Competitive realistic shooter Insurgency is going to a whole new level in its sequel Insurgency: Sandstorm with a new engine, a campaign with up to 4 player co-op, light combat vehicles, bigger and more complicated map design, and even a new ballistics system.
I had the chance to sit down with New World Interactive’s Creative Director, Andrew Spearin, and talk details about the next title in NWI’s series of realistic shooters.
Note: For the sake of clarification, when referring to the new title Insurgency: Sandstorm, I will abbreviate to Sandstorm. For the original Insurgency, I will be sticking to Insurgency.
Sandstorm plans to reinvent the entirety of map design in both the multiplayer and the brand new co-op campaign while also bringing the series to consoles. Insurgency, a game released in 2014 redefined realistic shooters for the time, with uniquely challenging realistic gameplay not yet achieved at the time by any other realistic shooter. Now for Sandstorm, New World Interactive intends to do exactly that all over again with its move to Unreal Engine 4.
Insurgency, and presumably Sandstorm, are class-based first person shooters taking place in Iraq with a heavy focus on realism of movement and guns. This means you won’t be taking more than a few bullets even with heavy body armor, nor will you be carrying around 12 different guns due to carrying capacity.
In the time since Insurgency first released, realistic shooters like Squad and Rising Storm 2: Vietnam have released to equal acclaim. What Spearin promised with Sandstorm would blow both titles out of the water in terms of player interaction in the map and gameplay.
Spearin says Sandstorm will preserve the gameplay of Insurgency, while building upon the game’s framework as much as possible with new weapons, gamemodes, and new gameplay mechanics. The game will be a hugely upgraded version of the previous title, with a massive increase in content.
The main allure of Sandstorm is its single to 4 player co-op campaign which follows a party of soldiers cut off from support in war-torn Iraq. Along with the announcement of the new game, Sandstorm has a story trailer.
The story seemingly follows a female soldier, possibly in reference to the Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Iraq with a large female enlistment. Although there is little known about the campaign’s story itself, Spearin was willing to reveal how the campaign will play out itself.
In Insurgency, there is a gamemode called checkpoint, in which players in co-op have to move from point to point on the map fighting off waves of enemies along teammates. Thanks to increased map size, (which will be explained further later) the campaign can use the same structure of checkpoint without keeping the player in a confined space. Each checkpoint reached will move the story on to a new part of the expanded maps.
Of course fans of New World Interactive might ask how a campaign would work with the game’s punishing realistic gameplay. According to Spearin, while no methods of healing like a medic class are even in consideration, protection from bullets via body armor are going to be paramount in surviving the campaign. Additionally, Sandstorm will stay true to real life and not have regenerating health. In Insurgency, one bullet from even a pistol is all that’s needed to take down a player, so sadly the body armor focus might just be another way of saying the player will get plot armor so they’ll be harder to kill.
In the checkpoint gamemode, dead players respawn when a player reaches an objective; something that may pose an immediate problem for the flow of the game’s story.
In Sandstorm, light vehicles like trucks are being added, and according to Spearin, they will be a main vehicle (sorry for the pun) for advancing the story. While the story could be very well written, if the structure of each level is going to be checkpoint gameplay with exposition hammered into driving sections, the story could turn out to be a sidenote for the game which would be very disappointing.
Additionally, Spearin was unable to answer what purpose the vehicles will serve in multiplayer
Then again, this is all speculation, and according to Spearin while the game is in a playable state, its still very much in the start of development so story design could be completely different.
On top of a co-op campaign, co-op missions will be available for extended PvE gameplay. Spearin gave a convoy mode as an example of this, where players will have to take down a convoy of vehicles via an ambush.
Speaking of playing with friends, Spearin says Sandstorm is working to differentiate itself from other popular shooters on the market and how they handle multiplayer.
Sandstorm’s multiplayer will be built around an “eSports Framework” which intends to function completely differently from other popular competitive titles like Counter Strike or Overwatch. Rather than random matchmaking employed by most shooters, Spearin says Sandstorm is being built with other successful shooters in mind, but will focus on having unique content to bring competitive players from Insurgency into a much more organized space. The game will have a ranking system and BattleEye Anti-Cheat, but won’t be implementing matchmaking anytime soon. Instead, teams will be able to organize matches with each other in the game.
Moving on to the technical aspect of Sandstorm, ditching the Source engine used in New World Interactive’s previous titles, the game can have features not possible through source, especially within the map design.
According to Spearin, whenever level designers wanted to say, test the appearance of a light added to a level, it would require re-rendering the entire map before testing which would take hours. With Unreal, adding a light or meshes to the map is instant. Because of this, maps big enough to support a sprawling campaign with vehicle travel are possible. Spearin says map design will be “going from corridors to opening up,” but still maintaining close quarters combat.
The map designs themselves will actually be modified versions of the game’s campaign. This may sound strange but massive games like Battlefield have been doing this for years, especially in Battlefield 1 which had a mostly positively reviewed campaign.
This is a smart and popular design choice for shooters because most players start playing a game with the campaign before moving onto the multiplayer, and by playing through the campaign players are becoming accustomed to every multiplayer map before even having played a match on them.
With the new map design also comes new mechanics not possible in Source due to the engine’s limited animation abilities. In Source engine, specialized actions and animations need to be coded into the game, but in Unreal Engine 4, a technology called Blueprints allows level designers to create custom animations or gameplay mechanics tied to each map without having to code them outside the Unreal editor.
According to Spearin, the move to Unreal Engine 4 allows for mechanics intended for Insurgency, but simply weren’t possible due to Source engine’s limitations. This includes promised gameplay elements like the ability to vault over walls, climbable ladders, and breaching doors.
One enormous addition to the game’s gunplay will be a ballistics system, which adds bullet travel time, bullet drop, and even ricochets to the game, making for an even more realistic experience.
Additionally, the game will be implementing content introduced in its World War II shooter Day of Infamy, such as leader abilities which allow players to call in airstrikes or smoke bombs.
New World Interactive expects a 2018 release, with a closed beta beginning towards the end of 2017. When more info is revealed on the game, you can expect to see them here!
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