The First Person Shooter (FPS) genre is one that has stagnated over the past few years, coming up with fewer and fewer interesting games, and what seems like an almost endless parade of modern or ‘realistic’ shooters, realistic being code from gritty, grey and teeth-grindingly boring.
Insurgency, the first full release by developers New World Interactive, is the followup from the highly successful Insurgency: Modern Infantry Combat mod for Half-Life 2 and is a realistic shooter. No, not one of those realistic shooters, an actual realistic shooter. It has realism and all of that other boring stuff that gets ignored by the others in this procession, all of which will be described in this, my Insurgency Review.
The initial release of Insurgency came on the early access system of Steam back in April, last year, and since then New World have taken comments from the fans on board, while also balancing it and keeping it to the vision that they are wanting. What seems to be the main driving force of this vision comes from the military training and experience of current community manager Andrew Spearin, the founder of the original Half-Life 2 mod.
Realism, or realistic, is one of those descriptive words about a game that should always come with a huge asterisk, indicates that there is a caveat. Maybe it means that some realism, large amounts or small, has been sacrificed for gameplay purposes, which is always understanable. Maybe it actually means that the realism is taken from the developers ideas of what realistic combat is, more than likely far from the truth. Insurgency, thankfully, lies snugly under the covers of the former and then only sacrificing little for the sake of gameplay.
How it manages this shows through a number of different factors. The first, and most important, is the use of a class, supply and weight system. Whenever a round starts there are set classes on each team, each class having a different set of weapons and items on offer. Each of the weapons, items and even the weapon upgrades, such as scopes, are given a value, represented as supplies. On the official servers you are given ten supplies to kit yourself out.
What this essentially means is that to stand a good chance of winning, especially in the more tactical modes like Search and Destroy, then pre-planning and arranging roles on the team is more essential than ever. Somebody has to bring the C4, otherwise you may as well call it quits.
Of course when given the option of selecting between different armor and weapon accessories, even different bullets, they are all also going to have an effect on how you play. The heavy armor is great at keeping you alive against enemies with basic ammo. Those with armor piercing rounds, however, will take you down as easy as if you weren’t wearing any at all.
It’s not only the tactical design of gameplay that adds to this. Everything from the sound and visuals are also used to accentuate this depth of realism and the intensity of combat. The audio is the major contributor here. Every bullet on the battlefield leaves a distinct sound, ones fired from silenced weapons making a soft whoosh as it passes your head while others literally ping around you. Are they hitting the wood, making a dull thudding noise or is it the concrete that sends the bullet and bits of ground flying up in the air from the ricochet?
The use of audio is essential because there are no helpful HUD markers that show exactly where you’re getting shot from, like you find in other shooters, which makes sound the only real way of knowing where the enemy is. This can also be used to your advantage simply by sitting and waiting to hear some noise, as all sounds are simulated in a true 360 degrees angle, also taking account of obstacles in the way.
Sounds most inventive function, which I believe is to be included later, unless it’s been added in the past two days, will be through the in-game voice chat. Everybody in the vicinity can hear it when somebody talks, enemy or no, so it will either be possible to trick an enemy through knowingly mentioning that you’re in a different position, or simply by listening out for other enemy chatter.
Insurgency doesn’t have the best visuals around, not that it looks bad or anything, it looks pretty good on the top settings. To be fair, when you’re in the game and crouching behind a wall, a brick one, not a wood one, waiting for the right time to pop up and shoot somebody, you’re not going to be giving a damn about the visuals. You wont even notice any issues or even the parts that really shine.
Scratch that, you will notice one thing, and possibly the best looking part of Insurgency and the only part of the visual aspects that can be used tactically. That is smoke, specifically that released from a smoke grenade. Without any exaggeration, this is the best smoke grenade I’ve ever seen in a game.
The smoke, while still not exactly accurate to the world because it’d be too difficult to simulate wind etc conditions on it, still has the impression of having a life of its own, looking more like smoke billowing out, whereas in other games it just seems to be one fixed image with no real fluidity of movement to it. It’s the little things that impress me, the attention to detail. That and the tactical applications are great because either hiding in the smoke, or using it as cover, is extremely effective.
Where insurgency also shines is in the variety offered through game modes. Most of them are very much the same as ones you will have encountered before, but some are done in ways that adds a little bit of intrigue and keeps things interesting. The six current modes are divided into two sections, these being Tactical Operations and Sustained Combat.
Firefight is my favorite of all the game modes. There are three objectives to capture, effectively capture the flag, with each team starting with one and there being a neutral one. What makes this interesting is that each team will only spawn when the surviving ones capture an objective, meaning it can be incredibly tense to be the only one left alive, attempting to capture an area to bring your team back.
Search & Destroy is the mode everybody should be used to by now. Two cache’s are placed in three possible locations. However, it has a similar addition to Firefight where both teams dead only spawn when a cache is destroyed.
VIP is probably the mode that requires the most tactical planning and co-ordination in Insurgency. The objective of one team is to escort the VIP to a set location, the other team has to stop them, and the VIP is only armed with a silenced pistol.
Skirmish is the more protracted of game modes. Each team is given a supply cache to protect and until this is destroyed, the team has unlimited waves of reinforcements until the cache is destroyed, and there are also three objectives to capture. If both teams lose their supply caches, then the game turns into the same sort as a Firefight match.
Strike is my least favorite of modes. It would have been Search and Destroy, but this is just S&D without the emphasis on tactical thinking and exploration. The defending team has three caches, the attacking team has to destroy the caches. If the attacking team destroys a cache, they get extra time and reinforcements and the defending team loses a reinforcement wave.
Push puts me in the same mind of Battlefield. I’m not sure which one brought it in, but this mode has one attacking team and one defending team, with a number of sequential objectives to capture. When one objective is captured they get more time and reinforcements to move on and capture the next. The defending team simply has to stop the attacking team.
Rush, that was it, and Battlefield: Bad Company was the one to first include it.
New World Interactive have a right to feel proud of insurgency, specifically in their aim of creating one of, if not the most realistic shooters on the market. There’s no doubt in my mind, though, that Insurgency is going to bring forward a very divided opinion amongst the people who give it a go.
Those who enjoy the slower, more tactical shooters, like Counter-Strike, are going to be happy that one has pushed beyond that level and taken it a little further, possibly even find themselves challenged further. Others, the ones more accustomed to twitchier and faster shooters like Call of Duty, Battlefield and their ilk, could find themselves turned off as running and gunning in Insurgency is a quick way to find yourself eating a bullet sandwich, without the bread.
For what it does, Insurgency is a very good game. The promise of future, free, DLC like new maps and areas to fight in should add a long life to what looks like it could have a strong, active, community. To find out more about Insurgency, please visit the Steam page.Related: Insurgency, MMOFPS, New World Interactive, Review