Flying cattle class is a squeeze at the best of times even more so when your carry-on luggage is a trussed-up hostage. Not that this flight is taking off any time soon. Your team of five scatter across the cramped cabin and take up strategic positions around the hostage. You’ve fortified the area from attack, but now, all you can do now is wait.

And it’s the wait that kills you. The hostage’s knights in shining (police) armour could breach the fuselage at any moment. It could be in three seconds, or three minutes all you know for sure is that they will. And when they do, it’s likely to be loud, sudden, and through a hole that didn’t exist a few seconds ago. Welcome to Siege, the online mode that, Ubisoft claims, will reverse the trend of online multiplayer shooters valuing twitches over tactics.


Siege was first shown at last year’s E3 event, and we were invited to Ubi’s Montreal office to play an updated version last month. The general concept remains the same. It’s five-on-five warfare, with teams alternating between defending and rescuing a hostage. There’s no respawning, and since the action takes place entirely within small, compact interiors, engagement with the enemy invariably happens at close-quarters, and is quick and lethal. One massive change we did note is that the rigid role-based class system from last year’s demo has been abolished. Instead, players pick from one of twenty operators (ten on the defending side, ten on the attacking side), each of which boasts a gadget that is unique to them. There’s responsibility in this choice once you pick an operator, no-one else can play as them so you have to use this gadget to the best of your abilities.
“The action takes place entirely within small, compact interiors”
On the attacking side, these gadgets are all designed to help you breach into the room where the terrorists have chosen to place the hostage Sledge’s massive hammer allows him to knock down doors without having to resort to time-consuming (and noisy) explosives, while Thatcher’s EMP grenades knock out any waiting electronic traps that are lurking nearby.

Our favourite is Ash she brings a breach charge launching device to the party, meaning you can take down one of the level’s vulnerable interior walls without having to get near it. As we grew in confidence, we decided to play with the ability in different ways using the remote launcher to destroy a wall on the other side of the plane. As the defenders rushed to investigate, we were able to move in to the hostage room while their backs were turned.

Sit It Out
The attackers can win the round by escorting the hostage out of the building, but this is fraught with danger, as they can easily be caught in the crossfire as you escape, resulting in an instant loss. Both sides might instead prefer to attempt to win by taking out all five members of the other team. For the defenders, however, there’s another option: simply wait out the timer and they’ll be awarded the round. And the defensive operators’ special abilities reflect the fact that time is on their side.

Most of their gadgets come into play during the opening minute of the round, where the attackers are banished outside (but can snoop within using tiny little drones) while the defenders fortify the area. All defenders can board up windows and doors, or reinforce vulnerable walls and floors, but only Castle can erect reinforced boards capable of withstanding detonation blasts. If you’ve picked an insertion point downstairs (or, in the case of the newly-revealed Plane level, in the hold), you might want to set Castle to work on reinforcing the ceiling, otherwise the attackers might try to blast through from above. Others come into play later in the stage. Pulse’s heartbeat sensor enables you to see the locations of nearby enemies, but you’ll have to communicate this to your teammates over the mic.

The overhaul has worked wonders to tighten the game’s framework. Instead of being pigeonholed in a prescribed role, players’ brains are freed to concentrate on the one specific power they bring to the table. The only question now is: will the public play it in the spirit it’s intended? A closed beta, scheduled for later this year for fans who have pre-ordered, will hold the answer.

Double Feature
Movies to get you in the mood

Léon
More for the incredible climax rather than the whole ‘looking after plants while eschewing the outside world’ vibe. Luc Besson’s hitman flick is a  beautiful piece of cinema, albeit slightly slower-paced than most Siege matches.

Hostage
Sometimes these things just write themselves. It may not be a Willis classic, but this 2005 piece is at least straight to the point and full of smashed glass and angry shooting. It even features gaming’s favourite explosive: the Molotov cocktail.

The negotiator
Who negotiates with the negotiator? The other negotiator, that’s who! Kevin Spacey and Samuel L Jackson knock their well-trained heads together when the latter goes rogue to clear his name. Sadly there’s not a single character called Sledge.