VIDEO: Steel Wave gameplay, also on YouTube (opens in new tab).
Rainbow Six Siege Operation Steel Wave is adding one of the game's most annoying trap gadgets to date. Before we get to that, though, the new attacker, Ace, is a Norwegian rescue worker equipped with the SELMA Aqua Breacher—small throwable capsules that stick to walls and breaches reinforced walls in stages like a rolling shutter. Forget explosions and fire, Ace smashes through plaster and steel with water pressure and hydraulics alone. The effect is super cool and very loud.
By the time one capsule has finished its explosion spree, attackers are left with a hole big enough to run through. With three of these water bombs in his pocket, Ace opens a lot of new doors for the attackers. It’s clear that he’ll be strong combined with the existing might of Thermite or Hibana.
The unique rhythm of the SELMA introduces some potentially interesting counterplays. Its sequential breaching leaves the gadget vulnerable to destruction before it completes the job. After the first hole is made, the capsule can easily be interrupted by a crafty impact grenade. Just like his coworkers, Ace can also be reliably countered by the Bandit trick (dropping one of Bandit's batteries on a wall after breaching has started). But unlike other hard breachers, Ace can toss his SELMA capsules in quick succession and overwhelm Bandit’s single-wall defense. Even with help from Mute or Kaid, bomb sites that rely heavily on wall defense (like the garages of Consulate and Chalet) will face a serious new threat.
As will most defender gadgets, because the SELMA isn’t only for breaching. With the same ease as tossing Lesion’s Gu mines, Ace can use his capsules to destroy any gadget vulnerable to explosions, provided they’re on or near a breachable surface. He can also take out reinforced hatches, but it takes two capsules. I love the simplicity of Ace’s gadget. In the heat of a fight, all you need to do is chuck out a SELMA and let it do its job, but there’s a small learning curve to get the placement just right—too high and you have to vault through the breach, too low and you have to crouch.
On the weapons front, Ace also breaks some new ground. He’s the first attacker to borrow Fuze’s AK-12, a high-DPS assault rifle that usually sees little use (because Fuze). The rifle is a great fit with a 2-speed, 2-armor operator. Even better, Ace’s AK-12 uses traditional Siege optics instead of the awkward Russian options. During my gameplay session, I couldn’t believe how much better the gun felt simply because I was looking through a comfortable ACOG scope.
Melusi, the headache generator
Whereas Ace finds new ways to let attackers in, Melusi gives them a good reason to stay out. Her Banshee traps blare an oppressive pulsing sound to attackers in its radius, clogging their ears and slowing them to a stilted walk. It’s as miserable and frustrating as it sounds.
Each of her three Banshees can cover about half a room. They’re completely bulletproof, but vulnerable to explosives, EMPs, and Shock Drones. Attackers without grenades have to trudge through its noise and destroy it with a melee hit.
I already hate these things. They’re undeniably useful as a physical deterrent and alarm system, but there’s no skill to using the Banshee. It has no interesting counterplay or clever use cases. The Banshee is a passive participant on the defense that’s too oppressive to simply ignore. Between poison traps, cloaked drones, bulletproof cameras, and concussive mines, Melusi’s traps pile onto Siege’s ongoing problem with frustrating gadgets.
On the bright side, Melusi herself is fun to play. She’s the first 3-speed defender since Alibi’s introduction two years ago. Her primary weapon is Lesion’s T-5 SMG, an all-around excellent gun. Its low recoil and high fire rate pair well with her increased speed and roaming-friendly kit. I also love Melusi’s background as a South African military specialist who formed a poacher-hunting task force made up primarily of women. What a badass.
I’ve only gotten a few matches in with House’s rework, but I’m impressed by how it transforms one of my least favorite maps into one that I finally like defending. House’s major changes come in its South wing, which now has four new rooms that give defenders more breathing room. There’s also a new staircase in the Southwest that links Dining Room to Master Bedroom. Previously, defenders were forced to expose themselves to a deadly crossfire to move between floors.
Possibly the best changes have come to Garage, which has always been very difficult to defend. In the rework, one of the garage doors is closed off and the gap between them looking outside is gone. A new door and hallway give attackers easy access into the garage from outside, but it’s also a deadly bottleneck. The sightlines that have been closed finally give defenders areas where attackers can’t pick them off from outside. It looks a lot like old Garage, but it plays like a better, modern Siege map.
House’s rework is the first of what Ubisoft calls “casual reworks”. The updated House isn’t meant to become a Ranked map. The idea is to rework it to be more fun without altering its identity too much. The layout gives a great impression, though with so much of the map’s art completely redone, House’s identity has definitely changed. Workshop, one of the most contentious rooms in the old House, is a thing of the past. It’s now Pink Room, a unicorn-themed child’s room with a walk-in closet.
Similar to Oregon’s rework earlier this year, I get excited and a little sad playing the new House. House was the very first map shown off in Siege. Remember that house the operators bust into during the dramatic 2014 reveal trailer? That’s the House. Once Steel Wave comes out, there will be no way to hop back into that old map (short of playing Situations, but who would want to do that). A huge part of Siege history is being locked away in a vault with no guarantee that we’ll ever see it again.
Amaru’s buff and the new Proximity Alarm
Besides the flashy new operators and map, Steel Wave is also coming with some much-needed buffs to Amaru. To help with her survivability when using the grapple hook, she now readies her weapon right as she’s coming through windows. Windows she grapples onto also won’t break until she busts through them, so you should finally be able to catch defenders by surprise and have a fighting chance if you don’t. Hatches will also automatically break as she grapples up to them. No longer do you need to shotgun a hatch, flash it, and hope someone isn’t waiting for as you helplessly grapple up. Maybe someday Oryx will get similar buffs to make him useful, but for now Ubi has reduced the health cost of ramming through walls to 5.
Also coming in Steel Wave is the Proximity Alarm, the new secondary gadget first shown off at the Six Invitational in February. It’s as simple as gadgets come—you can stick it to anything and it’ll make a loud beep when enemies pass by it. Defenders gaining the option to use it include Castle, Tachanka, Rook, Mira, Caveira, Goyo, Wamai, and Oryx.
I’m a fan of its straightforward design, but my initial impression was that barbed wire will remain more useful when anchoring (it slows enemies and also makes noise, after all). For roamers, the alarm is a handy way to cover your flanks without alerting attackers with an obvious pile of wire. The gadget is pretty small, no bigger than Wamai’s MAG-NET traps, so you can hide them in the smallest nooks and crannies. It’s destroyed by a single bullet from anything, but you do get two of them.
Coming away from my Steel Wave session and going into the Test Server this week, I wish I were more excited. I’m eager to see how Ace shakes up Siege’s breaching dynamic. My gut says he’ll be very powerful on a few bomb sites and a fun breaching alternative everywhere else. Melusi, on the other hand, I’m dreading. I’m already so tired of walking through a doorway and getting slowed to a crawl. The best traps in Siege have universal counters and can be overcome through smart use. The Banshee, unfortunately, doesn’t check either of those boxes. I guess I’ll be playing more Thatcher than usual.