With the mainstream first person shooter market seemingly obsessed with the big guns of the likes of Battlefield and Call of Duty, it’s often easy to forget that there are teams of smaller developers working away diligently on project that actually ad something new to the genre. In the case of New World Interactive, that something is authenticity, and Insurgency has it in bucketloads.
Originally beginning life as a Half Life 2 mod called Operation: Counter-Insurgency, 2007 saw the launch of Insurgency: Modern Infantry Combat. The game would go on to win ModDB’s Mod of the Year award and build quite a following – with a reported 1 million downloads within the first weeks of its availability. Now the game has gone solo and it’s ready to make some more waves thanks to an impeccably realized gameplay engine that fosters teamwork, patience and, most importantly, authentic combat tactics.
It’s not an easy start for the game though, as players who opt to take part in the drawn out tutorial will likely find themselves wondering whether or not to bother making their way to the full game. In case you find yourself in this position, I can’t make the follow point too clear: DO NOT GIVE UP! Yes, it’s a bit of a shambles, clumsily introducing you to the main gameplay mechanics, while struggling to hold any real interest or even show off any demonstrable value, but it’s a wholly optional endeavour, and newcomers might feel it best to at least try to get a grasp on the basics before jumping into live combat – although the difference really is night and day.
Once you’ve manned up and are ready to join in some real action in this online team-based shooter, any concerns will melt away into a distant memory, because Insurgency is the real deal. Those of you who enjoy running and gunning will find your lifespan severely limited, and that’s quite jarring at first. Even though I’ve always been a relatively cautious FPS player, often much to the distaste of my online teammates, I found it quite difficult to adjust to the severity of the unforgiving combat of Insurgency. My first forays onto the battlefield were quickly ended by more experienced players and I found myself wondering if I’d stepped a little too far out of the comfort zone to be able to manage.
Fortunately, a little perseverance quickly led to improved results. Once you begin to accept the vast differences between Insurgency and typical FPS titles, you’ll find yourself beginning to adjust to the pacing and relentless pressure. The beauty of the game is that the focus is almost exclusively on player skill. Taking a bullet to the head will end you in short order, but it’s the same for everyone else. There’s no magical on-screen health indicator that you can monitor closely before running off to hide and regenerate, and there are no obscenely overpowered weapons for players to spam – we’re looking at you n00btube – instead there’s a fine balance of man and weapon, with a completely level playing field to separate the careful and clinical soldiers from the wildly erratic and careless ones.
The class you choose will play a huge part in the way your character behaves in the game, and the balancing on that front is fantastic. You can, of course, customize your loadout which enables players to tailor the way they can approach certain situations, and the system is a familiar one. You’ve got a total of ten supply points to spend on your customization, which you can use to play around with your weapon and armour loadout – such as favouring a light armour type to allow for more mobility in exchange for less protection.
When you’re out there and bullets are flying, you and your teammates will need to stay in close communication. Finding yourself separated from the herd is a recipe for disaster, unless you’ve got someone keeping an eye on you through a sniper rifle from afar. Get too careless while staying in touch, though, and you risk giving away your position to the enemy who can hear your radio when they get too close.
With twelve reasonably varied maps and five gameplay modes available, there’s definitely plenty of choice here for players. Finding a decent server shouldn’t be a problem either, although it can be quite an experience to find yourself chucked in with a group of seasoned veterans when you’re nowhere close to their standard yet – though you can opt to populate maps with bots of varying intelligence and try to learn the game that way if you’re particularly sheepish about playing with others before you deem yourself worthy.
There are some slight niggles with Insurgency that don’t really help in its mission to be the de facto team based tactical shooter, though. A couple of the maps are real snoozefests that’ll fill you with the same level of excitement as being dragged to Christmas mass with your grandparents, and there’s something that doesn’t quite sit right with us about being shot to death through the leg. Sure, realism is one thing, but the odds of every thigh-bound bullet severing a critical artery are probably not quite as high in real life.
Those things aside, Insurgency is only as good as the players you’re teaming up with or playing against. Like all games of its ilk, finding some buddies will be key to your enjoyment. Finding a server you enjoy versus one that simply tears you to shreds will be of the upmost importance early on, and allow you to find some new virtual teammates to share your time with.
If you’re looking for a tonic to the big-name blockbusters that litter the FPS market, the Insurgency should be of real interest, but it’s reliance on tactical play and authenticity (for the most part) might put up too steep a barrier of entry for some. For everyone else, though, it’s a superb title that’s well worth your time investment.