Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, and Splinter Cell are gone for good, except in name.
Times have changed. I don’t want to sound like someone crying about new games in my favorite franchises not looking right through rose-colored glasses. I mean… I kinda am. I loved the Tom Clancy brand in video games, and I dearly miss my old favorites, but I can at least acknowledge that things change. Brands evolve, trends develop, and franchises die.
But Rainbow Six as I’ve known it being dead and gone is a tough pill to swallow, and the “why” of it never really hit home until I started reading the Tom Clancy novel the games are based on.
There are a few characteristics of Team Rainbow from back in the franchise’s early days, which stem from the novel which Tom Clancy penned.
Team Rainbow is the epitome of “black ops”, and they’re only mobilized to drastic situations to counter terrorists when standard law enforcement can’t get the job done. These men and women are picked from the best-of-the-best in the law enforcement and military organizations from around the world (kinda like the MiB); they’re veritable experts in their fields. Not because they have special gadgets they can make use of, but because they’re sharp and professional.
Looking back, I never really understood why Team Rainbow always wore masks. I played Rainbow Six 3 when I was much younger, and I never understood why the operatives handcuffed the hostages and left them, and why they never stuck around for thanks. In fact, there’s one cutscene where a Rainbow operative basically shushes a hostage when they see him, as if he doesn’t want them to acknowledge he’s there.
It makes sense in the context of the series however, and it makes even more sense now that I experienced the source material. The beginning of the original novel starts the reader off with several of the original operatives on a plane heading overseas, when a group of rookie terrorists try to seize control of the aircraft to take a high-value target hostage. The bad guys fail because of the team’s intervention, of course, but the team is in plain-clothes. In order to cover themselves, they make up a story about them being law enforcement, and they quickly arrange for pickup once they land at the airport they’ve been re-routed to.
The key is that they didn’t want to be identified. Team Rainbow is a covert operations team at its heart and operates the world over. They’re a multinational counter-terrorist force, not some ragtag law enforcement group. When they arrive to take on a mission, they wear all black with balaclavas, not the garb from their old units. They’re nondescript for a reason, because they aren’t supposed to exist.
That’s where Ubisoft’s newest entry in the franchise goes completely off the reservation.
Each of the operators on the new Team Rainbow carries their own gear, and dons their original organization’s garb. I can understand the reasons why Ubisoft chose this approach, considering that they sought to create clear distinctions between characters. However, the uniqueness of the operators clashes with the series’ canon. Team Rainbow is meant to be nondescript; under the radar, so to speak.
Rainbow Six Siege actually hints at what the series has traditionally been in the mission Article 5. It’s just a shame that’s the only mission in the game that isn’t a tutorial/challenge or traditional multiplayer match. In it, you’re sent to take out terrorists that have wiped out an entire college campus with a “biochemical” weapon and eliminated all other first responders.
The mission begins with a truly horrific situation, with terrorists gassing civilians at a university. The content of the mission is pretty standard, it being a version of bomb defusal. Then, assuming you succeed, you’re treated to a cutscene hinting at the reactivation of Team Rainbow.
And that’s it. There are no more story missions, no more context given about the terrorist organization. In fact, Rainbow Six Siege at its best does away with the tangos entirely in favor of a five-versus-five multiplayer match structure, where the the operators from Team Rainbow gun each other down in small, arena-esqe maps. Of course, as a game formula that works, but it isn’t Rainbow Six… It’s another game entirely. Had Ubisoft given Rainbow Six Siege another name, it would’ve been the same game. Instead, they chose to abandon the core tenets of the series and source material in the pursuit of a trend towards hero shooters.
That doesn’t mean that Rainbow Six Siege is fundamentally “bad”. In fact, if anything is true about it, it’s a remarkably popular game with solid mechanics. The only issue I see with it is that the soul of the game is missing. It isn’t a Rainbow Six game, and it appears that Siege‘s success has spelled the death of the franchise as we once knew it.
What’s your take on the direction Ubisoft is taking with Rainbow Six? Is the series canon important to you? Is it enough to just have a decent hero shooter?
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Personally I’d prefer a return to the last gen RB6 games (Vegas, Vegas 2) but I prefer the narrative approach with co-op play as opposed to a focus on the competitive spot for RB6. But from a business aspect, its hard to argue with the success Siege has accomplished.
I’m not sure that Ghost Recon and Splinter Cell are dead though, albeit they’ve evolved a lot from where they were when they originated. Ghost Recon has moved more actiony and Splinter Cell more approachable but if they decide to do a new game in either series (Wildlands is evidently doing well and rumor is a new SC might appear at E3), I’d probably give them a look.
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I 100% agree with you about Vegas and Vegas 2. I’d love to see that approach taken again, or even go back to the days of R6: 1-3.
I do plan on writing more about Ghost Recon and Splinter Cell in the future (I’m intending this as a series), to explain my stance on those series being more-or-less dead as a concept as well, though I have to admit I’d be interested in playing any additions to those franchises anyway.
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