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Insurgency: Sandstorm Hands-On Preview – Real Intensity (PS4)

New World Interactive has been busy working on their upcoming military shooter, Insurgency: Sandstorm. It’s a realistic, squad-based first-person shooter, with a heavy emphasis on maintaining a believable ambiance and the intensity of the battlefield that rarely relents. PlayStation LifeStyle managed to go hands-on with an early build of the game at Focus Home Interactive’s recent Le What’s Next De Focus event in Paris, France, and have our impressions ready for you below.

A Storied History

Insurgency: Sandstorm is a sequel to Insurgency, which is itself a sequel to a Source mod called Insurgency: Modern Infantry Combat. So this marks the first time that the series will appear on consoles. First-person shooters are a natural fit on consoles, of course, so the transition should be relatively painless. We played our demo on beefed-up PCs, but the interface (or rather lack thereof) wasn’t too complicated and should be easily navigable with a controller.

The Unreal Engine 4 powers the experience in Insurgency: Sandstorm. Beyond allowing for easier and more reliable ports to consoles than a custom engine, this is also the first entry to shift away from Valve’s Source engine. The build shown to us included plenty of detail in the desert landscape we found ourselves placed in, solid lighting effects, and all the dust and grime that one would expect to see in such an environment.

Audio is something that can be easily overlooked when thinking about a shooter, but New World Interactive has made it a point to intensify the experience of a battlefield with the use of believable sounds. There are some unexpected sound effects used, such as the bee-like drone bomb, which is a sound that’s hard to forget after the first time it’s heard in the game. Soldiers make a lot of noise in the heat of battle, more than just simply firing a weapons or detonating explosives. They react to situations around them, and yell out to squad mates whenever they’re performing certain actions. So if a teammate was reloading, their character would automatically announce that to me, so that I could cover them if needed. But war is hell, and soldiers also swear a lot. This would happen, too – in between firefights, and especially right after, I would hear someone grunt “fuck fuck fuck,” which is a fairly reasonable reaction to a pile of bodies lying in a hallway. Giving soldiers voices for the moments between battles is an important point that not all military shooters get right, and Insurgency: Sandstorm appears to have nailed this.

Realistic, But Not Simulation

Realism is the main theme in Insurgency: Sandstorm. New World Interactive described their game as Battlefield in Hardcore mode all the time. The HUD is minimal, displaying information as it is relevant, but only for a moment or two. When running around without holding a gun up, no crosshair appears on the screen, and the gun is aimed in a free-aim method. This makes it much more difficult to take down targets without aiming down the sights, which is reflective of real life. Ammunition is also not a magic pool of bullets as in games like Battlefield or Call of Duty. Each magazine has a set number of bullets, and reloading simply takes the next magazine in your soldier’s queue, and swaps it with the one currently in the gun. This process takes a while, since each magazine must be handled and placed in its proper position. A quick reload option is available, however this involves tossing out the currently-loaded magazine, and is intended to be used when speed is of the essence.

While these elements just described are realistic, Insurgency: Sandstorm is not going for outright simulation. Bullet physics and ballistic trajectories are only calculated after some minimum distance, for example. Fallen teammates can respawn if a control point is held. At the same time, death can occur with just a few shots to the torso, or one to the head.

Insurgency: Sandstorm is the game you play when you want an adrenaline shot. Its intense audio design stands out from other games, while its free-aiming system helps to really drive an enhanced level of realism home. It’s not for everybody, but then it doesn’t pretend to be an everyman’s shooter. New World Interactive is currently digging in for the last stretch of development as Insurgency: Sandstorm barrels its way to release later this year.

PlayStation LifeStyle would like to thank New World Interactive and Focus Home Interactive for taking the time to allow us to play an early build of Insurgency: Sandstorm. Watch this space for more information on this and other games from the Le What’s Next De Focus event, coming soon!