For me, Insurgency Sandstorm is my introduction to the shooter series from New World Interactive and before diving headfirst into the game I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I did find however left a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth mostly because I just didn’t get on with the game as much as I’d have liked.

In a nutshell, Insurgency Sandstorm is a tactical shooter with a focus on realism – to a point. It’s a hardcore shooter where single shots can be the end of your time with the game. This wouldn’t necessarily be the problem if the game didn’t force you to wait for your team to capture objectives in order to respawn, but alas, my time with the game was more in the spectator role than actually playing the game.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this is no fault of the game, clearly. I’m just bad at the game and that’s largely due to the Call of Duty mentality in me. I love Call of Duty and as many of us are probably aware of, that game is a pretty casual FPS, so being thrown into a game where bullets actually inflict damage can obviously be quite jarring.

Insurgency Sandstorm’s gameplay focuses on the art of patience and situational awareness. You can’t just smash your way through doors expecting to soak up a couple of shots before landing a well-placed headshot in the enemy. You need to observe the battlefield, assess the situation, and keep a close eye on any enemies poking their heads through windows.

Insurgency Sandstorm Screenshot

In this game, it’s a case of shoot first, or you’re done for. There’s no point waiting for the right moment as more often than not, a single shot from the enemy will end your time in the game, and the same goes for you shooting an enemy. Plus, with no overly obvious indication that you’ve managed to down the opponent, you have to go by your better judgment 80% of the time.

New World Interactive announced earlier in the year that the game would no longer include a single player campaign, which is a shame as all we’re left with is a co-op vs AI mode, a casual PvP competitive mode, and a ranked competitive mode. In the competitive modes, you’ve got a choice of three game modes, Push, Firefight, and Skirmish. Each of these modes feature respawn queues, or reinforcement queues, based on certain requirements.

For me personally, this was one of the worst parts of the game as I just wanted to get in on the action rather than sitting around in the hopes that my teammates would capture an objective. Fortunately, there are some instances where you’ll respawn slightly sooner. Take Rush for example which features Respawn Waves, for Attackers, these waves are limited, for Defenders they’re not – unless Attackers hit the weapon cache.

Ultimately though, if you’re bat at Insurgency Sandstorm then you’ll likely find yourself in respawn queues more often than not which for new players of the series might find a bit of a bitter pill to swallow. I know I certainly did. As for co-op Player vs AI you do respawn instantly, but it’s not quite as exciting as playing against other players.

Insurgency Sandstorm Screenshot

Co-op mode for me felt a lot like classic single-player shooters like Rainbow Six or Delta Force. It’s an enjoyable experience, but it doesn’t quite have the same heart in your mouth experience of multiplayer. The game’s AI performs how you’d expect, they can be caught off guard pretty easily. It’s a decent co-op experience but nothing to write home about.

In terms of performance, Insurgency Sandstorm is a gorgeous looking game. Though there were a number of times I’d spawn in and would have no weapon, or the weapon would have zero attachments, or the whole environment hadn’t fully loaded. The game could definitely do with optimizing in certain areas as for a game which suffered from a couple delays, I’d expect it to work a little better. Not to mention simply starting up the game causes my PC to whir away like a jet engine. And I’m only on the menu.

Visually the game is impressive once all of the assets load. Especially little things like being suppressed by opposing gunfire and the motion blur. The environments are also pretty stunning. The attention to detail here is unreal. The game’s sound design also follows this principle with each weapon having its own unique sound, gunfire in the distance is unique and you can really pinpoint where enemy gunfire is coming from.

Putting aside my lack of skill, gameplay in this game is incredibly satisfying. While the learning curve is pretty steep, when you do start to get the hang of its hardcore gameplay you’ll find successfully taking down an enemy is a pretty damn satisfying experience. In addition, you’re not spending your time with low-rank weapons hoping to unlock attachments and other weapons through gameplay, the game’s vast arsenal of weaponry and attachments are available from the get-go so you can really customize your loadout with little limitations.

Insurgency Sandstorm Screenshot

Overall, Insurgency Sandstorm is a hardcore shooters for players who want a challenge and escape the humdrum gameplay of Call of Duty and Battlefield. The game also has a heavy focus on team play too so those with a lone wolf mentality may also struggle with this game. While it’s not perfect, Insurgency Sandstorm definitely has some huge positives and is a welcomed addition to the flooded FPS genre. I imagine with a few more quality of life patches this game will be a must-have for someone looking for a hardcore tactical team-based shooter.

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