In 2014, New World Interactive released a stand-alone version for their original Half-Life 2 mod called Insurgency. While I did not have a chance to take a look at the game two years ago, the recent release of the Day of Infamy total conversion mod led me to take a deeper look at the base game. At first glance, the game resembles what one would expect to experience when playing Counter Strike, urban team-based competitive multiplayer with objectives. Insurgency, however, is remarkably deep, adding weapon customization, class-based squad assignments, and a constant stream of new content through the use of Steam Workshop.
There are two main ranked playlists in Insurgency, dividing the in-game population for those that want to play high-tension elimination matches and those that want to jump right into the action after death. The majority of the servers feature 16v16 team matches, but there are some that focus on 8v8, typically for elimination servers. Regardless of your preference, you’ll still find plenty of active servers throughout the day, even during off-peak hours. The game focuses on realism, removing any in-game map or radar, a health indicator or ammo counter. The most that Insurgency informs players is where objective are located and which players are in your squad/team. You can forget about lining players up with crosshairs either, as you’ll have to aim down the sights of your weapon to accurately see where you are aiming.
As mentioned, I was initially concerned about missing all the HUD elements that clutter the screen in Call of Duty and Battlefield, but I eventually found it freeing. Sure, it increases the game’s difficulty, and players with a higher level of skill will get an advantage, but the intense nature of the engagements is second to none. Whether you are attempting to make an escape through an alleyway or you are laying down covering fire behind a waist-high wall, you are constantly hearing nearby gunshots. Attempting to figure out what direction it is coming form and if you should be concerned is the key to success. Then again, you may not hear the footsteps from the player that sneaks behind you and unloads a single shot into the back of your head.
I’ll be honest, by the time you see your enemy, you will probably be dead. Unlike engagements in Battlefield, where you can escape after taking numerous shots, a single bullet can put you down for good. Playing objectives, you’ll see groups of soldiers attempting to defend or attack, but most of the match, you’ll encounter soldiers running around alone. Perhaps, squad members were waiting in hiding, and I never got the chance to see them. Seeing bullets bounce off nearby walls means you need to get out of whatever location you are in as quickly as possible. Most of the time it is already too late, and you should attempt to lay down suppression fire or warn your squad before it is too late.
Teamwork is essential, but playing with everyone on mute and is still an option, though not recommended. If you do not want to use a mic, you should listen to the tactics that you’ll hear from other players as the community takes matches seriously. As with all competitive multiplayer games, I found myself leaning towards playing with friends instead of hoping on random servers by myself.
Each side is broken up into three squads, each with a limited number of slots per class. Everything is on a first-served basis, and you’ll encounter different weapons and gear depending on the class selected. The classes range from those with typical assault weapons to those with heavy equipment or the one sniper rifle in the squad. The roles are defined, and when all squad members play their roles for the best of the squad instead of lone-wolfing it, a win is satisfying and exhilarating. Weapons can be customized using a limited amount of supply points, such as increasing the clip size, replacing a fore grip with a grenade launcher and choosing from a handful or scopes and sights.
Similar to my experience with the Day of Infamy mod, there are multiple game modes, but I found myself focusing on only two: Firefight and Push. Firefight uses the game’s permadeath mechanic, forcing players to use tactics to stay alive or risk losing the round. Push is similar to the Rush objective mode from Battlefield, featuring waves or reinforcements for both the attackers and defenders. Attackers have a very low number of waves at the start, and securing an objective will add both additional waves and more time for them to complete their mission. There are over a dozen maps set in various Middle Eastern style towns, cities and countrysides. The majority of them have both a day and night version that can be added to the map cycle. The maps are varied enough, ranging from tight-knit urban environments to snowy mountain tops with a limited amount of buildings to use for cover.
Insurgency, like Day of Infamy, is visually dated, but the intense nature of the team focused gameplay shines through. The realistic gameplay is why I spent hours playing the game, way more than I ever spent playing Counter-Strike or competitive Call of Duty multiplayer. There are plenty of active servers, and you will not have any problem finding one to join for whatever your game mode preference happens to be.
Note: The Insurgency review is based on a digital PC copy of the game, provided for review.