Rainbow Six Extraction really is such a great idea, a hugely appealing experiment that takes the often rather bland and samey world of Ubisoft's tactical military shooters and adds plenty of twisted alien sci-fi action and warped vistas to the mix.
For the most part it's a mix-up that works too. Based on a one-time special event that took part in Rainbow Six Siege a while back, this spin-off sees you and your teammates recruited to a brand new R6 unit, R.E.A.C.T, where you're charged with infiltrating the ooze-filled underbelly of alien-infested parts of Alaska, New York City and more, in order to complete a variety of tasks whilst examining your surroundings in order to provide HQ with intel as to just what the heck is going on.
It's a game that in many ways feels like a generous extension to Rainbow Six Siege proper rather than a fully standalone title, with all eighteen operatives from Siege returning to make up the roster of playable characters, each one with their very same old character models and special skills intact. It's also got that same, deeply satisfying layer of teamwork-based strategy to it, and a ton of the usual gadgets and tricks for you to utilise against your extra-terrestrial foes.
It is, in short, very good fun; a properly solid and pleasingly flexible co-op experience for two or three players that also - thankfully - allows for solo players to get stuck into the action without the need for pals. This is a smart idea for couple of reasons. Firstly, playing solo allows you to take things at your own pace and really lean into the stealth and spooky aspect of proceedings, heightening the tension in missions that can be properly stressful when the heat is turned up. Secondly, solo play also circumvents a problem we encountered quite a few times during our hands on with the game, and that's getting paired off with players who treat the game like it's Call of Duty, blasting through levels and ruining the experience for everyone.
Of course, the main meat here is still co-op and, when you're in a squad of friends or paired up with randoms who aren't acting like gung-ho idiots, it can be cracking stuff. There's some smart mechanics thrown in here, our favourite of which has got to be the fact that operatives who get downed during a mission are cocooned inside an icky yellow goo, protected from your alien foes and left behind in levels which you'll then need to return to in order to rescue them if you want to be able to select them to play as in future. It's super-tense stuff that just feels great to play when everyone is utilising their skills and gadgets properly.
On the downside, the aliens here, know as Archaeans, are pretty bland overall, running the usual gamut of bog-standard weaklings, exploding bloaters, shielded tanks and so on, but with lacklustre designs and fairly poor AI. There are decent bosses, for sure, but you'll most often come a cropper from being overwhelmed through recklessness in Extraction, rather than through the cunning of your otherworldly foes.
There's also a question over longevity as things stand, with four main missions comprised of three levels each and a further unlockable mode opened up once you've bested these. We reckon most folk will have unlocked all available gadgets and operatives quite quickly here and it remains to be seen what plans Ubisoft have in terms of ongoing support, future missions and so on.
Overall though, Rainbow Six Extraction, while it lasts, is a super solid time, a delightfully warped addition to the Rainbow Six stable of games that is a total blast when played with the right people. It also sweetens the deal that it's available via Game Pass, meaning there's really no reason not to jump in and get down to some good old co-operative strategy action.