Ok let’s get this out of the way immediately; Insurgency is not going to win any awards for its graphics. It’s rough around the edges and has a no-nonsense feel. Sure there are moments when Insurgency can look good with some nice atmospheric touches, but for the most part Insurgency is average and functional. This shouldn’t matter in gaming though and to be frank, if you are already put off then shame on you, because you would be missing out on the great experience and tension that Insurgency can evoke.
Still reading? Good.
Insurgency is all about tension, teamwork and patience. In this regard Insurgency shines, there will be many times that you will find yourself pinned down and unable or even unwilling to move forward. 1-2 hit kills are extremely common in Insurgency and re-spawns are managed in interesting ways. For example, in the ‘Firefight’ mode re-spawns happen only when your team captures an objective, which allows for some interesting and forced play. The feeling of knowing you just gave life to your fallen comrades when the enemy outnumbers you is a sweet and exhilarating experience. Insurgency has plenty of decent game modes besides ‘Firefight’, most take their cues from other similar games such as Counter-Strike, but developers New World Interactive have tried to add interesting twists to help keep them feeling fresh.
Insurgency also ramps up the tension in other ways, there is no mini-map, no weapon crosshair, no damage indicator and the only way to know if you killed an opponent is to visually confirm it by seeing the corpse. Teamwork is also a key factor in winning, and although there are many games that often preach the same rhetoric, Insurgency really comes alive when working with others towards the common goals of each match type. Quite often the VOIP will come alive with your teammates calling out locations of enemy positions, or asking for a smoke grenade to help cover their advance. Sometimes a simple “Let’s all go to B” is enough to invoke that ‘we are all in this together’ team spirit.
A special mention has to go to the map design. Fighting in Insurgency takes place in all the ‘usual’ places, namely Afghanistan and Iraq. Several maps are centered on open spaces – a small village or a F.O.B on a hilltop – but it’s the urban maps that take place in high populated areas that are the real winners. You will find that every corner, street, building and open space has to be carefully traversed as there are a myriad of rooms, stairwells, spider holes, boxes, and burnt-out vehicles for your opponents to hide in. There are a few natural chokepoints dotted around, which can lead to some prolonged engagements, but thankfully there is always a way for you to flank and clear it out.
Now for the most important bit, the bit you are probably the most interested in – the gunplay. In short it’s superb. Gunplay in Insurgency carries its own tension, weapons feel like they have real weight to them, recoil has the perfect balance of being controllable but requiring skill to do so, and gaining a kill in Insurgency is a satisfying experience. The combination of all the positives mentioned above adds up to genuine satisfaction.
On the flip side death is also strangely un-frustrating; you died because you didn’t pay attention, popped out of cover too early, were outnumbered, or were unlucky that you did not cross the street 3 seconds earlier. Suppression is also in effect; stamina and equipment load affect your ability to fight in different ways, and while there may not be a massive roster of weapons to choose from, there are more than enough customization options to keep things interesting.
Other small touches really help with the brutal and visceral feel of Insurgency’s gunplay. Dust is kicked up when rounds strike walls adding to the suppression and obscuring vision, making it harder for that sniper to get a clear shot at you. The weapons themselves sound excellent and satisfyingly meaty, which all leads to a fun and memorable experience that you will want to return to time after time.
This kind of squad based tactical shooter is not for everyone’s taste, and the difficulty curve can be intimidating for some – even with the training mode, which is nothing more than a “go through the motions tour through generic control-ville.” Patience is needed to get the best out of Insurgency. One must learn the weapon characteristics, map layouts and objective locations to truly excel. It may even take a couple of games to acquire your first kill, so if you prefer your shooters to be fast, run and gun kill-fests, then you will probably want to give Insurgency a wide berth. Things can also unravel fairly quickly if you are stuck with a team that refuses to work together. It’s a frustrating problem to get steamrolled by your opponents, and to be fair it’s no fault of the developers, but it does and will happen.
You might be wondering if Insurgency is a Counter-Strike clone, which is a valid concern and at a basic level they are pretty similar. Both are squad based tactical shooters but Insurgency is much more brutal. While CS takes a great deal of skill to play well, it also has an air of arcadey-ness when compared to Insurgency’s slower and harsher environment, so if you ever wished Counter-Strike to be more realistic, to be a more no-nonsense affair, but keeping all the skill and great gunplay, then Insurgency is a well crafted and absolutely solid experience that you should pick up.
Review Statement: The author of this review was provided a copy of the game from the publisher for review purposes.
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