Insurgency: Sandstorm is a multiplayer tactical first-person shooter developed by New World Interactive and published by Focus Home Interactive. The game is the sequel to the 2014 title, and while its initial launch was on PC way back in 2018, the console release was delayed until September 2021. Admittedly, I never played the 2014 title, so going into Sandstorm I was expecting yet another Call of Duty clone. Granted, I played my fair share of Call of Duty, but in recent years the franchise has lost some of its appeal. As a result, I honestly wasn’t expecting much from Insurgency: Sandstorm. Fortunately, I was wrong.
Though the comparisons to Call of Duty is inevitable, Insurgency: Sandstorm distinguishes itself in a number of ways. Firstly, it doesn’t have the Michael Bay-esque cinematic, fast paced, high octane single player campaign you’d associate with Call of Duty. What you get here is a much more grounded, tactical and immersive military simulation. Sandstorm is purely a multiplayer experience, designed for local and online co-op. It is brutal, with numerous nuances and subtle mechanics that add to the realism. Getting to grips with these mechanics are crucial to your success, and playing this like a Call of Duty, or even a Battlefield, title will result in your soldier looking like a piece of Swiss cheese.
A second area of distinction is in its intensity. Over the last couple of years, Call of Duty has traded its intensity in lieu of fast paced shooting action. Sandstorm manages to recapture this essence of armed conflict. That feeling of desperately ducking for cover as a hailstorm of bullets come raining down on your last known position. The intensity of mortars shaking you surroundings. The rush of lining up the perfect shot, knowing that a single bullet can kill you. And this is not an exaggeration. A single bullet can send you and your team back to the respawn point. Adding to this intensity is excellent sound design. Landing a well-placed shot is accompanied with a mist of blood and a harrowing yelp, gut-wrenching scream, or blood-spewing cough. These touches really add to the horrific nature of armed conflict and makes an impact.
Adding to all of this realism is the weapon authenticity and details. Not only is there a huge number available, but the immaculate attention to detail is really impressive. Tiny details like the depression of the magazine release and the change in position of the fire selection switch are not only visible, but switching between fire-modes are accompanied with in-game animations. Shotguns blast with impressive range, ferocity and power. Assault rifles punch through the air and explosions are enough to shake the map and camera. Weapon recoil is significant and a constant challenge to keep your aim on the target. So much so, that the game, just like in real life, encourages the use of semi-auto and single-fire modes to tame them. Speaking of aiming, the game does not provide you with a crosshair for hip-firing, making this a last-resort effort. Ammo management is also crucial since the game’s minimalistic HUD hides ammo count behind a button press. Double tapping the reload button performs a quick reload but at the expense of the remaining ammo that gets discarded with the spent magazine. Reload half-empty clips, on the other hand, and you could end up later reloading that same clip with fewer rounds.
The minimalistic HUD is a clear indication that Sandstorm does not want to distract you from the action. There is no minimap and your compass only appears when an ally calls for assistance. It provides for a frantic, tactical and immersive experience. That said, the game is certainly not flawless. While it didn’t bother me much, the game doesn’t offer a huge amount of gameplay variety or diversity. The maps do offer multiple approaches and different tactics, but some hardcore shooter fans might struggle to find a reason to come back after a couple of hours. Also, this being team-based multiplayer game only, your enjoyment is closely linked to the people you get to play with. Also-also, and this might be slightly controversial, but the game does feel slightly dated, graphically. Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t look bad, not by a long shot, but it is not quite up there with the latest PS4 releases. Maybe it’s due to the numerous delays, or maybe I’m just spoiled by some of the other games I’ve been playing. Sandstorm looks dated and there’s no getting around that now in 2021.
Do I recommend Insurgency: Sandstorm? Absolutely! Whether you are looking for an excellent FPS, arguably one of the best I’ve played in recent years, or just looking for an alternative to the Call of Duty formula, look no further. Unlike other FPS titles, Sandstorm will challenge you and force you to think less as a player, and more like a soldier. It’s “time to kill” is ridiculously short, forcing you to be tactical and precise. It focuses on skills and delivers a satisfying and immersive experience.
A Review code for Insurgency: Sandstorm was provided to Gameblur by the Publisher
Insurgency: Sandstorm reviewInsurgency: Sandstorm review
Gameplay8/10 Very GoodConflicts are brutal, with numerous nuances and subtle mechanics that add to the realism.
Visuals8/10 Very GoodWhile the weapons are well detailed and look authentic, the rest of the game looks slightly dated. Its not bad looking, though. Not by a long shot.
Audio9/10 AmazingA well-placed shot is accompanied with a mist of blood and a harrowing yelp, gut-wrenching scream, or blood-spewing cough. Morbid, bleak and grim. The audio is magnificent and adds to the ambiance of the game.
- Great sound
- Intense gun fights
- Authentic weapons
- Action focused
- Limited game modes
- Slightly dated graphics