Insurgency: Sandstorm Preview - E3 2018
We go hands-on with the hardcore tactical shooter sequel
In a world where shooters are becoming more and more bombastic and accessible to mainstream audiences, there is a corner of the market that demands a more serious and realistic experience. These fans have been served fairly well over the years with the likes of ArmA and Red Orchestra, as well as Insurgency. It’s been a few years since the release of the original Insurgency, which has gone on to sell millions of copies to the surprise of the developers New World Interactive, and thus there was obviously a demand for a sequel. Enter Insurgency: Sandstorm, the next entry in this franchise that’s looking to invite hardcore shooter fans back into the fold of modern combat encounters. We had a chance to play through a couple of rounds of the game at E3 2018.
Insurgency is a hardcore shooting experience. This means, among other things, almost no HUD, extremely limited respawn opportunities, quick deaths, and a strong need for team communication and a tactical approach. In our Insurgency: Sandstorm demo, we had a choice of a number of different classes. There was the Commander, who could call in air support, the Observer that carried the radio for said air support requests, the Breacher that focused on room clearing, the Gunner that could deploy machine guns, the Demolitions class that carried explosives for objects and aircraft, the Advisor with unique weapons and motivations, and the Marksman class for longer range engagements. Of course, the final class was the Rifleman, the versatile all-around fighter. The team was limited by how many players could spawn as each class; the limit was one for Commander, Gunner, Demolition, and Marksman; two for Observer, Breacher, and Advisor; and unlimited for Rifleman. These numbers could of course change before release as balance issues are addressed.
The mode we were playing was called Checkpoint – as the Security team, our goal was to infiltrate the Insurgent team’s territory and capture a series of objectives in a linear order. Before deployment we had a look at the soldier customization options. Regardless of which class you pick, there are a few different weapons, gadgets, and attachments that can be selected. The Riflemen obviously had the biggest amount of choice, though they were mostly limited to typical rifles like the M16A2, G3, FAL, and SKS. Each gun featured a number of customizable attachments like barrels, scopes, and so on. As in the previous game, the sequel utilizes a points system for loadouts, where each weapon and attachment you choose costs resources. You only have so many resources to spend, so if you want a really versatile main rifle with plenty of attachments, you may not have enough points to equip a secondary or any throwables.
With the loadouts ready and the round timer started, we spawned into the game. Carefully working our way through the streets of the town lodged in between some mountains, the team was eager to reach the first capture point, but some were too eager and were quickly killed in the side streets. The rest of the team took it slow and fought their way to the objective, capturing it by holding the room. The only opportunity for dead players to respawn was when the team captured the objective; friendly fire was on, there was no kill feed, or many UI elements to help you, apart from a compass and objective indicator. Sandstorm definitely lives up to its hardcore shooter classification.
With the team reunited, we continued to work our way through the village, making it to another objective where the goal was to plant explosives and detonate a weapon stash. Planting the charges takes time, and the other members of the team needed to keep an eye out. This second objective featured a single path up the stairs, and turned into a bit of a killbox as the defenders simply camped the top of the stairs. Perhaps there was a different approach, but after carefully searching we did not find it, and had to overwhelm the opponents by sheer brute force and grenades.
With two objectives down, we could move on and secured the rest of the map with relative ease. It’s worth noting we were playing against bots, and they had either poor or very good aim, so the shootouts were a bit random. Even so, the extremely fast time to kill was obvious and punishing. Having tried out the typical Rifleman loadout, we also checked out the Marksman, which was quite effective at long range but was rather vulnerable up close to due lack of an efficient secondary firearm. The shooting mechanics leaned towards simulation, and if you’ve played Insurgency, Day of Infamy, or the recent Rising Storm 2 Vietnam, it will feel quite familiar.
As our time with the hands-on demo came to an end, we emerged victorious. We avoided friendly fire accidents and managed to stick together for the most part. Still, the enemy force was composed of bots, so it would be likely a tougher challenge to compete against other players. The hardcore shooting mechanics are very much intact for Insurgency: Sandstorm, and if you’re a fan of the other New World Interactive games, or the ones from Tripwire Interactive, this sequel will more than likely satisfy.
Insurgency: Sandstorm is planned for launch on PC this Fall, and next year on consoles.