Have you ever wanted to play a multiplayer game that feels like a mixture of Left 4 Dead, Prototype, and Rainbow Six: Siege? No, you haven't? Well, I'm going to tell you now that your shortsightedness will curse you. It would also curse me because I didn't think I wanted it. After getting hands-on with Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Extraction, I can't deny that I like it. I'm not going to say that it's perfect, and I didn't get to try every single map, so there are things I don't know, but I got to spend an entire morning with the game.
The first thing you need to know, coming in, is that Extraction is not Siege. There's no competitive aspect to the game; you won't be facing off against other people. This is all about three-player cooperative action. You and up to two others will enter a mission that can feature up to three other objectives, spread across three separate areas of the maps - each connected by an airlock to offer you that distinction between one stage to the next. Functionally, it also allows the game to populate the next area, increasing difficulty from the previous and offering new challenges.
Let's think of this as the Left 4 Dead part of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Extraction. You and a few other mouth-breathers are traipsing through infested territory - zombies there, alien entities here - in the hopes of reaching the next safe zone. Here, you have challenges to complete, which can range from marking alien nests or taking down, but not killing, specific elite aliens, to rescuing a VIP to even extracting an operative lost on an earlier attempt. Once you have completed one objective, you can then choose to be extracted rather than continue through the safe zone onto the next one.
While there may not be a wide variety in the objectives and some limited maps, the combination of enemies, their placement, and you can rarely predict anything helps keep the game entertaining. At least this was the case over the morning that I got to play it. I was well aware of one key aspect; you want somebody who can communicate. The frustration of having a team-mate with no ability to hear you on the game is undeniable (the preview event used Discord, the player appears to have had to play on a different system to the one Discord was one).
The reason you need communication is simple; Extraction emphasizes Rainbow Six slow-paced tactical action. Alerting a group of enemies will see you quickly swarmed in later levels, fighting for your life and hurt or eventually being taken out of action. The ramifications for this are simple; you lose your operative until you successfully extract them. If you manage to escape, the game will lower their health until you have given them time to heal as you perform missions using the other cast of Siege and Extraction.
Controlling your character and the general way you move in Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Extraction should remain the same as in Siege. You can go guns blazing if you manage to get in a corner, you've taken out all nearby nests - these infinitely spawn enemies once alerted - and you have enough ammo. I wouldn't recommend it, though. The cast returns from Siege with their unique abilities slightly tweaked to face the alien entities rather than each other, so having played Siege will undoubtedly help you get into the swing of things here.
As for the unique enemies, you need to learn their abilities very quickly. The nest I've spoken about, that's simple. Other enemies are simple enough to figure out, the ones that explode (think Boomer) you'll want to kill at a distance if in action, otherwise avoid as the explosion will attract attention. In the 'simple' group, you have ones that fire projectiles at you, others that blind you (yellow goo appears on-screen) and ones that will alert enemies in a wide radius. There are thirteen in total, with more difficult settings offering random mutations to some enemies, limiting how you can tackle them.
Variety is there in Extraction, or at least it felt like that in the four or so hours I got to play the game. However, there is a risk that the limited number of maps - of which you have to unlock access through gaining experience - will limit this. Ubisoft has made it clear that they intend on supporting this and releasing new maps, which will be a boon.
The other possible issue is that this is a purely PvE title, which immediately removes the unpredictability of facing off against other humans. There's only so much AI can offer, though games like Left 4 Dead have proven that this can provide you with a lot of variety of fun. With this being so different from Siege, it will be fascinating to see how much of the fanbase comes in and sticks around.
What I will say, following Siege and how that developed over many years, I can't see Ubisoft abandoning Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Extraction. If any publisher has learned the value of supporting a live service game, Ubisoft is that publisher. Launching in just ten days (20th of January), the most significant advantage is that Extraction is coming to Game Pass, letting you jump in and play at no extra cost.