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Insurgency: Sandstorm Preview

MAY THE SOURCE BE WITH YOU... OR NOT

Do you remember when the Source engine was the “new hotness”? Counter-Strike: Source, Garry’s Mod, Team Fortress 2, the first Insurgency, and Day of Infamy all utilized this engine to create fantastic gaming experiences. Sandstorm chose to not use the Source engine for their latest title, instead going with Unreal. It makes me wonder if the Source engine is dated now or maybe the company just wanted to move in a new direction. While I will always swear by the Source engine’s ability to make buttery-smooth gameplay and great (sometimes hilarious) physics, the Unreal engine truly does complete the Sandstorm experience.

REALITY REFRESHED

PC first-person shooter players are a diverse bunch. While loads of us love to play MilSim (military simulation) shooters, sometimes we just want the run-and-gun of more mainstream-style games. While MilSims give us the opportunities to plan, coordinate, execute and assess actions, every now and then we just want to spawn in, rush an objective, blow something up, explode ourselves (possibly), and respawn. This is why titles like Call of Duty and Battlefield are not soon to leave the memories or the wallets of gamers alone. Sandstorm draws on both of these concepts.

While the main game modes will force your team to capture an objective before your fallen comrades can respawn, there are still game modes that reinforce the standard “pew-pew” of modern shooters. Just don’t be fooled — not only will little mistakes be universally punished by incoming fire, but you are more than just a body in Sandstorm. With class-based warfare, you play an important role in your squad. From playing the designated marksman or the demolitionist, to the commander or the radio operator, your death could put your team in serious jeopardy of losing the fight, or even the entire match.

This title brings the tactical and gritty overlays of MilSim to an arcade-like platform. Comparable titles would of course be the original Insurgency, or even titles like Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45 or Rising Storm. If you are familiar with any of these, then you know all too well that one or two bullets is all it takes to turn the tides.

SO WHAT’S NEW?

Comparing Sandstorm to the first Insurgency, this sequel provides a lot more bang for your buck, especially in the overall aesthetics and gameplay. First and foremost, we now have vehicular combat. While in the beta, we had access to a single vehicle, which is often referred to as a “technical”. A technical is a civilian vehicle that has been modified for militaristic use. In the case of Sandstorm, it’s a small white truck with a .50 caliber machine gun slapped on the bed of the truck.

Bullet ballistics have also been brought to the table. This means that all rounds fired can penetrate certain materials such as stone walls, wood fences, or tin buildings. To no surprise, this means that being on the receiving end of that .50 caliber is almost certain death, as it negates almost all material cover. Don’t get too excited though — the vehicle and its crew can be easily disabled with some well-placed machine gun fire or my personal be-all and end-all: The rocket-propelled grenade.

One of the most powerful differences in the sequel that can’t go unnoticed is the visceral and gory nature of the game. While the first Insurgency embraced a hardcore angle, Sandstorm kicks it up to eleven with loads of dismemberment. For those who prefer to not observe all the “bits,” there is an option to turn off the dismemberment in the settings. While gore isn’t something that every game has to have, it does bring a whole new level to any game when your buddy’s head disappears in a pink mist as he walks through the threshold of a building.

The most incredible of the newly added components of the title is the sound. I can’t give the developers enough kudos on the grade-A sound; it alone deserves an endorsement. The immersion that it generates is beyond comparison. Gunfire inside and outside of structures, footsteps, voice communications, and even the AI “talking smack” on their approach to rob you of the territory your team has fought so hard to obtain, all add something special. But no title is without its problems, especially in beta.

ALL IN ALL

Let's get real. Insurgency: Sandstorm is set to release on September 18th, this year. At the time of the first beta, we were five weeks out from release, and boy did it have its problems — especially on day one. During the initial day, I didn’t meet a single person in-game getting above 55 fps, usually averaging about 30-35 fps. Also, we were all experiencing copious amounts of graphical bugs.

To be fair, the developers released a hotfix on day two that patched a lot of the issues, including the frame rate. Most of us were locked in from 50-60 fps for the remaining days, and loads of the graphical bugs were corrected. While we can all agree “betas will be betas,” the performance was pretty darn rough, considering it was to be released on Xbox, PS4, and PC in just five weeks. Granted, there will be a beta running from August 30th until the release, but it’s still fairly worrisome.

Insurgency: Sandstorm is a fast-paced, visceral and immersive tactical first-person shooter. While everyone's gaming experience was different in the beta, most of us experienced some high-speed, high-drag gameplay. The developers have created an excellent successor to their past title and have made a fantastic tactical game. I can’t say confidently that upon release of this game, it will be fully up to par with the consumer expectations; more likely, it will release in a semi-rough state. With that being said, I have feel sure that by the end of 2018, Insurgency: Sandstorm will be a near-perfect tactical experience. Remember: Clear your corners.

Bric Hudson
Written by
August 27, 2018
Published in Editorial

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Bric is a US Army veteran and a passionate gamer. While in military service, he found gaming to be a way to connect with his friends all over the world. This blossomed into a fascination with the gaming culture and the experiences had while launching up a whole new title. He is fond of a variety of genres, which is reflected on his Twitch streams and on his Youtube channel. Find Bric on YouTube. Find Bric on Twitch.

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