DEATH WAITS FOR NO ONE IN INSURGENCY: SANDSTORM
Hands-on with 2018’s most intense military shooter
Format: PC, PS4, XBOX one | Publisher: focus Home Interactive | developer: new world Interactive | release: 2018 | Players: 1-16
In many respects, Insurgency: Sandstorm feels like the direct antithesis of the Battlefield multiplayer experience. For one of these titles, the oft-shouted phrase “Play The Objective” has become something of a running joke in the community – with players largely accepting that the vast majority would rather engage in a thinly veiled Team Deathmatch variant over working together in any obvious fashion. For the other, it’s a creed that runs to the very core of the game’s theme and composition – where doing anything but playing the objective is the fastest route to failure and frustration.
Insurgency: Sandstorm is a challenging military shooter inspired by the glory days of the genre. It pushes players to remember the majesty and difficulty that could so often be found intertwined in the earliest Ghost Recon and Operation Flashpoint games, updating it for the modern era in an Unreal Engine 4 extravaganza that’s as punishing to play as it is beautiful to behold.
Developer New World Interactive, then, has taken that formula and expanded it. Insurgency: Sandstorm shines in its co-operative modes, an excellent showcase of how objective-based gameplay can indeed be directly reinforced through mechanics and systems. High lethality keeps players in constant communication, pushing forward towards capture points through the modern warfare-inspired locales as a single unit.
The distinct lack of weapon spread and crosshairs ensures that shots need to be placed delicately – the bullet goes where the barrel of the weapon is pointed – while limited ammunition and no discernible HUD will quickly push you to make sure that every time that trigger is pulled, it will have to count for something.
Insurgency: Sandstorm is particularly interesting as it’s different to the shooters you’ll currently find – particularly on console. While it’s a far cry from your arcade FPS games, the likes of Overwatch and Counter-strike, it isn’t quite a simulation shooter either, veering away from the impenetrable systems of Escape
From Tarkov, SWAT 4, and ARMA III. Instead, Insurgency falls somewhere in-between the two popular sub-genres, existing as an alternative for those looking to come away from a challenge without a bloodied nose.
We went hands-on with Checkpoint, a co-operative mode that saw us teaming up with six other members of the industry in an effort to take back enemy-controlled locations on the TOWN map (which some of you may be familiar with from Insurgency’s time as a Counter-strike mod back in the day) to, eventually, destroy important ordinance with an IED. One or two hits and you’re down; with no medic class to speak of and no direct respawn system, it forces you to be wary of your movement and tracking – with players only returning to the field should you hold down a checkpointed area or successfully defend one from assault by the smart enemy AI.
Pushing slowly over a bridge, across an open space, or through claustrophobic backstreets is a consistently tense affair – death can (and often does) manifest itself from all sides. Hearing the pepper of gunfire across cover – the shriek of team-mates being flanked – never failed to get the blood pumping, with the squeeze of the trigger feeling as powerful as it did delicate.
Insurgency: Sandstorm is an intense experience that barely let up during our time with it. Air support and vehicles are limited, and so the emphasis is placed on doing the best with what you’ve got – you’ll have an opportunity to tinker with your loadout after you die, though attachments and ammunition variations will only make so much of a difference here. The biggest change to get your head around is the lack of any distinct weapon meta, the learning curve extending little further than managing the recoil and figuring out the curvature of your bullet trajectory. This is a game where teamwork is essential, where the difference between success and failure is decided in a second.
Insurgency: Sandstorm is a promising FPS in its starring co-operative mode, but how its tight play translates not only to console but also to the larger-scale 16-verus-16 objective-based skirmishes being teased will likely define its longevity in the market. For now, however, you’ll want to keep your eye on any chances to get into the Alpha or Beta (we’re told they are “coming soon”). It’s seriously worth trying this one out for yourself.