Posted: December 29, 2013
Insurgency is a strange animal - a blend of various ideas characterized by other games like Counter-Strike, Red Orchestra, and the cult classic Firearms mod - that manages to do a very good job at providing a tactical, hardcore shooter experience.
On paper, Insurgency seems very normal - two teams, the classic push/conquest/objective style game types, and guns. However, that's pretty much all Insurgency has in common with its modern military shooter bretheren. Insurgency is mechanically a very different beast. Let's start with spawns - instead of having reinforcement pools like Battlefield or Red Orchestra, Insurgency uses spawn waves to regulate gameplay flow. It sounds weird, sure, but it works extremely well in practice.
Let's take a basic game mode, Skirmish. Five objective points, conquest style. Each team's closest points to defend are objectives that can be destroyed, which removes them from the map and tightens up the cap order. Each team starts with 2 spawn waves. These spawn waves kick in every 60 seconds or so. Anyone alive by then stays alive, anyone dead by the end of this timer comes back. Every time an objective is captured, another spawn wave is added to the capping team. This means that players are not only incentivized to do objectives in order to extend their own playtime, but it also increases the team's overall effectiveness. It also means that rounds can take a while or be over extremely quickly depending on the degree of teamwork and individual player ability to stay alive.
The other thing that this game does very well mechanically is its gunfights. In other tactical realism games like Red Orchestra or ARMA, an average engagement is a sniper fest - whoever sees 'em first ends it pretty much instantly. Now don't get me wrong, Insurgency has its share of ingloriously quick deaths and sniping corridors, but an average medium-range gunbattle can often devolve into a stand-up fight involving suppression, repositioning, and grenades, much like a real fight. Part of this is enabled by the fantastic sound design and particle effects - guns are spectacularly loud, a blinding amount of smoke and dust gets kicked up from fully automatic fire, and suppression effects seriously mess with a player's accuracy. Ducking away from a window to have a burst of automatic fire rip up where you were just seconds ago is quite unnerving. Insurgency also seems to be one of the few games that really understands that shooting a real firearm often results in a sort of almost-blindness from the muzzle blast and recoil, which makes attempting to shoot enemies less of a "line-up-and-click" moment and more of "frantically fire in their general direction and hope they don't shoot back". tl;dr: the guns feel realistic and meaty, and getting shot at is freaky.
With that said, however, I must be clear with you - Insurgency is NOT a game attempting infantry combat simulation like ARMA or Red Orchestra. The accuracy and damage dealt by the game's large selection of weapons is on par with those kinds of games, but this is also a game tuned for balance and fun. There isn't any superflous mechanics like changing the zeroing on your ironsights or wounding (like RO2 does), but it does make thematic concessions, like fully animated fire selector switches. The inventory and loadout system also emphasizes that it's still very much a game . The end of rounds gives your team Supply Points, which you can then use to build your character's weapons kit. You can equip armor to hopefully increase your survivability by a shot or two, attach a 4x scope to your SKS to plink at range with it, or shunt your points into a slow-handling rocket launcher, which is good for objectives and heavy suppression. There is no grindy metagame progression system like Call of Duty. It's just the loadout and inventory - all based on your team's performance in and out of rounds. Kind of like Counter-Strike!
As someone who cut their teeth on games like Red Orchestra, I can say this about Insurgency: it is NOT the most hardcore, realistic shooter I've played, but it is most definitely the most FUN I've had with a realistic team-based shooter! For an early access game, they have a very good product released as of this date (12/29/13). I haven't had a single crash yet, it looks amazing, and runs like a dream! They also have quite a selection of maps and well-balanced gameplay to top it all off. If what I've said sounds good at all to you, go on and get this game, even if it isn't on sale. It's worth it.