It might be cheap, and it may have been a mod – but it ain’t now. 10 years in the making, Insurgency is no less of a game than Battlefield 4, and in many ways, it’s a more sporting one.

Insurgency has had a long journey. Back in 2002, it was Operation-Insurgency, a total conversion mod for Half Life 2. Recently however Steam shoved it on their front page, and slapped on a £11.99 price tag. It still had the new(ish) name of Insurgency, coined for the game in 2007, but it played dramatically different. Is this Insurgency 2? Is this an entirely new game? Whatever it is, it’s “a decade in the making,” according to developer New World Interactive. It certainly feels like an FPS that was designed 10 years ago, but that is no bad thing. Here’s why. Edit: the dev has been kind enough to clear up the origins.

Old-school, down to earth, straight to the point FPS.

Old-school, down to earth, straight to the point FPS.

It’s tempting to liken Insurgency to something like Counter-Strike, where success in the game is about learning the maps, and skillful hand-eye coordination. There are no gadgets or gimmicks. No over-priced DLC map packs; your enemy is no more equipped than you are, and it’s your fault if you die. In reality, it’s closer to Modern Warfare meets Red Orchestra 2. That’s because, to my surprise after playing the game, Jeremy Blum from the original Red Orchestra mod joined the team in its final 3 years prior to launch as a stand alone. We love Red Orchestra, and quite a few things from that game have found their way into this one.

Firstly, this is a pseudo-realistic modern combat shooter. That means nobody gon’ tell you if that guy’s dead, yer’ gonna have to check. It became quite clear immediately after stepping into Insurgency that it was trying to do everything a mass market game like Call of Duty couldn’t afford to do: maintain integrity. It’s tense, and every second counts. Long spawn times mean that dying is a pain in the ass, so you’ll try to do it less. A couple of hits will get you killed, so you’ll try to get hit less. These frustrations ultimately culminate in a brilliant FPS experience, and one that some people would try to monetize. Capitalize on player frustration, they say. Screw them, say New World Interactive.

The game is primarily set in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The game is primarily set in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Much to the dismay of many budding snipers out there, teams are capped to a certain amount of classes. Teams have two squads, and each squad is allowed one sniper each. Similarly to Red Orchestra, each squad is tasked with a squad leader who’s expected to issue orders and keep the team together. With those, you’ve specialists, riflemen, breachers, marksmen, support and snipers. Some converge on others, but generally they’ll dictate a small pool of weapons that can be used for each class.

These weapons can be customized in the swish customization menu with the application of weight-points. Points can be removed and applied to different options to meet your play-style. For instance, I almost always removed grenades and extra ammo for a better sight, better ammo, or extra stability on my weapon. I often got rid of my side-arm too, to allow for more attachments. When you’ve got a few clips of 30, and it only takes 1-3 hits to kill someone, there’s no need for a whole lot of ammunition.

Add and remove points for different attachments.

Add and remove points for different attachments.

Everything is superbly balanced — 10 years of development probably helping with that — and whilst that means no one gun is technically better than the other, since they all have their uses, the generally close-quarters maps can give you a sense that all weapons feel the same at times. However, switching from an SMG like the UMP to the ‘Security Forces’ battle rifles quickly sweeps that theory under the carpet, with each weapon serving its tactical purpose. Recoil is not nearly as big of an issue in Insurgency as it was in Red Orchestra 2, but firing from the hip with anything but an SMG in close quarters will likely lead to a quick death.

As a weathered FPS player, you will most likely not have to re-learn how to use each weapon. They feel about ‘right’, whatever that means, and careful aiming down the sight will offer the desired result – good kills. The amount of weight you’re carrying does affect your run speed, but there isn’t really as much of an incentive to nip around bare-bones as there was in something like Call of Duty or the supremely flawed Rainbow 6: Vegas 2, since only a few pot-shots will take you out. There’s no winning formula other than skill and team-work, and that’s the hallmark of a decent FPS.

Maps are fairly varied, but look a lot better in urban areas.

Maps are fairly varied, but look a lot better in urban areas.

You may have noticed that Insurgency isn’t the prettiest game. It’s not. That said, it’s at least above aesthetically functional and often borders on the lovingly detailed. It has the same smooth aesthetic as CS: GO, but with a little more detail and more authenticity in the maps. If you’re a Battlefield 4 hog and won’t accept anything less, then you’re missing the point here — gameplay trumps graphics, and what it lacks in GUI and lens flare, it makes up for in balance and map design. Each of the 7 maps are varied, with multiple routes to take similar to a CS map — completely dissimilar to a CoD map.

You won’t find yourself running in circles, getting kills from the sides and back, with a quick respawn. It doesn’t rely on cheap tricks to keep it addictive. Generally, you’ll bob and weave along corridors and through buildings hoping the enemy hasn’t flanked you, facing them 1 on 1, player vs player. Fair. Sporting. The way it’s supposed to be. Because Insurgency doesn’t rely on upgrades and experience points, it allows itself decent map design, where players want to get better, not just a higher level.

Triple monitor support is there but I found the game crashing upon being killed often

Triple monitor support is there but I found the game crashing upon being killed often

There are various game-modes to keep you happy, and a whole lot of players who appreciate this niche of the genre. Matchmaking never failed to toss me into a competently outfitted game, and the community are competitive without childishness that usually comes with it — one of the perks of being on PC. You’ll find classic Counter-Strike style missions with a twist, such as Search and Destroy, which pits one team against the other destroying and protecting weapons caches. Once a cache is destroyed, your team will re-spawn. Only on that condition.

Firefight is the closest thing you’ll get to team-death-match on the ‘Tactical’ operations modes, with objectives captured in order to respawn the team. There’s also VIP escort which is, admittedly, usually ruined by an idiot VIP getting himself shot in the head or pretending he’s Rambo. Players are not too friendly in those situations, but are otherwise forgiving.

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Plenty of game modes and competent match making makes this one to look out for

They’ve even thrown in Rush style mode ‘Push’, and some lighter modes such as Skirmish and Strike which are suspiciously similar to their ‘Tactical Operations’ counterparts albeit with more forgiving options. Insurgency is a very accessible game. It’s a simple game. It’s back to basics, but it has gotten the basics absolutely perfect. In a world of Call of Duty and Battlefield 4, we’re often left only with WWII shooters to quench our thirst. For realism with vehicles, we can rely on Arma3 – but for a bit of player vs player competition, what do skilled PC players have now’days? Well, Insurgency, as of 2014. 

Insurgency is my new go-to FPS for everything that isn’t Arma3 related, and it’s living proof that skilled PC players are still a demographic worth providing for. Not only should we applaud New World Interactive for freshening up a traditional meal, but we should thank them for not being dicks about it. This is an FPS that rewards skill. If you die, it’s your fault. If you succeed, that’s all on you. Don’t look to your wallet, your grind, or your XP to make you better. You won’t find any of that here — and thank Gilgamesh for that.

Whether you think going back-to-basics is fun doesn’t interest me — what’s for certain is that this is a well made first person shooter, subjectivity aside.