Rainbow Six Extraction for Xbox review: This unforgiving co-op shooter is not for everyone

A hardcore experience that will likely turn off casual players.

Rainbow Six Extraction
(Image: © Ubisoft)

Like many other players who grew up in what was arguably the golden age of co-op shooters, I have incredibly fond memories of enjoying games like Halo 3 and Valve's Left 4 Dead with friends online — the latter even spawned a sub-genre of its own with a cult-like following. Unfortunately, after the explosive and wildly popular sequel Left 4 Dead 2 dropped in 2009, fans have been left with a zed-shaped hole in their hearts that only team co-op could fill.

However, this absence from Valve has led a host of developers to attempt to deliver the Left 4 Dead 3 we never got. In the last year alone, we've seen titles like Back 4 Blood, Aliens: Fireteam Elite, The Anacrusis, and countless more enter the co-op shooter arms race. What once was a sub-genre hungry with passionate fans has quickly become an saturated market rife with fierce competition.

When Ubisoft announced it would be developing a horror co-op shooter set in the beloved Rainbow Six Siege universe, many were quick to lump the originally titled Rainbow Six Quarantine in with the other recent "Left 4 Dead clones." Whether this excites or disappoints will ultimately depend on the player's preferences, but after spending close to 20 hours with the game so far, I'm here to tell you that Rainbow Six Extraction is not Left 4 Dead. This slow-burn shooter is far more tense, methodical, and unforgiving than many of its genre contemporaries.

Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Ubisoft. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.

Rainbow Six Extraction: What you'll like

Rainbow Six Extraction Exit

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Fans of Rainbow Six Siege are likely quite familiar with the franchise's impressive environmental destructibility, but in Rainbow Six Extraction, these fine-tuned physics feel more meaningful than ever. In other co-op shooters like Left 4 Dead, players could easily hunker down in a corner and wait for the horde to stop, but this tactic simply doesn't work here. The haunting alien enemies in the game, called Archaens, can smash their way through walls, doors, and even fortified barricades. Watching chunks of office furniture explode as you detonate remote mines or shoot volatile enemies like Bloaters remains one of the most consistently satisfying things in the game.

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TitleRainbow Six Extraction
DeveloperUbisoft Montreal
Xbox VersionXbox Series X|S, Xbox One
Game Size47GB
Play Time15+ hours
PlayersMultiplayer 1-3
Xbox GamePassYes
Launch Price$40

Rainbow Six Extraction also puts an enormous emphasis on squad-centric gameplay. While you can certainly embark on any in-game missions solo, playing with two other players is where this shooter shines. Carefully coordinated character selections and loadouts will be the difference between victory and defeat in Rainbow Six Extraction.

With 18 familiar faces from Rainbow Six Siege, there's a genuinely remarkable level of flexibility when replaying missions.

To ensure your squad has plenty of alien disposal options, Rainbow Six Extraction hosts an extensive portfolio of operators, each with their own unique tactical abilities. With 18 familiar faces from Rainbow Six Siege, there's a remarkable level of flexibility when replaying missions. Operators like Sledge can use their massive hammer to tear down walls and create escape paths. At the same time, more nuanced characters like IQ can significantly assist with environmental awareness courtesy of their specialty scanning device. Every operator has 10 progression levels you can climb, which will unlock special perks and buffs. Finding your favorites will likely require some trial and error, but Rainbow Six Extraction does a great job rewarding that experimentation.

Understanding your role in the squad and how it complements the folks you're slaying aliens with became this elegant dance as our group tackled increasingly tricky objectives. After some tutorial-heavy growing pains, I found myself captivated by the strategic focus here.

In addition to individual character progression, there's also an over-arching player progression system. The game starts by throwing players into three different locations in New York City. To unlock the other three distinct zones and nine stages, players must earn experience by successfully completing the objectives within these stages. Your squad drops into a location and is tasked with completing three randomized challenges. While comparisons to Left 4 Dead's non-traditional approach to campaigns can be made for some, in Rainbow Six Extraction, these stages are far less linear and almost serve as a playground for the missions at hand. This co-op shooter's emphasis on progression, RPG-light mechanics, and freedom within stages provided a decided hook.

Other elements I found stunning in Rainbow Six Extraction were the artfully crafted environments. I often find myself uninterested in the locales in games with modern city settings because it's easy for them to bank on familiar landmarks like the Statue of Liberty without applying equal care to other areas like office spaces. In Rainbow Six Extraction, these usually benign locations are dripping with attention to detail. The luxury high-rises of New York feel lived in while simultaneously capturing the terror of being transformed by invasive alien parasites. With only a handful of varying biomes in Rainbow Six Extraction, it was exciting to see the team put serious effort into making them memorable.

Rainbow Six Extraction: What you won't like

Rainbow Six Extraction Ooze

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a fan of difficult video games. From Dark Souls to Spelunky 2, I enjoy torturing myself with relentless challenges.

That said, the randomized rogue-lite nature of enemies and objectives in Rainbow Six Extraction will undoubtedly be excessive for players looking for a more casual experience. If your operator goes down while attempting to complete a mission, they will become unplayable until you revisit that location with a different operator and successfully rescue them. This is compounded by how all damage taken by a character while on missions carries over as well.

It's also worth noting that even on the easiest difficulty, operators can be knocked out in two or three hits. So, if you find yourself in a situation where several operators are MIA or are too injured to participate, things can get exponentially more daunting.

Much like Escape in Gears 5, Rainbow Six Extraction feels like a fantastic supplemental game mode that could exist within a broader package.

During the review period for Rainbow Six Extraction, the premium in-game cosmetic shop wasn't available, which gave me loads of time to see what the included character customization options entailed. While there are a decent number of costumes, weapon skins, and weapon charms to unlock from a quantity standpoint, I found a majority of them to be rather disappointing. From basic palette swaps to downright horrifying displays of nauseating white and red, it's clear that the paid cosmetics will be far more exciting and enticing for the game's hardcore audience. This isn't a massive dealbreaker for all players in a first-person shooter, but with player expression continuing to be an essential piece of online gaming, I was hoping for more out of the box.

While I've had a legitimately great time with Rainbow Six Extraction so far, the more I play, the more I begin to realize that this doesn't really feel like a complete game. With 12 different stages, randomly generated objectives, and respectable character progression, there's no shortage of replayability for the players who connect with this tactical co-op shooter. Unfortunately, it felt as though the rogue-lite elements kept Rainbow Six Extraction from delivering a tight, defined campaign experience. The game's story-light presentation and non-linear progression feel more like a fantastic sub-mode than a traditional AAA shooter, much like Escape in Gears 5. After spending a fair amount of time with Rainbow Six Extraction, I genuinely wonder how long this gameplay loop can keep even the most enthusiastic players hooked.

Rainbow Six Extraction: Should you play it?

Rainbow Six Extraction Operators

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

It's safe to say that Rainbow Six Extraction won't be a co-op shooter for everyone. For casual players, this isn't a title that will fill the Left 4 Dead void, especially if you thought the deck-building system of Back 4 Blood was too disruptive. While I could definitely see established Rainbow Six Siege players dabbling with this PvE spinoff, I also speculate that the reason this exists as a standalone title is that Rainbow Six Extraction might not be what the hardcore PvP community wants from this universe.

I'm confident this strategic experience will find an audience craving a more thoughtful co-op shooter despite my criticisms and concerns. With excellent gunplay, awesome destructibility, a huge roster of playable characters, and a suite of well-designed stages, this experimental entry in the long-running military shooter franchise checks many of the right boxes. Rainbow Six Extraction might not be one of the best shooters on Xbox, but if you have some good friends and Xbox Game Pass, I'd highly recommend trying it for yourself.

Rainbow Six Extraction is set to release on Jan. 20, 2022 on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, Stadia, Ubisoft Connect, Amazon Luna, and the Epic Games Store. It will be hitting Xbox Game Pass on day one.

Miles Dompier

Miles Dompier is a Freelance Video Producer for Windows Central, focusing on video content for Windows Central Gaming. In addition to writing or producing news, reviews, and gaming guides, Miles delivers fun, community-focused videos for the Windows Central Gaming YouTube channel. Miles also hosts Xbox Chaturdays every Saturday, which serves as the Windows Central Gaming weekly podcast.