Hands-on: Rainbow Six Siege’s new operators and reworked Kanal are a massive win for competitive gameplay

Rainbow Six Siege’s next major update, Operation Ember Rise, is nearly here, and we had the chance to go hands-on with it in Raleigh at the Rainbow Six Major in July.

The update is absolutely massive. There are new operators, another total map rework akin to Hereford base, changes to game queues, disciplinary actions, a new competitive rank, and even a standard set of balance changes. It’s hard to strike an opinion on something like a new rank and a new game queue, so instead, we can break down exactly how we interacted with the new operators and map, included how we think they hold up with the rest of the game. Before we tear it all down in detail, and before you dive into it yourself, rest assured that this is some of Ubisoft’s best work. 

The operator gadgets are fun and impactful, they have a wide array of utility that allows them to use more than one solid strategy, and the reworked Kanal hits all the right notes. The only complaint we had with the operators, well, you’ll have to find out for yourself.

After a few hours of solid playtesting with Ubisoft at the event, here’s how it all breaks down.

New operators

Goyo

Goyo and Amaru are both incredibly impressive operators. They bring a lot of heavy implications with them into the competitive meta, and they aren’t defined by only one playstyle.

Goyo, for instance, can both anchor a bombsite and roam around the map if he so chooses. His loadout and gadget are a unique combination, and that combination is ultimately to thank for his versatility. His gadget, for instance, is his Volcan Shield. To explain it simply, it’s a tank of gasoline screwed into the back of a normal ballistic shield. That’s kind of all it is, but it has many, many uses. 

You can use it to trap a doorway, only to blow it up when an attacker vaults over it, or you can make its location obvious and blow it up far before an enemy even tries to vault it. The flames burn for a long time when it’s detonated, which means it can be used to simply zone off an area at the right moment. These gas canisters can be detonated by allies, too, simply with bullets or other explosives, meaning Goyo doesn’t need to remain in the room, although he performs well as an anchor with his ACOG shotgun.

Since he doesn’t necessarily need to stay near the objective, his Vector and two-speed can be used to roam around the map. So, he can anchor just fine, or he can deploy his shields and leave, trusting his defending allies to detonate them at the right time. The fact that he can roam with a Vector is really my only complaint about him, it seems a little too strong as a first impression, but otherwise, I’m a big fan. The versatility allows for major skill expression, and the ability to deploy so many shields can be a defense meta-changer. It could also allow anti-shield attackers to rejoin the meta.

Amaru

While there’s one complaint about the otherwise excellent Goyo, I have no complaints about Amaru. She’s just as versatile, and her gadget, while it seems wildly OP at first, will require some serious practice and skill to use properly.

Her gadget, the grappling hook, propels Amaru at very high speed through the air to rooftops, windows, and, most importantly, ceiling breaches. Navigating the map from window to window is what most players will notice, and in fact, most of the press room gasped when we saw her zipping from window to window and blitz-breaching windows as soon as rounds began. As we quickly found out, however, is that as soon as the enemy adapted to the expectation of seeing an Amaru in every round, her window-breaching was far less useful.

Frost, Kapkan, and Lesion began to make more and more appearances. As she can’t stop to check a window for traps once she’s begun the grappling process, they were very, very effective, provided the trappers could assume where she’d enter the building. Where she really shines, however, is ceiling hatches. The ability to come up through a floor hatch is a game changer. It opens up an entirely new entry point, sometimes several, depending on the map and spawn. Not only that, but her ability to maneuver around the inside of buildings will be nigh unmatched. She’ll be able to flank roamers and juke pursuers with more ease than most other operators in the game.

In the right hands, she’s a dangerous tool, but without a coordinated team, a lot of those possibilities go out the window. That’s why I expect she’ll be more useful in the hands of more talented players at higher ranks, perhaps even in pro play. Another very solid operator that will have rippling effects on the meta, but not one that’ll be easy to master.

As far as her loadout goes, it’s solid. The only head scratcher is the G8A1 LMG, which feels a bit too heavy and slow for her ganking and blitzing playstyles. Fortunately, there’s an angled grip to remedy that a bit, or she can run a Supernova shotgun and SMG sidearm, which fit her style quite well.

Map rework: Kanal

Kanal’s update is one of the best map reworks we’ve seen in Siege so far. Kanal was, by and large, already a fun map, but it had glaring problems, and that’s where we’ll start.

The two big problems with Kanal were these: Spawn peaking, and maneuverability. Both were addressed by Ubisoft with this update, and they were addressed masterfully. To nail down spawn peaking, which was a rampant issue throughout the entire map more than on any other map in the game, Ubisoft removed every single breakable window from the map when the development process began. And then, one window at a time was re-introduced in the proper places, ensuring that each spot couldn’t be abused beforehand. The result is solid. Windows feel deliberate and strategic rather than just vomited all over the map.

To fix map maneuverability, Ubisoft added a second staircase to each of the two buildings, with a total of four now in the whole map, and the addition of another skywalk. Now, there are more options for approaching sites and more options for roamers to out-maneuver attackers. It opens the door for a lot more strategic gameplay that the map, despite its massive size, lacked sorely before the update.

The map’s size and identity remain in tact, unlike Hereford, which is an entirely new map after its update. Some sites feel inherently different, like the boat site in the basement, which now isn’t exposed to the outside via one destructible wall, but for the most part, the map feels like Kanal still. Moving around it feels familiar, despite its differences, but still much better.