Rainbow Six Siege year two: free loot, better matchmaking, subversive operators

When Ubisoft first announced that the second year of Rainbow Six Siege would add another eight operators, it felt like a pleasant surprise for a shooter whose future was unclear. But after a preview event at Ubisoft's headquarters in Montreal, Canada, new operators are far from the only thing that has me excited. As creative director Xavier Marquis explains, Siege's first year was spent trying to win the trust of players—to prove that a multiplayer-only shooter could thrive in 2016.

Now that Siege has more momentum than ever before, its second year is about putting that momentum to good use and fixing some of Siege's most glaring flaws. More stable matchmaking, better hit registration, and a new loot system are a great complement to two new operators who significantly shake up the meta. "Health is the major focus of this year," Marquis explains. 

Improving the matchmaking

During a presentation, Marquis and brand director Alexandre Remy took the stage to give an overview of all the new things coming in 'Year Two.' Perhaps the most important is that Siege will be undergoing a significant overhaul to improve matchmaking and server stability. Marquis explains that while Siege uses dedicated servers for the actual player matchmaking, secondary services like voice chat are implemented on a peer-to-peer system.

The problem is that, due to the interconnectivity of these services, if one is experiencing problems there is a risk that everything could shut down. That's happened multiple times over the past year—in addition to matchmaking generally feeling unstable, especially when trying to party up with friends. Marquis says that Year Two will bring those problems to an end. One by one, each of the secondary services that uses peer-to-peer will be switched over to dedicated servers. "Reliability of the connection is going to significantly improve this year," he claims.

While details are scarce, Marquis also said that hit registration is also a major focus that will be addressed during Year Two. Like all multiplayer shooters, Rainbow Six Siege struggles to reconcile the inherent lag between players with the instant reaction of firing a gun. In practice, this leads to moments where an enemy kills you before you ever see them coming or shooting first and seeing blood but not actually doing any damage at all. Iceycat25's video dives into the problem in more detail. 

Fixing hit registration is high on Ubisoft's priorities for Year Two and the team is working on better formulas to make Siege as precise and accurate as possible, but beyond that we don't know much. As this is a problem that has existed since launch and was the focus of season three of last year, I'm skeptical to see what improvements Ubisoft can make that they haven't already implemented.

One final change that represents a massive quality of life improvement is a new menu system that makes queueing for multiplayer games much less of a chore. The biggest change is that you're no longer locked out of menus once you queue for a match. Coming with the Velvet Shell update, which arrives this Tuesday, this new menu lets you queue for a match and then edit your operator or browse the store—a godsend for those tired of twiddling their thumbs for over five minutes waiting for a ranked match. 

New operators who significantly shake up the meta 

I can't say enough how excited I am for the new operators Mira and Jackal, as each subvert the current meta in fascinating ways. During the preview event, I spent a significant time playing both and I can say that each might possibly be my favorite DLC operator added since launch (sorry, Valkyrie).

Let's talk about Jackal first because he represents an exciting new frontier as the first effective 'anti-roamer.' Over the past few seasons, Siege's meta has emphasized defenders spreading out between multiple rooms and looking to flank the assaulting force. Instead of hunkering down, they sneak about. While some operators excel at this, like Caveira, others try to fill this role despite not really being designed for it. This is especially common in standard matchmaking, where players are more likely to focus on their own strategies than work together. How to solve this problem? Jackal. 

This attacking operator can see the footprints of defenders and, after scanning them for a few seconds, reveals their position every 15 seconds. What's more, footprints have a heat signature so that you can easily tell how close you are to a target just by the color of their prints. "You'll see different color footprints, so the redder and warmer it is the closer you are to the operator as opposed to when it's older and colder looking," Brand director Alexandre Remy explains.

Taking the attackers by surprise while they have a Jackal is much more difficult—and a much needed change. Hopefully this forces the ever popular wandering Valkyrie to stick closer to the objective since she'll be so easy to track. Most importantly, Caveira, the true roamer for defenders, remains threatening. Her 'Silent Step' ability conceals her footprints, so Jackal will still need to keep his wits about him when Caveira is in play. But his role as a powerful anti-roamer should make roaming a much more dangerous game to play for the defenders.

Likewise, Mira, the defending operator, is a real gamechanger for Siege. She can make windows through reinforced walls, giving the defenders protected visibility into rooms they would otherwise never have. Before Mira, 'murderholes' were a common tactic to monitor various passages to prevent a flank. The only problem? Murderholes work both ways.

Mira's windows however, are impenetrable from both sides and are only transparent from the inside. This means while defenders can see out, attackers can't see in, and no one is able to shoot one another through the glass. Fortunately, Mira has a cool trick up her sleeve. By breaking a cannister attached to the window, she can shatter the glass and turn it into a murderhole. It takes a few seconds, so the process isn't instant, but timed right it can be deadly.

What I love about Mira is that she affords the defending team visibility that they would never otherwise have being locked up in a reinforced room. This is especially noticeable on the new Coastline map coming in the next update, Velvet Shell. Coastline's main building is essentially a double-stacked donut with a central courtyard, feeling much more open than the usual claustrophobia of Siege's tighter levels. As defenders, Mira's windows allowed us to lock down and survey a much wider section of the map than we ever could before, forcing the attackers to rethink how brazenly they approached the objective. The end is result is that matches on Coastline are frequently tense as both teams try to catch the other by surprise. 

A cash-free loot system

One of the last big changes coming in Year Two is a revamped loot system free from any microtransactions. Unlike the current in-game shop items, which either require a premium currency or a massive sum of in-game currency to unlock, Marquis explained that a new loot system will be introduced that consistently rewards players "just for playing."

This system will work alongside the current in-game shop, but has a chance to reward players at the end of each match with various drops like new gun skins and more. I'm personally excited to have more access to cosmetic upgrades that don't incur a related cost. For players choosing not to purchase the season pass, that also means that you don't need to choose between that swanky new gun skin and saving up for one of the extra operators any longer. As Xavier explains, the new loot was designed purely as a way to say "thank you to the players."

That sense of gratitude seemed to extend to much of what Marquis and Remy discussed regarding Year Two. While Mira and Jackal represent two of the most exciting additions to the roster in recent memory, the potential improvements to the matchmaking has me just as excited. More importantly, it appears the momentum of Siege's first year will only continue to grow going forward. With Remy suggesting that Siege might one day host nearly a hundred operators, it's evident that this is a game that intends to be around years from now. As someone who has adored the last year of intense attack and defense, that's good news. 

Steven Messner

With over 7 years of experience with in-depth feature reporting, Steven's mission is to chronicle the fascinating ways that games intersect our lives. Whether it's colossal in-game wars in an MMO, or long-haul truckers who turn to games to protect them from the loneliness of the open road, Steven tries to unearth PC gaming's greatest untold stories. His love of PC gaming started extremely early. Without money to spend, he spent an entire day watching the progress bar on a 25mb download of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 demo that he then played for at least a hundred hours. It was a good demo.