Insurgency: Sandstorm is the sequel to the indie hit Insurgency which was published by New World Interactive in 2014. After updating Insurgency with free new content for over three years after its release, the developer decided it was time to improve and expand the Insurgency experience using Unreal Engine 4 and working with publisher Focus Home Interactive.
Insurgency: Sandstorm is a polished and greatly improved version of Insurgency, and in the dev’s own words it represents much of what they hoped to do with the first game but didn’t have the experience or flexibility to accomplish with an older game engine. Let’s take a look and find out how much improvement Insurgency: Sandstorm has truly made over its predecessor.
Insurgency: Sandstorm has no remorse for beginners. There is no tutorial and no story mode to help ease you into the action. The most forgiving option available to you is the co-op vs. AI mode Checkpoint where you work with a team of other players to capture and destroy objectives as you advance through the map. I highly recommend new players try a couple rounds of this mode to get a feel for the game’s rhythm and mechanics.
For experienced FPS players, Insurgency: Sandstorm will have many familiar qualities. If you have not dabbled on the hardcore side of the genre, however, you will certainly notice the differences. Your HUD is minimal, with no kill feed, hit markers or crosshairs. Players can take as little as one or two shots to kill, so planning your strategy tactically and working with your team is vital. The weapons also are not fixed to the centre of your screen unless you aim down the sights, hip fire is extremely unreliable and should only be used in the most dire of circumstances.
One important mechanic that is even more unique to Sandstorm is the lack of weapon unlocks. As soon as you begin the game, everything is open to you. The limits on what loadouts are available to you are the point-based system alone. These supply points you are given can be combined however you wish to equip you with a primary weapon, a secondary, explosives, ammo capacity, armor, and weapon attachments. This means that in order to excel in one area, you must sacrifice capabilities in another. Want a sniper rifle with a suppressor and long-range scope? Don’t expect to be very heavily armored or be able to carry many mags. Want to armor up and be on the front-lines? Expect to have very little utility or sidearm capability as your armor, mags and weapon attachments will surely use most of your supply points.
While it can be a very entertaining process to customize your loadouts, I wish you were able to create them from the main menu where there is no time pressure instead of as a game is starting and you are expected to be ready as soon as the round begins. For people who like to take their time, weigh their options and even create a few presets ahead of time, this is a slightly stressed process. The need for this is heightened by the fact that there are different classes to play, each with different loadout options. If you are playing with a friend, I highly recommend playing as a Commander and Observer combo – one of you can designate air support strikes while the other calls it in for devastating effect that can turn the tide of any game!
Another unique and game-defining mechanic present in Insurgency: Sandstorm is the team focused respawning. Teammates spawn together in reinforcement ‘waves’ which do not occur until a number of your team has been killed. These waves are limited, and the first team to run out of waves and have all of their players killed is defeated. Free ‘waves’ are awarded to attacking teams for capturing objectives.
Aside from the co-op mode Checkpoint, Insurgency: Sandstorm offers three modes that really make up the bulk of gameplay: Push, Firefight and Skirmish. Push puts one team on offense for an entire game, with clear objectives to capture or destroy, while the other team is on defense and must prevent the final objective from being destroyed. A full match of Push consists of two games, so either team must play offense and defense successfully to come out with a win. There are also different rules for the respawn waves for each side as well. Defenders start with a set number at the beginning, while attackers start with a much lower number and earn bonus waves with each objective capture. This is designed to encourage fast but tactical movement on the offensive team, and safe but not passive defending from the opposite team.
Firefight slows down the action just a touch, focusing instead on close encounters with even more restricted loadouts (lower supply point limit) and no fire support. Both teams have the same goals: take control of all 3 objectives simultaneously or kill all of the enemy forces. This mode offers a ranked 5v5 option for those interested in a competitive environment.
The final game mode, Skirmish is a large-scale open battle where players fight for control of objective points. Each objective capture awards an additional respawn wave, allowing the fight to continue!
Of the game modes, I certainly find Push to be the most entertaining for my personal style. That is one of the beautiful things about this game, each mode suits a different style, so it most certainly has something for everyone!
With a truly immersive game style, a rewarding balance of simulation vs arcade elements, and a starting price under $40 CAD, Insurgency: Sandstorm will offer fans of FPS a truly unique and enjoyable experience.