Saturday, 15 February 2014

Insurgency review

Insurgency is a follow up to one of the most successful Source mods around, now manifesting itself as a full stand alone release. Having won a number of awards for the original, New World Interactive hope to expand on this success with this new tactical team-based First Person Shooter. Does it hold a candle to the original mod? Read on to find out...

While explicitly a multiplayer game, Insurgency features a fairly brief single player tutorial level to get players acquainted to the controls and mechanics of the game. Players are taught how about things such as attaching equipment to their weaponry, changing load outs, as well as the obvious run and shoot controls. It's done in the style of a basic training exercise in an army warehouse, and while it is a nice touch, it feels a bit lacking. One of the big issues is how it doesn't feel as polished as the multiplayer component, with a few bugs making it hard to complete a couple of the objectives, with successfully completed tasks not registering, or deaths causing the objectives to disappear. These issues aren't present at all in the main game though, and that's where almost all of the gameplay is, so it isn't that big of an issue. At the points that these bugs arise, you have already learnt pretty much everything you need to get straight into combat. With regular patches, these bugs should be removed soon.

The graphics are very hit and miss, with some nice effects but poor textures

The overall gameplay is very slick, with a minimal HUD giving you very little information about your current situation. There is no compass or mini-map (although a larger one can be brought up in game), no ammo count (besides how many magazines you have left) or health bar, and not even any way of knowing if the target you were firing upon is now dead. On top of this, you can only take a few shots maximum before you die, which everything combined makes for very tense gameplay that can leave you very carefully going round every corner.

Graphically, Insurgency is very hit and miss. While there are some very nice touches such as smoking gun barrels after being fired, and well designed maps that are all very different to each other, the overall models aren't anything spectacular. Water looks bland and very unrealistic, and some of the textures have a low resolution, when you check them out up close.

Games can be joined either through a quick join, that selects a server for you based on a choice of filters, or through the more complete server browser. Anyone who has played a game such as Counter-Strike will find this very familiar, but those who haven't may find it a bit awkward to use at first, as it has fairly minimal information in a slightly confusing layout.

There are a decent number of game modes, with more coming in the future

There are 3 main categories of game type, each with a few different sub-types, allowing a choice of up to 8 gameplaystyles. The first of these main categories is "Cooperative",currently only consists of "Checkpoint", where you must capture and defend a series of objectives from AI combatants.One of the big issues with this is the AI is very lacking, and mostly just runs at you, stops and fires. The challenge is mostly in not being overwhelmed by the sheer number of them later on in the game mode, rather than outsmarting them.

As for Player vs. Player combat, there are two different kinds of mode. First there is "Sustained Combat", which involves"Push", where one team must defend 3 checkpoints, while the opposition tries to capture them in order, "Skirmish" where both teams fight to control each objective, while also trying to destroy the opponent's weapons cache. In "Strike", one team protects 3 weapons caches while the others are tasked with blowing them up. The second game mode is "Tactical Operations", in which there are "Firefight" and "Search & Destroy", that both hold a striking resemblance to "Skirmish" and "Strike", with a new mode VIP Escort, that sees a player on one team appointed a VIP who must escape to 1 of 2 objectives, while being defended by his team. The opposition must find and kill this player.

While it sounds a bit of a cop-out having 2 modes that seem to be fundamentally the same, there is a stark difference between them. Modes in the "Sustained Combat" play style have players respawning periodically until the team runs out of reinforcement waves, while in "Tactical Operations", the only way to respawn is to hope your team completes an objective. This difference makes the way the gameplays very different, and they both require different styles of play to succeed. Upon entering a round, you must select a particular role to fill for your team, which limits which weapons you have available to you. After a few rounds you will likely have a favourite role to play, but the variety can make things interesting should someone else get there before you.

The locations vary, from the battered streets of Iraq to an African market, to these thawing foothills

There is a very large focus on team play across all 3 game styles, and relying on your team can be very hit and miss. A lot of players don't use headsets, and the in game chat is very awkward to use in the heat of battle. There is a radial selector than be easily brought up on the fly for quick commands to your team, but even this isn't overly used. While having great team co-ordination is helpful, a lot of the current player base generally seems to be competent at working as a team, and there are occasional games where plenty of people are talking amongst each other. That said, having your own little squad between friends makes life a lot easier.

There is a lot going for Insurgency, and anyone who enjoys teamwork based FPS games will likely find something to enjoy here. The difference between the "Sustained Combat" and "Tactical Operations" games modes provides players with such a varying gameplay style, that everyone is bound to find something they enjoy. It's a shame though that the "Cooperative" is a bit lacking, but hopefully with 2 more modes still to come, it may be improved in the near future.


by Mike Aitchison

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