Back in November it was revealed that Ubisoft were supporting Rainbow Six: Siege with another year of content, following the same formula as the first - four seasons, with one map and two operators in each, along with additional content like weapons and skins. The first of these seasons, Operation Velvet Shell, is now upon us, so here's everything you need to know about it.
As has been shown before, Operation Velvet Shell's new map, called Coastline, will be set in Spain, and it's a party island in Ibiza, complete with all the luxuries you'd expect: a pool, neon lights, and plenty of sunshine. We played a lot of the it recently at Ubisoft's studio in Montreal, and we noticed there was a lot of nice scenery that would have been interesting to explore, but as with every map in Siege, it's all about breaching the building, not wandering around outside of it.
The building in question has two floors and is kitted out with all the stuff you'd expect in Ibiza - it feels like a party house - but the mixture of locations is what makes it really interesting. There are plenty of tight close-quarters areas like corridors, however, these are mixed with open spaces like courtyards and big rooms with multiple doorways. Whereas some maps in Siege may be tall and thin, this is definitely short and wide, and the coloured rooms help keep things clear and organised.
That doesn't mean verticality is shut off though. There are plenty of ways you can get in through the top and bottom, and the fact it's so wide also means that there are plenty of ways to destroy the floor and see what's above and below you too. For those who like to keep their distance and snipe, though, there's also the option to use things in your surroundings (like ruins) to shoot through windows.
The Operators: Mira
The first of the new operators, the defender, is called Mira, and brings a new SMG into the mix, not to mention the first secondary shotgun, so if firepower is your thing, this shouldn't be an issue with Mira, especially since she has a lot of armour too.
As with all operators, though, the central focus is her ability, and this is a one way mirror (not Mira) that she can install on walls. She has two at her disposal, and this works when you place these on destructible or reinforced walls, it allows you to see through it, but enemies can't. They can see it's there as a black screen, though, so it's not totally inconspicuous.
The catch is that when you see someone you can't shoot straight away, as you need to shoot/hit a gas canister under the mirror to disarm it and open fire. This is another aspect we got to play with at Ubisoft's studio, and we thought this opened up a lot of possibilities, as you could use it to survey open spaces while protecting yourself too, which should prove as useful in reconnaissance as Pulse's heartbeat sensor. We predict it will take a while for players to get used to, and attackers will fall victim to it for a time.
The Operators: Jackal
Jackal is the new attacker that comes with Operation Velvet Shell, and he's one for those who like a middle-of-the-road experience. His armour is medium, as is his speed, and he can use a variety of weapons, including assaults rifles, shotguns, and SMGs, so pretty much anyone can use him at some stage regardless of preference.
His ability also helps with detection, as he has a visor that can detect player footprints, with different colours indicating the freshness of the print. We used this a couple of times during our time, however, it took us a while to get used to the colours of the prints and how close that meant enemies were. For example, we followed one trail and walked right to an enemy facing us, so it needs to be used sensibly. We can see it being used to devastating effect though.
Prints can also be scanned to reveal the location to teammates too, and this can't be turned off for the scanned player. There's one catch with Jackal though - Caveira is undetected when using silent step, so you still have to be on your toes for her.
Along with Velvet Shell there is also an update that will affect the whole of the game, as detailed at the 6 Invitational, which includes the additional content you'd expect with a new season - weapon skins and an elite set for Rook - but also changes to UI and menus. Now you can access menus while queuing for matches, for example, much like in other shooters such as Overwatch.
In terms of what we can expect moving further into the second year, Ubisoft hopes to introduce a loot system to regularly "thank" the players, as they phrased it, for playing. These are intended to provide an alternative way to earn skins rather than paying for them. Hit detection is also something they want to work to refine.
All of this is part of their philosophy that the second year is all about the health of the game. The player numbers have risen, and they have overcome a slow launch plagued by matchmaking issues in order to get to where they want to be, epitomised by the 6 Invitational, the game's biggest competition to date, but now they're working to ensure the game stays healthy and gets more so throughout the year.
Operation Velvet Shell's new content is good, and Ubisoft weren't lying when they said in Montreal that they were changing the meta, as they will give new avenues of exploration, not to mention give different operators ways to combat them (like Caveira against Jackal, for instance). Ubisoft are also going to work to maintain existing operators moving forward, and this can only be a good thing.
With the three competitive leagues on PC, and major leagues on consoles, they also aren't lying about building a competitive scene for the game, and all of this emphasises just how serious Ubisoft are about Rainbow Six: Siege being built to last. Velvet Shell looks like it should be a great start to an even greater second year of content, a year that will also take us to Hong Kong, Poland, and South Korea.