Insurgency Preview – Striking Out

It takes some cojones to go after a game like Counter Strike, so Insurgency’s developers, New World Interactive, should at least be commended for squaring up against one of the most famous shooters of all time. Beginning life as a Source mod, Insurgency moved into the stand-alone beta phase in April of this year following its appearance on Steam. Since then, it has gone through some significant changes and updates in order to bring it up to scratch for a planned 2014 release. Whether this is bravery or stupidity remains to be seen, as this early-access beta, while showing signs of promise, still has a way to go before it’s considered a threat to the Counter Strike regime.

If you’ve played any iteration of Counter Strike, you’ll be very familiar with the core mechanics of this tactical shooter. Priding itself on providing a realistic take on the multiplayer FPS, the game is brutally unforgiving. Featuring true-to-life weapon handling and movement combined with a minimal HUD, this is a far cry from most of the AAA shooters you may be accustomed to. If Call of Duty is your doting mother, and Battlefield is your stern father, then Insurgency is the bitchy Aunt you have to stay with when your parents are out of town. Rush blindly forward and get tagged from 40 yards, and it’s tough luck; you have to sit there and think about what you’ve done, while the rest of your team creeps forward, clearing rooms, checking corners and working together to complete objectives.You learn fast to keep your cool and plan your next move carefully, because a few bullets is the only difference between a useful team player and an unwilling spectator.

But before you go out there and really learn how bad you are, you’ve got to pick your gear. Upon joining a game you’re asked to pick a squad (Assault, Support, etc) and a class (Specialist, Recon etc). In the original Source mod of Insurgency, the class picked would denote which weapons you could choose from, but no such limitations are imposed in the current release. Tapping F after spawning brings up the loadout screen, in which you are given a set amount of “Supply Points” to buy weapons, attachments and equipment. Each player carries one primary weapon (be it an automatic rifle, shotgun or sniper rifle) along with a pistol or RPG and a choice of either smoke, frag or flash grenades. Equipping any of these depletes Supply Points, as do various weapon attachments such as sights, silencers and ammunition types. Chest rigs can also be equipped, offering extra ammo and grenade capacities, while extra armor provides protection at the cost of mobility. Of course, you can always leave your pistol and grenades behind and use the extra Supply Points to beef up your main weapon with more attachments.

The selection of guns is nothing you haven’t seen before, with most of the standard rifles, SMG’s and LMG’s present and accounted for. Choice is a little limited, but perhaps that’s something the developers will address before the final release. The gun models are fairly accurate, as is the recoil and handling in general, and most have multiple fire-modes. Having never seen a gun or handled a firearm in real life, I can’t really be sure; in the video game world, at least, they seem on par with everything else.

Game modes and maps are just as limited, with 6 game modes across 8 locales, primarily of the Middle Eastern variety. 32 players can compete in 4 objective based modes, all focusing on capturing control points. Completing objectives extends the time limit or allows more reinforcement waves so that your fallen comrades can respawn. They are very much focused on teamwork, but there isn’t much of a difference between each game mode. Up to 6 players can team up for 2 co-op modes against bots but, again, these aren’t very different from competitive play.

Insurgency initially feels a little sticky but after a few rounds you get used to the handling. Its minimal approach to the HUD extends to almost all aspects of the gameplay; there are no hit-markers when bullets connect, and the only indication of killing an enemy is by way of a little text in the top left of the screen. I know that this is a more realistic approach but, God-damn, it’s annoying. The hit-markers I can live without, but having to draw my eyes away from my sights to check if I smoked that distant sniper is distracting and dangerous. A more positive aspect to this quest for realism is the sprinting, however as there’s little you can do while sprinting as it restricts the ability to reload or even change firing modes.

As Insurgency is built on the Source engine the graphics are nice but hardly cutting edge. Environments are detailed but a little sparse, and lack the illusion of having a real-world counterpart. It’s not necessarily a deal breaker with this type of game and the visuals are more than adequate for what is required. As it’s not graphically intensive, those with lesser machines will have no problem achieving playable frame-rates, so there’s not need to rush out to upgrade that GPU (I’m looking at you, Battlefield 4). Audio is minimal, too, with gunshots and footsteps being the only source of noise, so get ready to tune those ears to the footfalls of potential enemies.

Beneath its coarse UI and average graphics, Insurgency has strong potential to rival the more established shooters in its class. Even with the lack of variety in game modes and its brutal difficulty, there is a strange compulsion to keep playing. It still needs a lot of work, but if New World Interactive continue to release major updates on a regular basis and listen to their expanding community, it won’t be long before Insurgency is a strong contender in its own right.