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Rainbow Six Siege Operation Grim Sky review - new operators and map tweaks renovate the meta with a sledgehammer blow

Almost three years on and Siege has now outlived all of my relationships. Guess I should get a new patch every three months.

The transition of Rainbow Six Siege from undervalued gem to one of the top shooters out there is no secret, to the extent that it’s held as the bar for any game that seeks to turns itself around.

Part of the reason the game was successful in this regard was that, from launch, it was already in a solid position. It was far from perfect - many veterans will speak of the days where Jäger had an ACOG scope and the game’s technical issues prior to Operation Health - but it had solid foundations. Almost three years later, we’re on Year 3, Season 3: Operation Grim Sky, which could be considered yet another turning point for Siege.

In the past, operators have been reworked, gadgets improved and altered to fit the metagame and generally improve the experience, but maps have remained mostly static. This posed a problem: while some maps served to be strong, coherent designs, working well at both average and competitive level, others proved to be inherently flawed. This season marks the first complete map rework, the first step in renovating the game’s foundations.

That map is Hereford. What was previously a rather binary map that offered little depth is now a complex series of hallways, feeling more like that one time you visited your rich mate’s house when you were at school and got lost in hallways trying to find the toilets. It works, once you get the hang of it, despite having all the personality of a mediocre paintball arena. It does, however, encourage the diversity in playstyles that have grown through the seasons.

Once upon a time, there was only one anchor (a term for operators who stay on the objective when defending, often the last bastion of defence) in Rainbow Six Siege. Sure, other operators could have a similar role, but Rook was the true anchor. A slow, reliable operator, he’d be the lynchpin, the one that his team could fall back on in a defense. Siege revolved around this metagame for some time, where most players would instead be roamers, darting from window to window, getting a few shots off, hopefully a kill, before running away.

Over time, the roamers got slightly nerfed, attackers got new ways to deal with roamers, and more anchors came into play. More traps, more tools to watch doors, more advantages for defenders to give themselves in tight spaces; the anchor has become a fully-fledged role in operator diversity, no longer just a Rook main by another name.

In comes Clash, Operation Grim Sky’s new operator for defenders. The hype train hasn’t stopped since her reveal: she’s the first defender with a personal shield, a full-body riot shield with tasers attached. You cannot fight Clash head-on, your bullets will just hit the shield, she allows players to live out the fantasy of kettling rioters while calling them various British obscenities (albeit with all the believability of a Peaky Blinders side character).

For the average player, it’s yet another tool in the arsenal for anchor defenders. Clash represents the fact that Rainbow Six Siege is not, and never really will be, a game about peeking windows and nabbing headshots, as confident as you may be in that. There are multiple playstyles in Siege: for a game about being a crack team of the world’s best shooters of guns, they’ve chosen to add someone who doesn’t have a primary gun.

It’s a new way to play defence, but still fits within the realm of anchors. She can push forward when confident, blocking doorways and generally being an imposing presence, rather than hiding behind cover. When an operator fits the mould but brings something new it’s like we’re children being given a new toy. We know how it fits in to what we have, but oh gosh are we going to have some fun seeing how it works with our other toys.

Maverick, the attacking operator added in Operation Grim Sky, is a similar story. He doesn’t add a wildly new mechanic, he joins the ranks of Thermite and Hibana as being an operator who can destroy fortified walls. A Maverick player just gets a bit more up close and personal, is all. He walks up to a wall, opens a small hole, and peeks in. Rainbow Six’s voyeur.

Again, he doesn’t change the game. The way Operation Grim Sky will affect high level competitive play is something best left to those who can see the future or the top 0.1% of players, but he’s a new toy to play with.

Being able to create multiple holes results in what feels like Maverick taunting you with his own game of whack-a-mole, challenging you to anticipate what hole he might look through, creating holes big enough to jump through is both nerve wracking as Maverick, as you’re open to being shot while you’ve got the blowtorch out, and as the opponents you don’t know how many guns are going to be aiming through that hole once it falls out.

These new operators aren’t just about what it’s fun to play as, they’re about what it’s fun to play against. Personally, Maverick isn’t my favourite, I’m not nearly aggressive enough to make him work too well, but playing against Maverick has been creating new situations that complement the rest of the game.

It’s the same for Clash. Only one person is Clash at any one time, whereas five people are against her and flanking is a real threat. While she is that imposing presence, her weaknesses are stark and make her fun to play against, as well as with.

With each season comes the sentence “Rainbow Six Siege is the best it has ever been” from somebody. It isn’t hyperbole, the game does constantly improve from season to season. The core concept of competitive PvP military shooting in an objective-focused game is at the point of being fully realised now. The game will continue to grow, assuming those 10 years of Rainbow Six Siege come to fruition, but with the kinks ironed out, Rainbow Six Siege is the best competitive military shooter out there.

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