Review By nachosjustice @ 02:02pm 04/02/14
The greatest achievement of Battlefield 4’s multiplayer formula is how it incentivises individual players to work together as a team and complete objectives by rewarding them with appropriately scaled points. You can just focus on killing and, to a point that helps your team; but the real points are found in pushing objectives, following orders and offering support for friendlies.
Insurgency takes that idea, puts a Red Orchestra-like hardcore spin on it and shrinks down maps and engagement areas to a scope similar to Counter-Strike. It’s a multiplayer-only game, and players are tasked with jumping into the combat boots of either Security or Insurgents, armed with different weapons that are more or less comparable. It’s worth familiarising yourself with the desert-camo duds of Security and the recycled fashion sensibilities of the Insurgents to avoid the all-too-common instances of friendly fire.
During the initial hours of my review, I was killed more by friendlies than I was by enemies. On the surface, it’s easy to blame these other players for their mortal faux pas but, after a while, it became clear that this was actually an immersive and effective part of a realistic shooter. You can die ridiculously easily against players with decent aim (and sometimes from sprayers, but less often), and with so few hits required to put you down, it puts everyone on edge.
This is why VoIP is damn near essential in Insurgency, useful for letting friendlies know when you’re coming up on them and essential for communicating where you’ve spied enemies. Killing an enemy doesn’t reward you with any notification, which often leaves you wondering whether they’re actually dead or waiting to ambush you. You could pop your head out to check, but the gunfire that may have killed that opponent will most likely have drawn the attention of one of his buddies nearby.
On the flipside, players that treat this game like Call of Duty won’t get anywhere. While rushing tactics are encouraged early on, careful manoeuvring, map awareness and keen ears are a must for determining when it’s safe to move and when it’s best to sit and wait.
Kills will net you a paltry 10 points, which means that fighting tends to be focused around objectives. The more popular game modes mirror Battlefield’s Conquest formula, albeit with slow-capping flags, which greatly increase the tension and offers plenty of time for enemies to counter-attack. Skirmish mode adds weapons caches to this formula — one to defend, and an enemy one to destroy — with a set amount of waves for each team. If the waves are depleted, surviving friendlies must cap a flag to allow dead players to instantly respawn.
It’s a great mechanic that means a lone survivor can turn the tide of a battle if they’re playing objective; which you will want to do, as players tend to be vocally unforgiving of selfish tactics on mics. Individually, you’ll earn all-important supply points by getting frags and capturing objectives. These can be used to personalise your kit. Defying the current shooter zeitgeist of unlockable weapons, Insurgency lets you access all weapons from the start, with supply points used to pimp out primaries with a variety of attachments or, alternatively, they can be spent on secondary weapons, different grenade types, ammo vests and armour, each with its own supply-points grading.
Bigger is not necessarily better, though. For instance, additional ammunition is supply poorly spent, unless you’re the type to lay down covering fire to suppress enemies. Additionally, everything you add to your character increases the weight, which decreases movement speed. Sprinting everywhere also means your character will take more time to catch his breath when aiming down sights, so slower movement is encouraged except when dashing between cover points or taking fire.
If you get winged and survive, your movement speed will be slowed, and it’s quite often the case that you don’t know where you’ve been shot from, which makes it a sniper’s delight. My best rounds were played with a bolt-action sniper rifle, employing shoot-relocate tactics so that enemies couldn’t zero in on my position; or flush me out with grenades that have epic blasts radiuses. It also seemed to cause the least amount of problems with hit registry, which I certainly experienced with other weapons, even when firing in single-fire mode or with controlled bursts.
Insurgency isn’t the prettiest game and it has long initial loading times that aren’t justified by the lack of pretty. Considering the steep learning curve, it was a damn shame that training was impossible for me to complete, with a crashing bug every time I tried to access my kit-configuration screen. This wasn’t the only bug I encountered, either: Insurgency has its fair share. It’s also not a fan of alt-tabbing, which had long loading times to get back into the game, or crashed entirely. Servers also seemed to struggle with higher player counts, as one in every three I connected to was suffering from server-wide lag issues that made the game almost unplayable.
Overall, though, Insurgency is a breath of fresh air that stands apart from the shooter duality of Battlefield and Call of Duty. It rewards patient play and encourages teamwork, with satisfying results for players who don’t give into the temptation of taking a run-and-gun approach. The promise of continued post-release support should see the kinks ironed out, and it already has an encouraging player-base, which means it’s easy to find a populated server and learn the ropes in a trial by fire.