My friend calls it “sitting back.” It’s the moment you can finally set the controller down and lean back in your chair. The moment when you let out the breath you didn’t know you were holding or blink your eyes as they sting from being held open so long. The single indescribable moment that you can finally let down your guard and feel the wave of victory sweep over you. In all my years of gaming, Rainbow Six Siege is the only game to give me this feeling night-after-night.
I’m not pretending there aren’t other games out there that do this. Many games do it, but not like the way Siege does it repeatedly throughout the game. I’ve never played Counter Strike but I imagine that is probably the most similar. I also know people will say any competitive game gives you that feeling, like MOBAs for example, and while that is certainly true, it’s different.
In most games, it generally isn’t the action moments that shoot your nerves through the roof, but before I get to what does, let me explain. I’ll use Call of Duty as an example just because most people can relate. When you are constantly in a gunfight you are acting on impulse with some thoughts spurring your movement. You are killing, running, jumping, and what have you. There are constant stimuli everywhere keeping your heart pumping, mind cranking, and curse words spewing. Then you die and you sit back in your chair for a brief respite, or angrily yell at the TV. But there was no real build up to a huge drop in tension. The tension is always there on one level from the beginning to end. Not to mention in most game modes you can jump right back into the round without even a second break.
MOBAs may be tense, but not in the way i mean. Even when you are about to be victorious or suffer defeat, you are trying up until the last moment. Every action strings from one to the next. You are constantly fighting every second and you tend to know before it happens whether you are going to win or lose. I’m not saying winning or losing doesn’t make you feel something. But there’s a difference in the build and release of tension. In both games you know who will probably win or lose, or you are fighting until the last moment with constant action that keeps you moving.
One last quick example. Imagine a horror movie. Now the scariest moments are when it’s completely silent before something jumps out at you. It’s that building of tension before a big release. If a horror film kept throwing scary things at you with no breaks, you would grow used to it, and even if you are constantly tense, the let off isn’t as severe.
This is what Siege does so well it’s frightening.
I’ve played over 150 hours of Siege. The gunfights don’t make me nervous. My reflexes carry me through them and I know what to do. I see a guy, I shoot a guy. Maybe I have a brief thought of flanking but I know almost instantly who has the advantage and what I should do. I may win and cheer, or lose and sigh. But the effect isn’t the same as when you are not firing your gun.
When I am on defense sitting by an objective and my entire party is silent listening but not a single noise is being made…when I check every camera and not a single enemy can be seen on them…when literally minutes go by without a single action from the enemy team…I am terrified.
What are they doing? What’s happening? Who’s their squad made up of? Is this wall going to be breached behind me? Are they about to make their move? Did they see me with a drone and know exactly where I am? Should I move from my spot? Can I expect a close fight or a ranged one?
Dozens and dozens of questions swim through my head. This moment of antebellum before the firefight begins raises the tension far past the actual battle. It builds and builds and builds.
Then you hear a gunshot in the distance, the notification of your teammate dying flicks at the corner of your eye, and someone in your party shouts:
“No way! That’s bull sh-”
“Who was it!” Someone else cuts him off.
The importance of just knowing who you’re up against makes all the difference. It’s why Siege also did the impossible and make me finally play with a microphone.
All this only builds the tension as we wait and wait. The time ticks down but some teams don’t make their move until less than a minute. But when that move is made…all hell breaks lose.
Walls explode, grenades are thrown, people come flying in with guns spraying from all direction. This isn’t even the release of the tension. It’s only building upon it further as everything is happening all at once. You do everything you can to survive and pull your team out on top. You only get one chance to get it right. There is no dying only to come back 5 seconds later with renewed energy. Once you die…that’s it. And with such little health the fights may only last a couple seconds.
And when that final body drops and it’s officially over? That’s when you sit back in your chair. That’s when all that tension, all those questions, and all your thoughts are immediately washed away. This is different than winning or losing in another game. You weren’t fighting from start to finish. You are waiting and waiting and waiting. That period before the action. That’s horrifying. That unknowing period where the possibilities in your mind are spilling over as you try to organize your thoughts. Then to lay everything on the line in one moment, with no chances to make up for any mistakes…that’s pressure.
That’s what Siege is. Game after game.
Okay, not every single game is like that. But many are. The same can be said on offense when you have less than a minute to move on the objective, but there’s a Pulse lurking somewhere using his heartbeat sensor to see through walls. He could be behind any wall and you don’t know (unless you have IQ searching with her own electronic detective device). Even when there is no Pulse, there could still be other roamers ready to ambush you. There are still so many thoughts swirling in your head because every step you take could be walking into an ambush.
Where is the best place to hide in the objective room? Are there welcome mats (bear traps that automatically injure you if step on them) underneath the windows? Where did Valkyria throw her cameras to spy on us? Is Caveira stalking me with her ability to interrogate me and reveal my entire team to the enemy? What kill-holes do they have to ambush me as I walk past?
You get the point. The difference with Siege isn’t the amount of tension but how it differs. You can’t coast on reflexes and adrenaline. You can’t charge in (although rarely it works) because every move you make could be the end. No matter where you are on the level, you need to watch your back. This constant stress and mental questioning of what to do next is what really puts the pressure on you the entire time you’re playing.
All this makes Siege have consistent pressure at all times even though you may only see one other person the whole round and fire a handful of bullets. Each match doesn’t have to be filled with gunfights and it can still be beyond stressful. That’s incredible to me! In COD or Battlefield, if there are a few minutes when I’m not fighting, I consider myself bored and I need to “get back to the action.” In Siege, the minute the round starts the tension begins to build. It never stops until you see that defeat or victory screen.
It’s only then that you can finally let out a breath and just…sit back.