same random objectives in the same places, wondering what I still stood to gain. Turns out the answer is a bunch of cosmetics I don't care about and an endgame mode called Maelstrom Protocol that triples the normal number of objectives to nine. After realizing that mode doesn't sound remotely interesting, I had run out of reasons to play Rainbow Six Extraction.

That's OK—I had around 20 hours of good times in a beautifully creepy FPS with great shooting. That and its inclusion on PC Game Pass at launch is reason enough to give it a shot with some friends.

I can't shake the thought of what Extraction would be like with a L4D-inspired campaign structure. There's so much to enjoy in its slow, deliberate co-op combat but its disjointed missions cause the whole game to feel aimless. By trying to add replayability through randomization, Ubi has made a less replayable game.

Rainbow Six Extraction is not at all the spiritual Left 4 Dead 3 I was hoping for back then, which is fine, because that game, Back 4 Blood, came out just a few months ago. 

But unlike in 2019, Extraction is not alone. The last few years have seen an explosion of cool co-op games vying to be the star of my Discord server—Back 4 Blood is fantastic, The Anacrusis is intriguing, Ready Or Not is pretty cool, GTFO is fun, Deep Rock Galactic and World War Z are still getting updates, and Warhammer 40K: Darktide is on the horizon.

There are a lot of fun ways to shoot AI baddies with buds in 2022, so it's impressive that Extraction is distinct from every game I just listed. It's trying to be something slower and tactical, and it even succeeds most of the time. But punishing is not what my friends and I are usually looking for in a co-op shooter (we get enough of that from competitive rounds of Hunt: Showdown), so I doubt Extraction will ever be the game we fire up on a Friday night.

The Verdict
Rainbow Six Extraction

Rainbow Six Extraction is a fun and unremarkable co-op shooter with some very good ooze.

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.