Insurgency is a look back at the old-timey multiplayer military shooter. We’re talking about a one-hit-kill-no-crosshairs-lone-wolf-players-need-not-apply kind of shooter. This is the sort of game that doesn’t care if you got killed 20 seconds into the match. You can sit and spectate while everyone else gets to play out the round. Think about what you did wrong soldier! No unlocks. No second screen commander view. Hardcore and proud of it! Insurgency has no time to coddle you mamby-pamby sissies and your tiger-striped prestige crossbows. Get in that map and fight! Oooh-rah! Let’s get Saddam Hussein! Wait… What year is this?
After the break, are you ready to fight in Iraq again?
In more ways than one, Insurgency is a shooter from another age. It started as a free Source engine mod called Insurgency: Modern Infantry Combat that was developed by people that wanted to make a realistic multiplayer shooter in a modern setting. It was released to the public in 2007 and over the years has been a fairly popular mod due to its high skill demand, low system requirements, and emphasis on teamwork. In 2012, New World Interactive tried to raise money through Kickstarter for a standalone product called Insurgency 2, but the crowd-funding effort failed. The studio regrouped and took their game, now just called Insurgency, to Steam Early Access and successfully launched on January 22. Throughout all this, the game essentially still feels like the original mod. Shots are lethal. Teamwork is crucial. Saddam still adorns the walls of Iraq.
Insurgency features US Marines and Special Forces soldiers fighting against ragtag rebels in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia. It’s AK-47s versus M16s. Again. You’ll scramble through open-air markets, crouch next to burnt-out vehicles, and peer through broken windows as you battle for strategically important sites like “A” and “B” and sometimes even “C”. Capture that yellow-brown building. Secure that ammo cache. Flank that outpost. It sounds repetitive, and it could’ve been a dull exercise in shooter tropes, but Insurgency does some smart things to keep you on your toes.
First, Insurgency isn’t afraid to let players fail. Wandering off by yourself is a good way to get killed. Getting killed is easy because the firearms in the game are all lethal with one or two shots. There’s no healing or medics, so the only way to avoid dying is by not getting shot. Get shot and you’ll probably be sitting out the rest of the round watching your team play. You’ll need to travel in pairs, cover each other with smoke grenades and supression fire, and peek around corners.
The maps that ship with the game reinforce teamwork by offering a good mix of long open lanes for snipers and machinegunners to cover, and tight urban confines for intense short-range encounters. There is usually always a flanking route, so you’re never completely safe. Enemy upstairs? Maybe, but you’d better wait for backup before running up there.
Insurgency also puts the responsibility of tailoring the loadouts for the correct role on the player. Players choose a broad class like Rifleman, Support, or Striker before the match starts, then they get a choice of equipment to put on their character. Each option costs a number of points and Insurgency will gladly let you squander them on items that are less than useful for the map or mode you’re playing. It’s embarrassing to run out of rounds as the machingunner because you didn’t purchase the chest carrier to haul more ammunition. Can’t see in the night map because you didn’t get the flashlight attachment for your rifle? Too bad!
There are no crosshairs, so while firing “from the hip” is possible, it’s in your best interest to slow down and use the aiming sights on your weapon. Need more help aiming? Better get that holo sight and give up the extra smoke grenade.
There’s a decent, but not amazing, spread of weapons to choose from. All the standard weapons you’d expect in a game set before Saddam Hussein was caught are there. There’s already a large variety of builds being debated by players. Is the rifle foregrip a better investment than the heavy armor? What about the sidearm?
Finally, although Insurgency is built on the Source engine and won’t blow you away with “levelution” or other technical gimmickery, the features the developers chose to spend their resources on count. The dust and smoke kicked up by a firefight doesn’t just look good, it forces players to move or risk getting shot by someone outside of the engagement area. Particle effects like ricochet and debris make incoming rounds panic-inducing. Supression causes the screen to blur encouraging a hasty retreat back around the corner.
Screen real-estate is maximized with a no-frills approach to the point of view. It’s your gun and the world in front of you. There’s a tiny display at the bottom showing the sites to capture, and a spot off on the right to show how many magazines you have for your weapon. That’s it. No pop-ups of XP or challenges getting fulfilled. No directional damage indicators. Aim down the sights or not at all. Who or what killed you? There’s no killcam. Figure it out, soldier!
According to New World Interactive, the release is a soft launch. They want to add more features to the game through free updates. More maps and weapons, balance changes, new gameplay modes, and some kind of persistent stat tracking are all planned, but the core of the game will remain the same. A simple, but challenging mutliplayer shooter.
If you don’t mind fighting over the same cluttered iraqi streets and desolate afghan hills that you’ve seen a hundred times before, Insurgency brings enough hardcore sensibility and competent execution to stand out from the other multiplayer shooters. The old-school gameplay combined with updated mechanics are a breath of fresh air in a genre crowded with games that don’t understand that failure can still be fun.
Take to the streets for intense close quarters combat, where a team's survival depends upon securing crucial strongholds and destroying enemy supply in this multiplayer and cooperative Source Engine based experience.