A toughie but a goodie.
A tactical squad-based FPS born out of the roundly acclaimed Source mod, Insurgency was released back in the January of 2014 and yet still boasts a vast congregation of online players from across the globe. Such longevity can’t be explained simply, but a significant portion of it is down to the fact that Insurgency knowingly and unabashedly eschews some of the hackneyed excesses of ‘mainstream’ FPS’.
You are no bullet sponge in Insurgency, and what slither of health you do have doesn’t regenerate. It’s a sobering reminder, when you die yet again to one or two well-placed bullets, of just how poorly-equipped the human body is to handle multiple holes put in it – a reminder that you won’t get from a lot of other shooters which portray humans as some sort of self-medicating race of impervious cyborgs.This isn’t your run-of-the-mill whack-a-mole shooter fare, and for that reason it’s a good idea to start with the tutorial before heading into multiplayer. The tutorial is well-paced, simple and manages to touch upon some of the nuanced strategy and advanced tactics required to succeed. It also contains a commanding officer barking orders, seemingly in preparation for the team-mates who will later be barking orders in far stronger terms. The tutorial also neatly introduces us to the plot, insofar as there is any plot, with insurgents (who could’ve guessed?) attacking the army base.
There’s a surprising number of different game modes, but in all of them the basic objectives remain vaguely the same. Two teams face off against one another with the aim of either capturing points or killing their adversaries. Outside of specific one-life gameplay, there are respawns for those who perish, but they come as part of a finite number of ‘reinforcement waves’. You can increase the number of waves by successfully capturing points or blowing up enemy weapon caches, and you can keep these waves by not dying. Neither is as easy at they might seem, and making any significant progress will require a coordinated team effort.There is a broad variety of roles to be filled in each squad; from Sappers to Strikers, from Militants to Machine Gunners. Some will be focused on explosives and close quarters combat, others will be more useful for long range firefights. There’s a set limit for each role in each squad, so if someone’s already the sniper, then I’m afraid you’re out of luck – you obstinately sniping so-and-so.
So that’s the set-up, but how does it actually play? Really, really well actually. The gunplay is satisfying enough, with weapons serving more as clinical tools rather than the outlandish boomsticks that you see in other shooters. (Not to denigrate the value of outlandish boomsticks, of course.) Where Insurgency really comes into its own, quite apart from the focus on tactical warfare, is in its audiovisual feedback.When planning an attack, there’s a stillness in the air broken only by a distant scurrying of boots, occasional murmurs from the characters alongside you, and the clicking of firearms being subtly reloaded. When the attack commences, often quite suddenly, everything around breaks into a near-deafening tumult. Bullets fly past, accompanied as they do by a terrifyingly shrill ‘whizz’, soldiers all around cry out observations about enemy positions, and explosions ring out in a deafening roar. Suffice it to say, headphones are recommended for when this happens.While not wishing to entirely disparage the current shift towards virtual reality, it has to be said that audiovisual design like this proves true immersion doesn’t need goggles and a sizeable play area. I’d always shy away from deeming any shooter ‘realistic’ on accounts of not being personally acquainted with the horrors and brutality of warfare, but what Insurgency does really well is to make each and every action highly meaningful and require a level of forethought not asked of you in other shooters.This isn’t a case of gallivanting across the map, stacking up fantastic amounts of kills until your epic streak allows you to call in a literal nuclear bomb. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a very special kind of thrilling; but here it’s more of an uphill struggle—a careful, meticulous grind of picking your targets and supporting your teammates in an effort to come out the other end with a victory.
Insurgency isn’t something you can get to grips with instantaneously. You’ll need the tutorial, then you’ll need a good amount of time playing solo with the serviceable (though not much more than serviceable) AI, and even then you’ll lose over and over again. Insurgency is a struggle, but the rewards are great indeed.