Expectations are riding high for Rainbow Six Siege, which represents Ubisoft’s next entry into their long running tactical shooter series. After the release of Rainbow Six Vegas 2 back in 2008, the series has gone through a long transitional period filled with delays and false starts. With the ill-fated Rainbow 6: Patriots suffering multiple delays before officially being canceled back in 2014, the franchise is looking to restore its past glory with Siege.

While Game Rant was able to attend a preview event for Rainbow Six Siege a week ago, the closed alpha has finally launched for select members of the public, giving us another chance to play the upcoming shooter. And so far, we’re really enjoying what this promising title is bringing to the table. The game seems to be a great point of entry for series veterans and newcomers alike.

With the closed Alpha now in full swing for those with a code, Rainbow Six Siege presents players with one game mode, two maps, and ten operators to select from (five for each team). Even with so little content on display, Siege manages to keep players engaged and thrilled with just the amount of randomness and variety that can happen in each match.

Upon arriving at the main menu, players will only have the Hostage Rescue game mode available to play. The premise of this mode is fairly simple: one team works to defend a hostage in a certain area of the map while the other team attempts to rescue and extract the NPC. Each match is set to a best-out-of-four scoring system with players switching sides after every round. Before the round officially begins, each team has a one minute “preparation phase”. It’s here that the attacking team can scout the map using camera bots while the team on defense uses that time to fortify the area with reinforced walls, jamming devices, blockades, and anything else at their disposal.

Rainbow Six Siege Attack

From there, the siege style match kicks off as each team tries it’s best to carefully eliminate the other while avoiding death. Yes, that’s right Ubisoft has brought no respawns back to the series. The tension quickly rises as the offensive team looks to find the best point of entry while the defenders keep an eye on all possible attack points. With breaching charges available, players never know where an enemy player may strike. One thing that rang true during the alpha was that whether playing on defense or offense, the experience proves to be balanced and fun regardless of the side players are on.

Rainbow Six Siege also presents players with five classes to pick from per side. The classes each have a unique look and a specific talent to help the team. For example, Mute is able to place down jamming devices that seriously hinder attacking player’s ability to scout the map during the preparation phase. Thermite, on the other hand, is equipped with an exothermic charge that is able to blow through barricaded walls. These class options help to add a new tactical layer to the experience and keep the matches feeling fresh.

Rainbow Six Siege Load

Ubisoft’s brand new destruction engine, Realblast, is extremely satisfying even in this alpha state. Players are able to shred the maps to pieces, as bullets and explosions leave realistic holes (big and small) in the structures. Players can also breach glass windows or wooden baracades through melee attacks as well. While some of the physics are not yet up to release standards, this destruction element is a welcomed and terrifying addition to the experience.

One thing that stood out upon initially playing was that the defensive team no longer looks like a criminal faction that Ubisoft showed last year at E3. Instead, both teams are now based on classic Rainbow Six squads, Raven Shield and Rogue Spear. There’s been no word on why this change was made, though players can speculate that it better fits the class system in place now.

Rainbow Six Siege Thermite

As mentioned above, the closed alpha introduces players to two small maps, one of which was shown extensively at Ubisoft’s E3 press conference last year. While the lighting and atmosphere from the trailer is absent here, House is still a multi-story home set in the suburbs. Defenders have multiple rooms they can choose to fortify while the attackers have multiple points of entry, as well as grappling hooks for scaling the sides of the building. The other available map, Plane, feels even more claustrophobic than House, as both teams battle it out inside of a parked passenger jet. There’s a lot more entry points than it appears and each match felt more and more tense due to the small spaces to work with.

There looks to be a number of hints towards features that will be in the retail version of the game inlcuding a banner and icon that point towards a progression system. Considering most multiplayer games typically go this route, it wouldn’t be surprising.

While the game is still in a alpha state, it ran very smoothly on PC and already looks impressive, due in large part to the Anvil-Next engine. Control wise, Siege is very responsive and easy to pick up; there’s not a huge amount of moves or abilities for players to master on the keyboard. For players not comfortable for using a keyboard and mouse, Ubisoft also managed to include a gamepad option that works really well.

With a lot of new elements being brought to the table, one thing that hasn’t changed in Rainbow Six Siege is the tactical nature of this franchise. Hostage Rescue demands players communicate and work as a team. While fans continue to wait for more information about the single player campaign or whether or not Ubisoft plans to bring back the popular Terrorist Hunt mode, the multiplayer alpha managed to leave a great impression even in such an early state of development.

Rainbow Six Siege is scheduled to arrive on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sometime later in 2015.