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By MrJenssen11-01-2014
Bobfish (editor)
StuntmanLT (editor)

The Defence

New World Interactive
New World Interactive
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz
AMD Phenom X3 2.4 GHz
Nvidia GeForce 8600
AMD equivalent
2 GB
6 GB

After a brief and sadly unsuccessful stint with Kickstarter, developer New World Interactive didn’t feel like lying down and playing dead with their ambitious modern war-shooter sequel to the HL2 total conversion mod - Insurgency. Going from mod to retail game is hardly a new phenomenon, but it does raise the question; why pay for the game when I can play the mod for free? After taking part in and seeing all the changes, improvements and additions made over the course of the entire beta stage, I am here to tell you exactly why you should be keeping a close eye on Insurgency.

Insurgency was, for those unaware, a multiplayer FPS mod based on the Source-Engine. The mod’s intention was to merge the realistic weapon handling, recoil and damage output of tactical shooters and military simulators like Red Orchestra, but with a tighter map design, a complete focus on infantry combat, and a much quicker pace. Though the mod did a great job mimicking bigger shooters of its kind, even going so far as to implement Red Orchestra’s semi-independent free aim mechanic, it remained a niche thing that few ever knew about. The stand-alone sequel with the same name looks to up the ante in a number of ways.

Danger and death lurks around every corner.

Danger and death lurks around every corner.

The first thing you’ll notice is the visual presentation. Though it’s still using the Source-engine, it takes advantage of the improved physics, lighting and so forth of the later iterations of Source, making it more akin now to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive than some Half-Life 2 mod. The textures are sharper, the physics are better, the lighting and shadows are more realistic, heat and smoke ebbs from your weapon’s barrel after extensive fire, and dust and particle effects pump up into the air when the action gets hot to create a dense, almost claustrophobic atmosphere. The audio follows suit, with lethal-sounding weapons, nearby explosions making your ears ring and decent radio chatter all helping heighten the immersion factor.

Gameplay-wise, there’s nothing really ground-breaking or new to find in Insurgency, it’s a class-based shooter where two relatively symmetrical teams duke it out in various mid-sized maps and modes to win multiplayer matches. But even so, there still isn’t anything quite like Insurgency either. It takes inspiration from many successful games before it, with level design similar to Day of Defeat: Source or Counter-Strike, pacing almost as fast as Call of Duty, and weapon handling just as realistic, lethal and satisfying as Red Orchestra. Mixing these together seems almost obvious in hindsight, so it’s strange that so few have attempted it before.

Insurgency offers six distinct competitive multiplayer game modes across 12 maps, several of which have been added during the past few months, and more surely to follow in the near future. Though most of the modes are your typical run-of-the-mill variations on the classic domination, conquest and attack-defend modes, a few of them stick out. If you’ve ever played the Battlefield 2 mod Project Reality, you should be familiar with Insurgency’s Strike mode. Here, one team must find and destroy a number of randomly spawned weapons caches defended by the other team, before time runs out or their reinforcement waves deplete. It is however a far quicker affair than the one playing out on Project Reality’s enormous maps. Another cool mode that saw the light of day just a few months ago, is the VIP Escort mode, where one player becomes the VIP and the rest of the team must protect him as he moves to one of two designated escape locations while the other team seeks to find the VIP and eliminate him.

Stand still, damn it!

Stand still, damn it!

But even the regular modes feel unique due to the game’s approach to respawning. While most multiplayer shooters have a set amount of tickets or reinforcement waves consistently ticking down, Insurgency cleverly alters this tried and tested system. Both teams start with only a handful of respawn waves, but are awarded more whenever they capture an objective. Even battles that seem completely hopeless, can be turned around. It makes every life feel like it counts, more so than in a large scale game like Battlefield, where you have hundreds if not thousands of tickets going down no matter what you do during the match. The wave system also improves the attack-defend mode, avoiding long-lasting stalemates by only giving the attacking team a handful of waves to begin with before they capture the first base and are awarded new ones.

There are even three cooperative modes, where the players fight AI-controlled insurgents in the same maps as the competitive multiplayer, often with minor alterations to make it a more focused experience. The bot AI is what steals the show here. It is surprisingly robust, with bots reacting to gunfire by going prone, firing back, rushing your location or flank around. They will attempt to lay down suppressive fire, counter-attack when you’re capturing a control point, and even sometimes come to investigate your last known location. It’s a little strange to see just how smart your AI foes can be, especially considering how bots in most competitive games nowadays are either predictable and useless, or unfairly accurate and all-knowing. The co-op make for a fun romp every now and then, but it still feels like it is missing that little extra spark. Some players have pointed out that implementing leaderboards could do a lot of good for the replayability, but we’ll see if New World are interested in doing that.

The maps you play on vary from narrow corridors and indoor locations to much larger, more open mountainous landscapes or middle-eastern cities. One of my biggest gripes about the mod, was how a lot of its maps had infuriating chokepoint battles that could go on for the entire round without any team making any sort of progress. This has been greatly improved for the sequel, with there now being many different routes to each objective. This makes for some truly diverse and dynamic battles that never feel stale or choked down entirely. Most maps support all the game modes offered, and all the modes seem to work quite well on every map.

Some maps allow for a more open-ended style of play. And more death.

Some maps allow for a more open-ended style of play. And more death.

Your arsenal of weaponry is nothing to flinch at either, sporting a handful of weapons in all the typical categories. What you have at your disposal, depends on your team, but both teams are pretty much symmetrical in what weapon types they offer. More weapons are also planned. The amount of different weapons isn’t as impressive as, say, Battlefield 4. But how they handle is exceptional. Every weapon sounds and feels unique. The weapons are genuinely powerful, the death and destruction spouting from the barrel feels real. Even a heavily armored MG-man cannot expect to be immortal. A single well-placed bullet can tear through the thickest layer of your armor and leave you dead on the ground, something fans of realistic shooters should be all too familiar with already. Clashing on one or more of the available attachments like the foregrip, silencer, scope or heavy barrel among others, also distinctly alters how the weapons handle. You also have an assortment of equipment choices, ranging from explosives, sidearms, armor type and ammo-carriers.

The loadout works off of a supply point system that allows you to purchase the various things you find in your loadout screen. You’re awarded more points for capturing objectives, winning rounds and generally being a good team player. You can at any time enter the loadout screen and reorganize your setup. If you’re lacking the points you need for something, you can always “sell” something else to get its value in points back. You can for example ditch your pistol to afford a smoke grenade. Your loadout choices and supply points carry over between the rounds, but are reset completely once the map is changed. You don’t have any permanent unlocks like in Call of Duty. The unlock system of Insurgency is instead more comparable to that of Counter-Strike, rewarding you for your round-to-round performance rather than the amount of hours you’ve played the game overall.

There is very little to criticize about the game at this point. The devs have clearly put in a lot of work over the past year, to make a much better game than was advertised during the Kickstarter campaign. The Co-Op has its longevity-related challenges, the bots can be a little too aggressive at times, and there are still some bugs needing ironing out. One thing I really feel the game is still missing, is a feature that lets you check your mag, like the one in Red Orchestra 2. It would also be fun to see some maps with a bigger scale as well, although the aging Source engine is likely the biggest hurdle for the developers to deal with when it comes to that. The aforementioned leaderboards would also be a welcome addition, which is something New World Interactive definitely should consider if they’re serious about the co-op modes.

Some bugs still need ironing out.

Some bugs still need ironing out.

Insurgency is already a solid class-based military shooter, with only a couple of bugs to be spotted here and there. It’s the perfect game for shooter fans who love the intensity of Call of Duty but can’t stand the arcady nature and lack of teamwork plaguing it, while not finding the time to sit down with the longer and more demanding matches of ARMA 3 or Red Orchestra 2. I’m surprised at just how well everything has come together at this point, considering that the game’s Kickstarter campaign failed. Though more awesome content is guaranteed to show up in time of its release, Insurgency is already an incredibly entertaining, intense and surprisingly non-frustrating realistic shooter that any multiplayer FPS fan should at least give a try.

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