I am not a military shooter kinda guy, but that didn’t stop me from adoring New World Interactive’s Insurgency. The level of realism and how it actively contributes to making every moment tense and unique sets it apart from nearly every FPS on the market. However, it is unfortunately held back by organizational hang-ups and issues I personally experienced with the community. If you can get past these roadblocks that limit the general scope of appeal, Insurgency will prove itself a leading example of the genre.

Insurgency is based on a mod for Half-Life 2 released nearly a decade ago. The idea was to make a less “gamey” feeling product than something  like Counter-Strike. The mod had a solid following, and a lot of the core team that created it formed an independent studio that expanded it into a full retail release. According to Mod DB, the original mod was released in January 2007, while the Steam retail release was in January 2014. It still uses Valve’s Source Engine, though it features much more content on top of what fans lovingly consumed before.

The hook here is that the game is highly realistic (well in every respect besides the unsurprisingly dated textures). There is little HUD, except an ammo magazine count in the bottom corner of the screen. There is no cross hair, nothing to confirm kills, no mini-map, and almost no command prompts. Some options do exist for players who can’t function without information, such as adding a viewable scoreboard and tiny icons over players to differentiate friend and foe. Also, if you are playing an objective-based game type, then there is waypoints to those locations, otherwise you would be lost. Regardless of settings, the screen is always devoid the obnoxious clutter that would detract from immersion.

You are going to die a hell of a lot in Insurgency, from things you never even saw coming. The game doesn’t care if you think it’s unfair. You need to stick to cover, moving intelligently, picking off foes tactically. Running and gunning will assuredly get you killed nine times out of ten. Every moment is genuinely terrifying, especially when bullets blaze overhead as you are sprinting from cover to cover. There were countless times where I panicked while pinned and paid the piper for it. Boy was it damned fun.

It was also a learning experience, as Insurgency made me a much better shooter player in general. I learned to check corners, pick guns (from which there is a sizable arsenal) in relation to specific maps, and how to position myself intelligently at all times. I also learned the importance of team communication and its critical role in overall success. Sure, I can get kills and do well on my own, but the more coordinated team always ended up victorious.

This mentality extends to the cooperative modes as well. In particular, a scenario called “checkpoint” serves as an exemplary piece of team-oriented design in gaming. In this mode, you and up to five other partners work your way through terrorist cells, trying to seize control of all the objective points on a map. If anyone dies, they have to wait for an objective to be taken before “reinforcement waves” can be sanctioned, meaning teammates will respawn. I only managed play with a single fellow editor, but we had a blast for hours, failing and restarting the same missions. In a feat of gleeful masochism comparable to Dark Souls, we reveled in being swatted, because it meant we had to push ourselves harder and work together as one to progress. If we actually completed a mission or only one of us was alive and cleared the entire area of enemies single-handedly,  the feeling of satisfaction was immeasurable I can only imagine with more friends actively communicating in a squad, with even crueler AI , Insurgency wouldn’t see a need for its competitive game types.

Honestly, those modes are the weakest portion of the experience. After playing a few matches, it becomes clear everything is based on the momentum of either killing an entire enemy team or capturing and holding locations of interest. The distinct lack of variety immediately kills any incentive to indulge in more than a handful of modes. Insurgency could have also reduced confusion by using traditional labels like: team deathmatch, capture the flag, and king of the hill on top of the original game variants. Instead, I have to read through all the description tags for each game type, insert the related tag into the server browser, then find an active game that seems appropriate for me to join. Even if all those concerns melt away once you are in game, it seems needlessly clunky.

In fact, navigating any menu in the game is highly inconvenient. Options and selectable bits are strewn everywhere on screen, with the roughest sense of organization. Often selecting something doesn’t give the kind of definitive feedback you want, such as choosing pieces of equipment or outfitting weapons. I found myself having to hit things multiple times, going into the game to see if they had the desired effect, finding things amiss, then diving into the backend once more to find a fix. Everything needs to be desperately streamlined and organized in a sensible and immediately relatable way.

On the subject of sensibility, my experiences in public servers suggest the average player has little. Of course not every human being who plays Insurgency fits this description, but to think this is my and many other players impression is genuinely concerning. I hoped it was just a few bad eggs ruining a handful of individual matches, but the hate speech and general negativity always followed close at my heels. I highly recommend disabling voice chat and finding a group of dedicated friends to play with.

Anyone who needs a narrative or campaign mode to justify purchasing a military FPS won’t find one here. Whether through lack of interest or budget, the game is devoid of a single player component. I am a bit disappointed, given the potential of such realistic gameplay mixed with a dramatic plot. Yet, the player-driven narrative surrounding each firefight and the tales you are bound to rely to close friends more than suffices.

In the end, Insurgency proves itself to be something quite interesting. Despite a myriad of concerns holding me back from bestowing the highest praise, it still deeply impressed me. Regardless of being on a decrepit engine (that it is fairly unoptimized for potato rigs by the way) and being plagued by rude users who can ruin similar shooters, it is stunningly realistic and involving. In reality, AAA developers should be frightened of what a small studio like New World Interactive has achieved.

Review: Insurgency
  • Intense and Realistic
  • Brilliant Cooperative Modes
  • Demands your best at all times
  • Public servers can be unfriendly
  • Unaccommodating menu design
  • Lack of unique competitive modes
7Overall Score