Sometimes Rainbow Six Siege adds a new gadget because it's fun to use, and sometimes it adds gadgets that fill an important role in the game's ever-evolving meta. Azami, Siege's first Year 7 operator, is a bit of both.
Azami is a Japanese defender with a background in private security police (hence her imposing suit). Her gadget is the Kiba Barrier, a collection of kunai knives that can quickly patch up holes opened by attackers. Upon impact, the kunai dissipates a circular cloud of gas that rapidly hardens into a bulletproof barrier about 1-meter in diameter.
That's right, Siege now has an expert in throwing knives, but she's actually an overqualified handywoman with the strongest Flex Tape (or if you're a few years older, Mighty Putty) ever made. Here's how the Kiba looks in action:
The Kiba is pretty nifty, and also a little goofy. Now 62 operators in, Siege has definitely stepped beyond the pale in terms of realism (other recent gadgets include laser walls and hologram decoys), but the Kiba is still a perfect match for Siege.
First, it's completely unique. There are literally dozens of operators that specialize in destroying walls and exactly one that can patch them back up. If you've played a lot of Siege, this is a radical power shift for defenders. Bomb sites with ceilings vulnerable to Sledge's hammer have an extra layer of protection. Buck's underbarrel shotgun, the most effective soft breaching tool in the game, is powerless to Azami's crunchy barriers. Kiba barriers aren't indestructible—any explosive will destroy them and Sledge can still give it a good hammer thwack—but their power only increases as a round goes on.
A full team of attackers probably has one or two popular operators capable of destroying a Kiba barrier, but those odds go down when there are 60 seconds left and resources are spread thin. Delay tactics can be very powerful in a tense ranked match. I think this will be Azami's speciality. A last-minute kunai that blocks a crucial sightline or chokepoint for just a few seconds could win Azami the round. But that also means she needs to survive to get her full use. Like Lesion, Azami starts with only one of her Kunai and unlocks another every 30 seconds. Including the prep phase, that means it takes around 90 seconds (or half the round) to use all five of her kunai.
Patching holes will probably be the most common use for the Kiba, but I also noticed some other fun applications in my few hours with Azami. When there's no Mute around to jam a drone hole, a Kiba barrier can block it off for good. This could prove pretty useful on maps where drone holes are often exploited to hold a sneaky angle.
More interesting is Azami's ability to essentially create new walls with the Kiba. It's not quite as simple as it sounds—you can't just throw a kunai on the ground and grow a new wall (doing that will just make a flat barrier on the ground). The Kiba barrier expands from the center of the kunai on the same plane as the surface it lands on, so if you throw them on the edge of objects like tables, desks, or doorways, they can expand outwards. From there, you can also stack a Kiba on each other indefinitely, which can result in a crude but effective bulletproof wall.
Here's a quick example on the second floor of Coastline:
Since noticing this trick, my mind has been abuzz wondering where else it'd be useful to architect a new bulletproof wall or seal off entire hallways. As I learned the hard way, though, attackers can also make use of a Kiba barrier left behind. It'll take a lot more than a few hours in a closed session with Ubi devs to know if Azami is as useful as she seems, but I'm pretty jazzed about her.
Azami's patchwork gadget has a fun bit of history for those that have followed Siege closely for a long time. Fans have proposed similar gadget ideas for years on the game's subreddit (I proposed my own in 2017). My hopes were high that it'd finally happen when mention of a "hole blocker" was discovered in the game's code in 2018, but years of new operators passed with no such gadget in sight. Ubi confirmed to me that the hole blocker was indeed real in 2020, clarifying that the gadget had gone through "so many prototypes" that were abandoned for a variety of reasons. "Sometimes because of tech, oftentimes because of pure design. The way it was implemented wasn’t exactly as good as we wanted it to be," as former Siege designer Emilien Lomet told me at the time.
It took a while, but Ubi finally figured it out. It's gratifying to see a real hole blocker in action after occupying the top of my wishlist for five years. I never thought it'd come in the form of a fancy throwing knife, but I'm into it.
We're still weeks away from Azami releasing on live Siege servers, but if you're on PC, you can try out Azami for yourself on the technical test server next week.