Creating a new game in the first-person shooter genre must be a difficult task. With so many popular titles still being played by a loyal following who happened to find their niche in a certain series, it takes a very unique experience to pull them away. Add to that creating a game in the very crowded military shooter sub-genre and standing out seems impossible. However, the makers behind the popular Half-Life 2 mod Insurgency: Modern Infantry Combat recognized the chance to create a new experience with very realistic, intense team-based combat for the hardcore shooter fan. So does Insurgency (New World Interactive 2014/01/22) have what it takes to get recognized in the crowded FPS world?
It is worth noting that Andrew Spearin (co-founder of the Insurgency mod) spent five years in the Canadian Army Reserve, and during basic training realized that no PC shooter accurately portrays what it’s like to pit squads of soldiers against each other in a life-or-death battle. It’s this single design choice that helps differentiate Insurgency from the rest. It creates an intense environment where smart tactics and team cooperation are key. There is a low success rate in trying to be a lone wolf and taking out an entire team by yourself based simply on quick reflexes, as one shot kills are the name of the game and one false move ends in death. There is no HUD, ammo counter, on screen crosshairs, mini-map, perks, auto-healing or air strikes and drones to help decimate the enemies before you. Your only chance of finding the enemy is to intelligently predict the environment and communicate with your team. Yes, your ability to react quickly and aim will be tested and will result in some kills in one-on-one surprise situations, but the team that is able to predict enemy movement and intelligently react will emerge victorious. The teamwork aspect and intense gameplay have an addicting quality and make Insurgency worth playing over and over again.
Your team, Insurgents or Security, will be tested in a variety of objective modes. Tactical Operations; which includes Firefight, Search and Destroy and VIP; and Sustained Combat; which includes Skirmish, Push, and Strike. Much like their names suggest, Tactical Operations is the quicker and slightly more intense game mode as there is only one life unless your team is able to complete an objective, allowing a respawn. Sustained Combat allows respawns in waves and proceeds through multiple rounds. Much like any other shooter, players will find their favorite modes and stick with them. I highly enjoyed the Push game mode as it reminded me of Battlefield’s “Rush” mode and created some very intense moments. Also included is Co-operative, which pits up to 6 human Security players against waves of AI Insurgents as they try to progress through checkpoints. It’s a fun addition that resembles the “horde” mode of other recent shooters.
The gameplay and feel of Insurgency is where the game shines brightest. Controls are quick and responsive, as the guns and character movement have an authentic feel to them. Guns have varying levels of kick and short bursts of automatic weapons are necessary for accuracy and kills. While not as unforgiving as Counter-Strike, you will still need high accuracy and skill to obtain a kill. Like the Battlefield series, specific guns are exclusive to what team you’re playing as, allowing customization of weapons and character before the match starts and before a respawn. While there is not a large gun selection in the game, the guns that are represented feel very real. Another highlight of the game is sound design, as the guns and explosions sound great. Due to the limited HUD and lack of a real time mini map, using sound as a means to navigate the environment and detect enemies becomes a very important tool.
While completely serviceable, less impressive are the graphics and character models. Originally conceived as a mod for Half-Life 2, the game is running on the Source Engine, which means if you’ve played CS:GO or Left 4 Dead 2 you already know exactly what this game is going to look like. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the engine is well-optimized and will play perfectly on even the most humble of gaming rigs. But it does not change the fact that the game can look dated, especially the character models which seem to have little texture overall. The maps suffer from repetitiveness as the majority take place in Middle Eastern settings, but others like the standout “Peak” have some inspired design and create a very interesting battleground.
Above all else, Insurgency is an addicting game to play. Despite the intensity and the initial impression of high difficulty, the gameplay sits in the sweet spot of “easy to learn, hard to master” which rewards smart tactics and teamwork. Even if you’re fatigued of the military FPS, Insurgency is unique enough to be worth a look. Add in the low initial price of $14.99 USD on Steam ($13.49 until January 29th, 2014) and it’s a great pickup for shooter fans.