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Insurgency: Modern Infantry Combat (PC) artwork

Insurgency: Modern Infantry Combat (PC) review

"I really, really suck at Insurgency. But I have an excuse! "

I really, really suck at Insurgency. But I have an excuse!

My excuse is that I play a lot of Team Fortress 2. My regular server has me tallied at more than nine full days of play time (thatís over 200 hours), and when youíve devoted that much of your life to an online shooter, you grow accustomed to certain things. Iím used to a game in which friendly fire isnít active and both teams are conveniently color-coded as a constant visual reminder of just who, exactly, youíre supposed to be shooting at. Iím used to a relatively fast-paced rate of progression in which bullets are constantly flying and explosions are going off in every direction. In short, Iím used to a gaming environment where a player can be shot repeatedly, knocked away by the force of a rocket, set on fire, and hacked with a machete, and can survive the whole ordeal by eating a sandwich.

Insurgency, a Source engine mod thatís available for free download on Steam, has a different agenda. While the pursuit of realism isnít exactly a lemon squeezer in todayís gaming world, few games are this devoted to it. Each round is punctuated by eerie silence, with every skirmish (those fairly rare in and of themselves) only sounding off a handful of gunshots. Automatic weapons send the screen flailing if a burst lasts longer than a fraction of a second. Youíre a sitting duck if you arenít in the prone position, and you can hardly aim if you are. And in most cases, a single shot is all it takes to kill someone. Everything in Insurgency is brown, including the attire of players on both sides; itís difficult to distinguish friend from foe, and a shot from your gun will kill a teammate all the same. Itís tense, nerve-wracking stuff.

And itís hard, because most shooters donít play like this. The very act of rising from a crouch is a tactical decision, whereas actually getting from one place to another can be a terrifying ordeal. Insurgency, in essence, isnít just a game about killing; itís about being aware and reacting. When a player is killed, thereís a good chance he had no idea he was under attack until he fell to the ground. Most gunfights tend to end up like that, where the victor was the one who first came to the realization that there was an opponent in his midst. Often times, youíll be under the impression that youíre perfectly safe, and then wham Ė a bullet flies out of nowhere and you drop dead, and youíve got absolutely no idea who fired the shot, or where it came from. As such, each round of Insurgency unfolds at a very slow pace. You tend to value your life more when a single shot is all it takes to die.

You can see how Iíd have trouble adjusting to this. Really, Insurgency feels tailor made for the sniper crowd. You can find them in every online shooter: They select the sniper class, they camp on the far edge of a big, open area, and they pick off every opponent they see Ė a headshot every time, of course, because theyíve gotten good at that. They can hardly react to close-range combat, but then no one ever gets close, do they? Well, almost invariably in Insurgency, whoever has the sniper rifle owns the land. In a game environment in which subtlety and discretion are key weapons, Insurgency almost feels like a finish line for those players who have spent a lifetime mastering the long-range headshot.

In this sense, the multiplayer-only Insurgency doesnít offer up the most beginner-friendly environment. The team-based king of the hill-style scenarios are familiar enough that grasping the gameís fundamentals isnít hard, but embracing the gameís nearly unparalleled sense of realism certainly is. Even knowing what youíre getting into, your initial run with Insurgency can be an infuriating experience, as even cautious players will find themselves gunned down in an instant with no chance to react, and without even knowing who fired the shot or where it came from, just because someone on the other team happened to be one step ahead of them. While itís certainly possible for non-snipers to contribute heavily to each round, victory in Insurgency is all about embracing the ďsniper attitudeĒ nevertheless: Sit tight, be patient, and donít go looking for trouble. You wonít get good at Insurgency by being reckless. In most cases, youíve got to wait for your enemies to do that.

Insurgency by its very nature is a game everyone will feel differently about, and as such, I only give you a cautioned recommendation and urge you to come to your own conclusions about it, as the official site is here. The game is free, after all Ė unless you donít own Half-Life 2, in which case, get on that.

Suskie's avatar
Featured community review by Suskie (June 05, 2009)

Mike Suskie is a freelance writer who has contributed to GamesRadar and has a blog. He can usually be found on Twitter at @MikeSuskie.

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