Review – Insurgency: Sandstorm
Insurgency: Sandstorm is a tactical military first person shooter that focuses on being as immersive and realistic as possible, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. Disappointingly enough, the story mode for the game got canned before release, so if you were looking for a plot or a decent reason to why you’re fighting, this isn’t the game for you. What we got instead are three different multiplayer modes to enjoy: PvP, Ranked and Co-operative. You play as either the security force or the insurgents as you complete a variety of objectives in all of the modes.
Sandstorm‘s gunplay is as good as it gets. Guns feel accurate and have real impact, with the recoil in particular feeling great. The TTK is low in Insurgency: Sandstorm, so only a few bullets will put your foes down in both the PvP and PvE modes, with no health regen to be seen. You’ve got to play it slow: sprinting and jumping around will usually get you killed pretty quickly. You can lean around corners, kick open doors and call in support as a commander.
The game’s sound design is also top notch, as it does a superb job of immersing you into the battlefield. As bullets fly past your head and explosions happen all around you, it’s really hard to not be impressed by the amount of effort put into making it incredibly realistic. Then you’ve got other details such as the disturbing screams of an enemy being set on fire with an incendiary grenade or the distinctive yelling of commands you hear on both sides. The in-game voice chat also has a radio filter on it, which is a nice extra touch.
The shift from the Source engine to Unreal Engine 4 has been a mostly successful one. The developers have managed to fill the map with more detail and effects. There’s also a gore option which I highly recommend turning on as you see heads exploding with ease, as well as one of my favourite moments in this game: kicking open a door with brute force, taking off all of an insurgent’s limbs. However there are side effects with the engine change, most notably the game’s lackluster optimization. It does not make the game unplayable, just a minor annoyance, especially when it comes to frame drops.
I spent most of my time in the co-operative mode known as Checkpoint. You spawn on a relatively large map as either an insurgent or security and have to fight through waves of enemy AI in order to complete objectives. Capture an objective and the insurgents might try a counter attack in an attempt to recapture it. Successfully defend that checkpoint for a couple of minutes and you can move on to the next objective, but if you don’t, it’s game over and back to the start. It’s a challenging mode that forces co-operation in some form to complete it effectively. If you die you are out, being unable to respawn for the remainder of the match unless the rest of your team captures and defends an objective successfully.
Although the AI is generally good, often going for flanks and doing a good job of suppressing your character, they can often be hilariously inconsistent, sometimes missing shots at a very close range, and just standing out in the open waiting to be murdered. Other times, they will be shooting you from across the map with pinpoint accuracy. They do still provide a suitable challenge that rarely feels harsh, and if anything, I’d like to see them buffed with a little more variety in their strategies in a future update.
The PvP options available here isn’t really to my liking but what is there is actually decent. There are three modes: a PvP version of the Checkpoint game mode that has the defenders trying to kill all the attacking reinforcements before they capture the objective, a more traditional 5v5 mode, and a 16v6 mode that is easily best of the bunch, being similar to the Conquest mode featured in Battlefield 3. Despite the fact it’s pure chaotic fun, I didn’t spend as much time with this mode as I did with the co-op offerings.
Your selectable loadout is very customizable, but your choices might limit you. Adding scopes, laser sights, grips, grenades, armour, magazines and more all affect your weight and will take up your limited amount of loadout tokens. My personal favourite was running the MK14 EBR battle rifle with a 4x scope and a laser sight.
It sounds silly, but one of Insurgency: Sandstorm‘s best features is how it handles your ammunition. Every time you reload, you don’t discard the magazine or magically move the leftover rounds into another mag. Instead you keep hold of it and it’s moved to the back of your queue. It’s a brilliant design choice that makes the game more immersive and is really easy to adjust to after a few matches.
A few new mechanics have been introduced, such as the inclusion of vehicles that are nothing more than just a car with a turret on the back. They are underutilized but quite a bit of fun to use to add just a little variety to the gameplay. A new commander class has also been introduced, allowing the player to call in air support such as a gunship or artillery fire. Character customisation is also a welcome addition. You get to choose your gender, voice and the looks of your equipment. It’s not as customisable as games like Rainbow Six Vegas 2 but there’s enough there to entertain you for a bit.
All in all, Insurgency: Sandstorm is a very good military shooter which is sadly let down by some poor optimization and an overall lack of content. Thankfully enough, what is included in the package is fun and replayable enough for you to look past the thin amount of modes available at the start.
The visuals as a whole look fine, but there could have been some improvements.
Great gameplay and focus on realism, but it doesn’t really innovate over what its predecessor offered years ago.
Great sound design that really immerses you into the experience. The inclusion of radio effects on voice chat was a nice touch.
Insurgency: Sandstorm is lacking in content, being restricted to basically online multiplayer modes, but what’s there is very good.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Insurgency: Sandstorm is available now on PC.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of Insurgency: Sandstorm was provided by the publisher.