INSURGENCY – PC
Developer: New World Interactive
Publisher: New World Interactive
Release Date: January 22, 2014
Genre: FPS, cooperative tactical shooter
ESRB Rating: N/A
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
Reviewed by Malefico
When I sat down to review INSURGENCY (titled Insurgency 2 when first announced), the long-anticipated follow-up to Insurgency: Modern Infantry Combat, I did so with a certain measure of trepidation. I am not terribly skilled at FPS, and largely because of that I’m not a big fan of the genre. Who wants to take an ass-whipping very time they play a particular kind of game? It gets old pretty quickly.
The other gripes I have about this genre is that all the titles, regardless of platform and developer, are really derivative with little innovation or variation on the basic theme. The player will either be on a fairly modern battlefield, or in a war-torn future. Either way, you’re going to grab a gat and try to kill the enemy. The weapons are largely interchangeable, i.e. one battle rifle will perform pretty much like the next and “feel” the same despite the different models provided.
I’m very happy to say New World Interactive has addressed some of the things I dislike about FPS, and produced an entertaining game in the process.
The game is based on the latest version of Valve Corporation’s Source engine, so the basic elements of the game world are rock-solid. What sets INSURGENCY apart is the attention to detail the developers took with the mechanics. They make this title one of the most realistic combat games ever created, and New World Interactive incorporated certain clever design elements that add fairness and balance.
Controls in INSURGENCY are pretty much FPS standard, and respond well to input. Variously, the player can walk, sprint (and execute a slide while running), crouch, go prone and crawl, and lean left or right to get eyes on the battlefield while hiding. The mouse is used to look, fire and use the sight options for each weapon. The version I played didn’t seem to support game controllers, just keyboard/mouse but maybe that’s because I didn’t have one plugged in. I would think that since a Linux version is on the horizon, probably in no small measure to include Steam Machine owners, that version at least will feature game pad support.
INSURGENCY supports headset with mic, which is crucial once you join a co-op map. Unlike many similar games that pay lip service to cooperation, the team that does a better job of maintaining clear communications will likely come out on top. Watch how and when you choose to speak, though- enemies in close proximity can hear you and base their actions on your ill-advised choice to give up position.
Equipment is drawn from a standard pool of available weapon, armor and utility items. Depending on the role a player selects for a match, they will be presented with suitable rifle, pistol and explosive items as well as protective and storage gear. The game includes realistic ballistics, so a heavy-caliber machine gun or rifle will shoot through materials that will stop bullets from lighter weapons like pistols and LMGs.
In order to make the game more balanced and life-like, the developers implemented encumbrance and supply systems. Each item you choose to carry diminishes your supply total, and adds weight that will affect your movement and fatigue levels during a match. The longer you sprint, the more time it will take to recover before you can accurately aim through the sights, etc. In order to replenish your ammo or change gear, you have to access a supply cache during a match or pick up a weapon dropped by a dead player.
So, if you choose a heavy machine gun, heavy armor and max ammo capacity, you’ll move more slowly and fatigue more quickly than players carrying lighter gear. In fact, if you choose to arm yourself to the teeth you need to find a good spot with cover and an open line of fire, because you’ll die quickly trying to waddle around like that in open terrain.
The developers did a great job of changing up the physics on weapons. As I discovered while practicing with the various guns during the tutorial, they took the time to make each weapon perform realistically. For instance, rifles are vastly more accurate than LMGs or heavy weapons. What’s more, adding accessories like heavy barrels and fore grips affect the recoil and allow you to stay on target better. To a greater extent than any game I’ve played, INSURGENCY provides an excellent simulation of real firearm behavior and forces the player to make difficult choices between functionality and weight. While many games offer the player the chance to customize weapons, in most the “upgrades” are largely cosmetic and don’t seem to make a huge difference in weapon performance. Well done, New World Interactive.
Matches are based on cooperative team play, and are split into three options: Tactical operations, sustained combat and Co-op vs. AI. All the games are limited by a timer as well as a maximum number of team spawns.
As stated previously, the game emphasizes teamwork and communication, in fact it’s virtually required for success. This aspect of game play helps set INSURGENCY apart from other titles in the genre. While other titles support the ability to cooperate, this game utilizes realistic mechanics that demand it. Players will have to learn to stay in constant contact with each other, maintain situational awareness and advance on the objective with sound methodology. This is no haphazard shoot-em-up. INSURGENCY makes players up their game in order to come out on top.
Since it runs on the Source engine, and because of limited video options INSURGENCY doesn’t strain even mediocre systems like the POS. Frame rates mostly stayed in the high 40s to low 50s and never dropped below the mid 30s. Video settings are surprisingly sparse, more like a console menu than a PC game. Although I didn’t see any information on the developer site indicating they were planning to release on PS or Xbox, such ports may be in INSURGENCY’s future.
Other than that I can only assume some concessions were made to make the game accessible to those who purchase modestly priced Steam Machines. Not in the sense that the systems couldn’t handle more detail, but to make the video menu more friendly to gamers who jump into PC gaming through the new console-like computers and aren’t familiar with how to use the advanced settings featured in most PC games.
New World Interactive clearly devoted time and effort to map design. There are some great lighting and particle effects at work, and the maps themselves are detailed and varied in terrain composition and the overall atmosphere each one conveys. They are also substantially larger than most of the ones you find in CS. The spacious maps increase the numbers of dangerous areas and multiply the possibilities for ambushes and other bits of fun.
The in-game sound effects are also realistic, making it easy to tell who is firing and roughly how heavy the weapon is. Music is compelling and patriotic, but I quickly filtered it out to concentrate on more pressing concerns like distance and direction of incoming fire.
The Bottom Line
Comparisons between INSURGENCY and Counter Strike are inevitable. The similarities will be obvious to anyone who’s played Valve’s venerable tactical FPS. In New World Interactive’s defense, it’s pretty difficult to create a truly innovative premise in this sub-genre of the FPS world.
What they’ve done instead is to take realism and balance to the next level.
The encumbrance and supply systems make for interesting choices before a match. The lighter your loadout, the faster you’ll move and fire, and the less you’ll suffer from fatigue. I think the developers did a fine job of forcing players to find the right balance between offensive/defensive capability and mobility.
The realistic physics that have gone into weapons means players who are looking for a go-to weapon that works well for them will be able to find it in INSURGENCY. Unlike many games that offer dozens of choices that look and sound different but are functionally similar if not identical, INSURGENCY offers relatively few but meaningful options. Damage is realistic as well. Unlike some FPS games, you won’t empty the magazine into an opponent and leave them standing. And if/when you employ explosives, they can kill you as easily as the enemy if you’re not careful, especially the C4 charge. Boom. Big badda boom.
The size and design of each map forces the team to use sound tactics when advancing. Unlike other tactical FPS titles, campers will be of little use in INSURGENCY. While players can easily find holes in which to hide, they’ll soon find that in order to make contact with the opposing force they’ll have to advance quickly to mid-field and then start looking for cover/concealment. Because of the way each map is designed, there are precious few spaces that will reward static play styles.
Conversely, lone wolves who like to charge into battle blasting won’t last long in this game. The A.I. will quickly put an end to those tactics, and human opponents are even more adept at shutting them down.
This is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the game to me. Where many FPS titles reward (or at least don’t penalize) this kind of unrealistic behavior, INSURGENCY actually fits better with my relatively cautious style of play. That, and the fact that constant team chatter helps keep you aware of the current situation made this title stand out among tactical FPS games.
I took some time to wander around some maps in practice mode and gained a new appreciation for the difficulty involved in creating environments that fit well with other elements of design. It has to be hard to create a fairly large battle space that offers roughly equal opportunities for both teams without the two sides of the map turning into mirror images. I also gained a healthy respect for the time it must take to add the little details that make the finished product shine.
One thing I haven’t mentioned so far is the tutorial. It’s terrible. It’s full of odd bugs and the A.I. Isn’t great either (the guy you’re trying to protect keeps advancing on the approaching insurgents until he inevitably dies). Don’t judge the game by the quality of the training mode. Most FPS players may never even launch it.
INSURGENCY may never be one of my favorite games to play. Like all FPS titles, it’s limited by its genre and certain aspects of these games, in my opinion are just not rewarding no matter how nicely they are executed. However, this game is on target for players who want to experience a deeper, more authentic combat experience. Like Counter Strike, it’s got a gritty vibe and a simple premise- kill the folks who don’t look like you. Not sure how positive that message is, but it does eliminate any confusion during a match.
It also does a good job of making the levels open and encourages exploration- a nice contrast to the increasingly linear level design of Call Of Duty and others like it, and something I think most gamers appreciate. A great environment is only really satisfying when you can play around in it instead of being led from point to point.
INSURGENCY gets a lot of things right. Realistic action, game design that rewards teamwork, a well-crafted world and straightforward game types will allow players to experience combat in a manner that is nearly as accurate as s simulator, while retaining the design elements that make FPS games fun for fans. Matches turn over quickly as the teams come together and one side gains an advantage. The game never becomes ponderous, and due to the fact that the developers left out all the FPS elements that don’t really matter to a lot of gamers- plot, characters, etc. players aren’t asked to concentrate on anything but the next objective. Simplicity works well in this game. In my limited FPS experience, no other game has combined simple game goals with relative freedom, and packaged them with realistic physics that makes playing the game feel very much like being in a real battle, without the stark terror.
INSURGENCY is a solid 8 out of 10.
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