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Hands-on with Rainbow Six Siege's wonderfully weird next update

The only thing more annoying than someone's phone ringing in the middle of a movie theater is five phones ringing in the middle of a tense, heavily-armed hostage rescue mission.

This is the special ability of Grace "Dokkaebi" Nam, one of three operators arriving this month in Operation White Noise, the next Rainbow Six Siege update. I played as her and the other two new characters on Siege's next map, Myok Meok Tower, at a preview event last week. 

In a game that already contains unusual traps and gadgets, Dokkaebi stands out as one of Rainbow Six's most satisfying gimmicks. She can essentially text anxiety to her enemies, twice per round, by uploading a virus to their phones. When your phone is hacked by Dokkaebi, you have to tap and hold the 5 key to reset it. Until you do, it will vibrate endlessly in your pocket, audible to teammates and enemies alike.

Here's what that looks and sounds like:

It's an abrasive sound effect to say the least. It makes you feel compromised. I like that Siege continues to empower players to play psychological games with one another, something you don't see much of elsewhere in the genre.

Dokkaebi's ability is very situational, though, and using it frivolously renders it almost useless. It's most effective when triggered immediately before an assault—defenders have to choose whether to shut off their phones, which are revealing their approximate position through sound, or to keep their guns trained on the doorway they're guarding.

It's cool to have a map where the attackers have total security in the opening seconds of the round.

This isn't her only trick. Dokkaebi also turns the tables on a long-standing piece of Siege's meta. For two years, destroying the surveillance cameras dotted around the map has been a no-brainer—when you're attacker, you obviously want to deny defenders the ability to spy on you. But Dokkaebi can hack the phone of a killed enemy to give all of her teammates access to those static cameras, finally giving attackers a reason to keep one or two of those cameras in tact.

This might also discourage lurking, a common technique at all levels of play where one defender plays away from the objective. If a lurker gets picked off early in a round, Dokkaebi could sprint over to their corpse, hack their phone, and access their cameras. That includes "Black Eye" cameras placed by Valkyrie.

The other ops

Also arriving in the update is Zofia, a Polish operator on the attacker side. Zofia's much more conventional: she carries an LMG or an AR alongside her unique gadget, a double-barrelled grenade launcher that can fire stun or impact grenades without reloading. 

She's sort of like Ash mixed with Ela—ranged breaching and concussion consolidated into one character. I don't favor either of those characters when I play, so maybe it's not surprising that I had trouble finding good situations for her abilities. I guess if I'm going to launch a grenade at someone, I'd rather just shoot at them. Zofia isn't reinventing the wheel—players already have access to impact and stun grenades—she's just repackaging it.

Vigil, the final operator coming in this update, is more interesting, although I'm likewise grappling with how useful his kit is. His ability, when active, renders him invisible to drones and cameras. It can stay running for about 20 seconds, after which it recharges. Any action interrupts it, like putting up a barricade or firing your weapon.

When I first tried Virgil, I was giddy. He's a direct counter to an entire phase of the game, and the one gadget that all players have. Using his ability produces a sneaky feeling of "I know something you don't know." Imagine being the last player alive on a bombsite while the attackers are droning it, desperately trying to figure out where you are before entry. Or sitting at the outer edge of a map as a drone slips by, doesn't spot you, and its owner charges in behind it blindly, into your sights.

On the other hand, I wasn't able to make these invisibility fantasies real in a match. Drones see a 'distortion effect' when they're near Vigil, hinting at his presence, and I wonder if that half-defeats the purpose of his kit. If you're invisible, but drones can sense you're nearby, that seems almost as good as knowing exactly where you are. Still, it's a cool idea that I'm looking forward to tinkering with more.

Business time

I need to talk about the new map, because it's one of the most exciting in Siege's varied pool of locations. The layout is clean yet complicated: a stylish Korean skyscraper that includes a check-in desk, a small museum, gift shop, art gallery, CEO's office, tea room, bar, and a server room. These rooms are stacked on two floors, with a central hallway and promenade encircling them. None of the bombsite rooms have exterior windows, so none of them can be rappelled into. Here's a three-minute tour of the layout I captured:

One of the things you might notice from this footage is that the attackers start each match on a rooftop that only they can access. In this way, Myok Meok Tower eliminates the possibility of 'spawn peeking,' the tactic of peering out a window seconds into the round to catch the attackers off-guard. Some players regard it as a cheap tactic, and Ubisoft has rearranged pieces of other levels to make it more difficult. 

It's cool to have a map where the attackers have total security in the opening seconds of the round. At the same time, there's plenty of risk and uncertainty for the attackers. The vertical drop into the elevator shaft at the center of the map is extremely dangerous. And to hop to the second floor from third, you likewise either have to breach floor panels, or drop onto the promenade that circles the second floor, where lurkers could be right around the corner.

Thankfully this complexity isn't a repeat of Rainbow Six's Theme Park map, which was bursting with campiness and creativity, but at the expense of readability. After three or four matches I had a sense of the relationship between Myok Meok Tower's areas and what the key hotspots were.

I'm excited about this update. I think Dokkaebi will have a fun effect on the meta, and hopefully Myok Meok Tower is the beginning of more maps that eliminate spawn-peeking as a technique. Operation White Noise should be out this month.

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