In 2014, New World Interactive released Insurgency - the follow up to one of the most successful Source Engine mods ever released (which was developed by ex-Canadian Army soldier, Andrew Spearin - so he knows what he’s talking about). In a world with ever more forgiving and unrealistic PvP experiences, Insurgency is swiftly becoming the go-to shooter of choice for all hardcore FPS fans. It’s brutal, it’s unforgiving and it’s awesome.
By almost all FPS standards, I’ve not been playing Insurgency for long - only about eight or nine hours. In those few, precious hours I’ve managed to rack up a massive three kills. I’ve died hundreds of times and I’ve spent more time per match as a spectator than an active participant. I’m no slouch at PvP - or, so I thought, before launching into Insurgency’s war-torn locales - but it turns out that I rely way too much on the things that modern gamers take for granted: crosshairs, aim-assist and a freaking ammo counter to name just a few.
“I rely way too much on the things modern games take for granted: crosshairs, aim-assist and a freaking ammo counter... Insurgency doesn’t have any of those things”
Insurgency doesn’t have any of those things. Instead, you’re given a class, a weapon and whatever skills you bring with you and - after a brief but rather amusing tutorial - are thrust into the bosom of friendly papa War. Forced to use iron-sights - or a scope if you’ve managed to get to the point in a mission where you can equip one - and mentally count the rounds you’ve got left, you’ll need to remain steely calm in the face of adversity (and the face of your team-mates) in order to secure objectives and progress with your mission.
And there are plenty of mission modes to choose between: from multiplayer modes including Push, Ambush and Elimination to co-op modes like Outpost, Checkpoint and Hunt. I must confess that I didn’t get the time to play them all thoroughly but, while they each try to be distinct, a basic ground-holding or objective-taking mechanic is included in just about all of them so, often, it’s difficult to tell which mode you’re playing. Teamwork is the key for whatever mode you play, though, and hiding behind your braver comrades is (for me, at least) a viable tactic for staying alive long enough to get an enemy in your sights… then dying.
Dying in Insurgency means that you get to watch what your other squad members are doing in spectator mode until such time as reinforcements arrive - bringing you back into the action with all of the other dead team mates (and there will always be more than just you). In most modes, your teammates will trigger reinforcements by capturing objectives but, in a few multiplayer modes, you’ll just have to wait for a timer to tick down until you can get your gun on again. While you’ll never really worry about the graphics when you’re actually active (you’ll be far too involved in trying not to get shot), spectator mode does expose a lot of Insurgency’s graphical flaws - presenting you with amusing views of your prone teammates sinking into the ground or people standing too close and thrusting their weapons into one-another’s eyes.
“Teamwork is the key for whatever mode you play and hiding behind your comrades is a viable tactic”
As with missions, there are loads of weapons to choose from, too. The Steam store page boasts “over 40”, though when you start adding in the various mods and attachments, there are far more variants than you’ll ever be able to play through. But don’t despair. During the course of most game modes, you’ll need to choose which position on the team you’re going to play before you start - sniper, support, rifleman, marksman, etc. - which will limit your available arsenal to a few key pieces of kit tailored to that class. You’ll soon work out what works best for you, though the game’s realism means that getting shot just twice, in most circumstances, will send you straight back to the spectator screen so, outside of key factors like recoil and range (and how the thing looks) a gun of one type is pretty much like any of its siblings.
A recurring theme in this review, so far, has been teamwork. The likelihood of winning any game of Insurgency is improved dramatically when your team works as a unit and everyone plays to their chosen class. If you’re a sniper, you’re not supposed to be legging it up to the checkpoint and trying to down people from five feet away. Similarly, if you’re heavy support, you’re supposed to stand your ground and lay down covering fire so that your team can get into position; not cower behind a chest-high wall and cracking off a sneaky shot now and then. Fortunately, Insurgency also has a voice chat feature so you can communicate with your team - if you’re into that kind of thing.
The rest of the game audio is pretty special - you really get the feeling that you’re in a warzone when you hear bullets whizz past your head or team-mates relaying information to you on the fly (a good pair of surround sound headphones is a must for serious players). The fact that the game does a pretty good job of giving all of the characters their own voices means that, if you don’t want to chat, you aren’t going to be forced to. Your character will pipe up if it sees the enemy - calling out their location - if you’ve been hit or when you’re reloading. This means that everyone is constantly aware of what’s going on around them , although the enemy can hear you too and use that to their advantage. So make sure you reload somewhere safe, or you’re probably going to die - again.
“Insurgency was made by someone who’d experienced warfare for people who wanted to get as close to experiencing it as they dared”
Insurgency isn’t really for the casual player. It’s not really for those of us who enjoy popping into the Crucible now and then, or those who enjoy legging it through the snowy dunes of Hoth either, and it’s definitely not reaching out to the CoD kids. Insurgency was (originally) made by someone who’d experienced warfare for people who wanted (however bizarre this is) to get as close to experiencing it as they dared. Minimal HUD, no crosshairs, no ammo counter and a focus on realistic, tactical combat mean that this is a hardcore shooter for hardcore players. And, as I said at the beginning, that makes it awesome.