Back to Basics
The First Person Shooter genre is probably the most popular genre of video games in current times. Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that, as you are likely aware of that already. The FPS genre dominates sales charts and the big names (Call of Duty, Battlefield, etc) command high numbers upon their releases. What can be said, though, is that the genre is slowly drifting into stagnation. The aforementioned big names rarely bring much new to the table on their yearly release schedule, and most other developers making FPS games tend to make clones of these franchises. It’s popular, it sells, why change?
Many modern FPS games also do not rely much on tactical combat or skill. Other than the “spinning jump-shot across-the-map no-scope” guys who brag about their ability, matches in these gamesusually come down to sprinting wildly across a map firing at whatever moves until you die, only to respawn seconds later and do it all over again. No tactics nor skill required.
Insurgency is an attempt at changing that trend. Originally released as a Half-Life 2 mod and met with critical praise, Insurgency was released as a full stand-alone game on January 22nd, 2014. The game is marketed as an FPS that absolutely relies on tactics and teamwork in order to not only win, but just to survive.
Marines vs. Insurgents
Story? What story? Insurgency is a game crafted purely on gameplay, and as far as I have experienced, there is no story to be told. Marines and Insurgents are fighting their way across various battlefields to take each other’s weapon caches and tactical points. The rest is left up to imagination, if you care to even create a story around this game.
Down to our Last Man
Insurgency is all about the gameplay, and it’s clear that New World Interactive put their heart into it. The game is purely online multiplayer, so you will not be able to play it without an internet connection (although since it’s distributed on Steam, that shouldn’t be a problem for most players).
Many gameplay modes are offered, most being some variation on a “take and hold an area” kind of gameplay, with a few unique modes sprinkled throughout. The gameplay modes are divided into three categories. The first, “Tactical Operations,” only gives players one life. In Insurgency, it doesn’t take much to lose that life, as one or two good shots is enough to take a player out of the game. The only way to rejoin after death is if another member of your team completes an objective. The “Sustained Combat” category is slightly more lenient, giving each team a limited number of respawns to use, dependent on specific mode. The third category is “Co-operative,” where players must work together to secure and defend territories in one mode, and destroying an AI’s weapon cache in another mode.
The whole “one life, quick death” scenario present in Tactical Operations makes it the category that demands the most skill. If you aren’t fully knowledgeable on your class, loadout, and map, you’ll likely die quickly. Newer players are likely to spend more time sitting around than playing in these modes. Sustained Combat is more welcoming to those with less ability in FPS games, as more respawns are given to the players, so you’ll be able to play more.
Speaking of class and loadout, the system used in Insurgency is simple, yet effective. Each team and game mode has it’s own set of classes that players can choose from. These classes are limited amongst the team, with a screen showing up pre-battle with the list of available classes, and each player choosing who they wish to play as. This keeps teams from being filled with nothing but, for example, snipers on high-terrain maps. Each class has it’s own choice of weapons, usually two or three main weapons and a couple secondary. The player is given only so many points to use toward their loadout, with each weapon or piece of equipment costing a certain amount of points. Stronger items cost more points, while weaker weapons give the player more customization options.
One last point on gameplay is the emphasis on tactics. New World Interactive pushes that players absolutely must communicate and work together in order to survive and succeed. In my experience, this holds true. In games where team members were vocal, missions became much more effective. Each member would keep others updated on their enemies movements and how to best deal with them, leading to a smooth experience. Unfortunately, this isn’t commonly the case. Many games I joined had players with the “Call of Duty” mentality, ignoring communication and bum-rushing their enemies. This would typically cause the game to fall apart and end rather quickly. Insurgency definitely nails the tactical experience, but it’ll be up to the players whether they actually want to embrace it.
Fields of Brown
A common criticism of modern games is that, in striving for realistic graphics, they end up too “brown”. Many of these games are depicting cityscapes and, in the case of shooters in this era, Middle-Eastern warfields, which are landscapes that don’t lend themselves too well to color. As a Middle-Eastern focused shooter, Insurgency does fall into the same category. Most environments are dull shades of brown and grey, with some white splashed in during missions in a snowy area. The maps offer quite a lot of detail, although it doesn’t stand out much when you’re focused on the game. While the maps are well-designed, the environment can become a bit samey, and a few of the maps look very similar to each other.
Player designs are not incredibly varied either. The Marines side look like typical Marines, and the Insurgents side look like stereotypical Middle-Eastern insurgents. There aren’t many unique designs on either side, so every team ends up pretty much looking the same amongst themselves. This helps when identifying enemies, though. If they don’t look like you, shoot them. This helps, as it can be difficult to identify friend or foe. A small diamond and an even smaller name show up when aiming at an ally, while nothing appears aiming at an enemy. Due to the fast pace of battles, though, you can’t rely on this to distinguish players.
There isn’t much music to be spoken of in Insurgency. There’s a main menu theme, tracks before battle, and tracks after battle (one in particular with a very unusual wailing man singing during it). During gameplay, the only sounds heard are the flying bullets and the shouts of the AI. Sound design, though, lends to the tactical feel of the game. Sounds of bullets are played relative to where they’d be to your character, so you can tell by sound cue where an attack is coming from. Not incredibly effective with a standard speaker setup, but much better if using some kind of surround sound.
Decently acted voices speak up to let you know if a territory is lost, taken, in the process of being taken, or defended by the enemy. They also let you know how many respawn waves you’re down to. Very much helpful if you’re focused on the game rather than the HUD. Voice communication quality between players is very good (although this is also dependent on the player’s headset quality). Most voice communication comes through quite clearly, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a delay.
Overall, Insurgency is an addicting yet demanding game. The variety of gameplay modes offered means there’s something for almost everyone to enjoy. The varying difficulty between modes gives one to just about any player of any skill level. However, skill is pretty much required in this game. If you’re not prepared for it, or if you think you can get through without working with your team, you’ll probably be spending more time on the death screen than actually playing.
For FPS players looking for a challenging experience and strong emphasis on teamwork, Insurgency comes highly recommended. For those newer to the FPS genre, this game might not be for you.
~ Final Score: 7/10 ~
Review copy provided by New World Interactive for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer.