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While Rainbow Six Siege has gone from strength to strength since its release in 2015, becoming one of the biggest shooters in the world, it's had one ugly mistake hanging over its head: Tachanka. The Russian heavy has been in the game since the beginning but quickly became a joke among players, despite his RP-46 Degtyaryov machine gun.
The problem was that Tachanka just wasn't all that useful. As the game evolved, Tachanka and his WW2-era machine gun became stuck in the past and barely used by players. "He's the most useless operator," game director Leroy Athanassoff admits to us.
In Siege, every operator has a special ability - these can be highly technical, like Iana's hologram-projecting drones, or simple blunt instruments, like Sledge's wall-shattering hammer. And it's these unique talents that determine who gets picked for online 5v5 matches.
Tachanka's ability is to set up his machine gun as a turret, locking down an area with overwhelming firepower. On paper he looks like a pretty useful character, able to dish out the pain to anyone caught in his crosshairs. However, in practice, Tachanka didn't work that way.
"When we made the game five years ago, it was very different and we had different ideas of what made a good operator," art director Alexander Karpazis explains. "[Since launch] we realised mobility is one of the key things in the game. So having an operator who has to be tied down to one spot is absolutely detrimental to how you play him."
Despite never being picked - in fact, because he was never picked - Tachanka has become beloved by the Rainbow Six community. Through fan art, GIFs, and shitposts he's become a meme among players, a charming dolt, the operator always left on the bench and never given a chance to shine.
But, while he may be a fixture of the community, Tachanka is a very costly joke for Ubisoft. "There is something that the community doesn't know," Athanassoff tells us. "He is also a meme for us game devs. Why? Because he is the most-bugged operator. That means each season, when we release new content, we have a huge amount of work to deal with, with Tachanka. This is a problem because we are fixing bugs for features that are never played."
It reached the point where the team that they had to do something to make Tachanka worth the effort. He couldn't be a dead weight any longer.
Slight tweaks weren't going to cut it. Over the years Ubisoft has tried to patch Tachanka into a usable state but, as Siege has become more of a movement game, his turret ability has been a fundamental flaw the team hasn't overcome. He was going to have to be completely redesigned.
"[Tachanka] went through the same process of creating a new operator," Athanassoff said. "Almost nine months of production, including a pro [player] workshop."
"He's an icon, right?," lead designer Jean-Baptiste Halle told us. "We wanted to keep his whole personality that makes him unique, and makes him this icon of Siege. But, we knew for sure his whole gameplay had to change. What was clear was the whole concept of the turret and the immobility that came with it had to go because you can't play without being mobile in Siege."
The team knew they had to get rid of his turret, but what they should replace it with was a challenge. "It's easy to find gadgets when you have no limitations," Athanassoff explains. "But this is not what Tachanka would do; Tachanka loves to collect old World War Two weaponry." So the Russian operator would need a gadget or weapon that fit his character and was useful in modern, mobile Rainbow Six Siege games. "It was a struggle to find the right function, and the correct way to address this function," Athanassoff adds.
In the end, the team didn't stray too far from the mould. "It was really about lifting that LMG from the mounted turret to let him kind of move around a lot more," Karpazis says. The redesigned Tachanka simply carries the heavy gun and no longer needs to erect the turret mount before he can fire. The weapon has a slower rate of fire and a hell of a kick when it comes to recoil, but it means he can now fire and relocate much more quickly.
Not only that, coupled with Siege's impressive destruction tech, you can now carve out holes in a map's walls, completely restructuring the interior of a level. This is something players already do with shotguns, opening up new pathways to flank their enemies.
The team wanted to do more, though. The new, more mobile machine gun made him as useful as other 'anchors' - characters that act as the last line of defense, guarding the objective site - but he needed something else that would make him uniquely useful.
"This is where we come to with the incendiary cannon," Athanassoff says. It's a grenade launcher that fires explosives that start slow-burning fires, making a patch of ground largely impassable. The weapon is a chunky gunmetal design - "It really looks like something this character would love and would own and still has the function of adding indirect line of sight," Athanassoff says.
Tachanka players will be able to fire the grenades at walls to bounce them round corners, catching enemies off guard without having to walk into danger. "It's a very good gadget to slow down the progression of characters," Halle adds. "If you really want to lock a very specific point, like a plant spot for the [bomb] defuser, you can do it for a really long amount of time."
The new Tachanka is like a walking battle tank. His primary weapon is a rapid-fire machine gun that chews up walls and opponents with ease, presenting a terrible threat to his enemies. And his secondary is a primitive weapon that you can use to direct your foes where you want them - away from objectives and into danger.
Ubisoft hasn't said when this reworked Tachanka will be released, though he will be part of Year 5's updates. It's only when he's in players' hands that we'll see not only if he starts being picked for matches, but also whether he will hold onto his place in their hearts.
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