Rainbow Six is a tactical shooter, which focuses more on stealth and tactics than on sheer firepower. To add to the realism, all in-game characters, terrorists, hostages and Rainbow operatives, can be wounded or dispatched in just fractions of a second. Tools such as thicker body armor, automatic rifles, and grenades have little value before the player grows accustomed to the gameplay.
Before each mission is a planning stage, during which the player is given a briefing, and then chooses the operatives to be involved in the mission, their weapons, equipment and uniform/camouflage. In earlier games, the player pre-established orders and waypoints during this step. The planning stage determined elements such as the path the AI-controlled squads would follow during the mission, as well as where they will deploy devices such as flashbangs or door breaching charges.