I've been playing Rainbow Six Siege nearly every day since its release in December 2015. I've seen overpowered operators rise and fall, a series of usability fixes and map tweaks to keep the community happy, and countless free additions to the game.
So, I can tell you with all the authority I need that it's the best multiplayer shooter of this generation. Perhaps of all time. And you need to be okay with this.
The core concept of Rainbow Six Siege is simple, immediately familiar to anyone who's ever held a digital gun. A team of five attackers tries to penetrate a fortified location where an evenly matched team of five defenders holds and protects an objective. This objective could be a bomb you defuse, a hostage you rescue, or a biohazard container you'll need to stand near to "secure". You get one life per round, a single headshot from most weapons instantly kills, and each player has a unique character with their own weapons and gadgets to help get the job done.
What makes Siege so satisfying though is the wealth of systems laid over the top. Its four-minute rounds have a complexity similar to a fully featured multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game, like DotA 2 or League of Legends. And just like a MOBA, the game is at its most fascinating when these systems start to smash into each other.
Lots of noise was made about its destruction system when the game launched, but few people talk about how complex the procedural destruction really is. It's not a matter of tossing a grenade to blow a hole in any random wall, although that's a valid approach. It's what the ability to blast through the terrain in a map does to your strategies. You're no longer thinking of open sight lines and doorways, but of the ever-so-delicate walls and ceilings surrounding you. Reinforcements and bulletproof barricades can help defenders create chokepoints, but they're in short supply. If the attackers want to find a way in, they'll eventually find one.
Article continues after the video below
Each round starts with one of the best-designed parts of a video game I've seen in years, too: the drone stage. How do you get past the design problem that defenders need a 45-second head start to build their castle before the attackers try to kick it over? The answer is these drones. In the time before the round begins, the defenders are grabbing armour, putting cameras in place and setting up traps; while on the other side, the attackers have drone parkour. These little machines are piloted around the map in an attempt to find the objective and to scout out the opposition, and its strengths and weaknesses, in advance.
From there it's carnage, and despite the ever-dwindling supply of both allies and ammunition, the most important resource is time. As a defender you're mostly just trying to buy yourself as much of it as possible, and attackers are pressed into moving quickly and efficiently, to reach the objective before the time runs out. Given long enough, any defence can be unpicked – but the ceiling on how long a round can last means that players aren't often able to find the perfect way to mount an assault, and instead have to make a snap decision between one of two shitty options, based solely on what they might have seen during the drone stage.
Having the reflexes of a 15 year old will help you to get ahead here, but winning at Rainbow Six Siege requires not just player skill – communication, intuition and straight up being smarter than your opponents are essential factors. Take my favourite defender, Pulse. Pulse has a handheld heartbeat scanner that can see people's hearts thumping in their chest through walls. If an enemy gets within 12 metres while you've got the scanner out, you'll see a circle. You could kill them with a shotgun blast through the wall, or letting off an explosive, but you need to be proficient in how the scanner works to really make the most of it. Despite how it might sound, it's not a win condition – especially when you consider that the attacking operator called IQ can detect electronics through walls, electronics just like the scanner you're holding in your hands.
New on VICE Sports: How eSports Can Survive When the Sponsorship Bubble Bursts
If all this sounds like a lot to take in, it is. Six is a first person shooter for the MOBA generation – highly complex, super adaptable and incredibly fast. In return for my investment over the course of eight months, I've rarely played a round that was anywhere similar to one that's come before. I've seen strategies reworked to account for every new trick we've found, and each week a handful of new ideas are spread on the subreddit that functions as the game's official community, plans that most people haven't thought of before.
With voice comms active and four friends ready to fill in as eager teammates, Rainbow Six Siege is the finest multiplayer game I've ever played. Almost everyone I have encouraged to get into it has, and continues to love it. It's not the newest shooter on the market, or the prettiest, or the most popular, but it's the one that I can't quit going back to. It's just that good. You should probably get it, too.
More from VICE Gaming: