When developers announce they’re making a sequel to an online shooter they might proffer additions like a single-player campaign. Alternatively, they might focus on graphical enhancements by upgrading or switching to a different game engine. Sometimes the change is smaller in scale, like an emphasis on competitive, ranked multiplayer, or new features like co-op or more interactive environments. Insurgency: Sandstorm hopes to do all of the above and more when it launches on PC at the end of this year.
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That’s a lot of content and infrastructure to add to a game that started life as a Source Engine mod ten years ago. So, to break down the changes for you, here’s everything coming to the Insurgency sequel, as promised by developers New World Interactive at this year’s Focus Home Interactive showcase.
Insurgency: Sandstorm single-player campaign
The more surprising and unexpected reveal from New World Interactive is that Insurgency: Sandstorm will feature a single-player campaign. In it, players assume the role of a female insurgency fighter on a road-trip through the Middle East, avoiding US and militant forces alike.
So why Sandstorm? The narrative opens with the player character and their sister held captive by an oppressive, militant organisation. A sandstorm rolls through the settlement and chaos erupts, in the resulting skirmish the cell wall is demolished, setting the captives free.
“Thematically, we're inspired by current events,” Spearin explains, “but we're not trying to simulate or tell any particular story or identify any faction. We really want to shift the tone for what triple-A shooter stories are known for. Typically they go for a big budget, blockbuster feel, we want the opposite of that: we want an understated, indie tone for our story.
"We want to look behind the walls and that's where we find our female protagonist, and as a young girl she's been enslaved in this room with her sister and some other girls.
“In the confusion of that sandstorm our protagonist finds herself alone and stranded in the desert. We then fast-forward to the present day where she's enlisted with Kurdish rebel forces, so she's a female fighter and she's with her friend from the prison.
"Some information comes to light that compels her to branch away from that group with her friend and two foreign vigilantes - an American combat veteran of the Iraq war and a French citizen who is a rookie and has no combat experience at all. The four of them are who you would play as in cooperative mode as you venture off into the desolate landscape encountering all sorts of factions along they way. At its core it's a road-trip story.”
The campaign is going to take about three hours to complete, and you can see some more details about what it's going to include, and what the two characters that make up the biggest chunk of its story are like.
Insurgency: Sandstorm Unreal Engine 4
By far the biggest - and arguably the most necessary - change coming to Insurgency: Sandstorm is the move from Valve’s Source Engine to Epic’s Unreal Engine 4. Insurgency started out as a Source Engine mod over a decade ago before going on to be sold as its own entity. As a result, it has always looked and felt like a game made in 2006.
Unreal Engine 4 promises a great number of potential graphical improvements and effects: those include more realistic lighting, particle and fog effects, bullet physics, and a more interactive environment. All those elements should only complement the tactical, stripped-back gameplay that’s key to the success of Insurgency.
Creative director Andrew Spearin went into more detail about the engine change. “Using Unreal Engine 4 we can really maximise the potential of our team. In Source, you're limited to a certain level - a lot of people think that the graphics of Insurgency aren't that great, but with Unreal Engine 4 there are no excuses.
"We're going to maintain that core weapon functionality that Insurgency is known for with its free-aim system and recoil. But we're also going to introduce some ballistics like bullet drop and travel time to match the larger environments. We're also adding some more interaction with the environment in terms of climbing ladders and breaching doorways, but also a team-based communication system so you're able to call in a drone strike or a supply drop.”
Insurgency: Sandstorm Release date
There’s still no concrete release date for Insurgency: Sandstorm, but Spearin confirmed that the team are hoping to release the game at some point in 2018.
Insurgency: Sandstorm co-op
One feature that was mentioned when the game was first announced last year was that split-screen co-op was in the works. This year, New World Interactive confirmed that this is still the intention for both the game’s single-player campaign, but also in multiplayer. As mentioned earlier, the story mode will feature four-player co-op with split-screen support - you’ll each take control of one of the four main characters as you trek across the Middle East encountering various factions.
"Essentially, the narrative is a road-trip story," explains a New World Interactive media release for the game. "It’s about these characters bonding through the many challenges that arise. Their diverse experience leads to interesting character dynamics, but ultimately their actions extend beyond their own volition."
Insurgency: Sandstorm multiplayer
New World Interactive are aiming to preserve the hardcore infantry combat of the first game for Insurgency: Sandstorm, however, there are some major additions in the works for multiplayer. For starters, vehicles will feature in Insurgency: Sandstorm’s multiplayer and, to better incorporate them, the developers are planning a purpose-built, vehicle-centric multiplayer mode.
Spearin also mentioned a focus on competitive multiplayer. “Also in very high demand from the Insurgency community is competitive support, it made more sense for us to implement that into Sandstorm than into a three-year-old game. So they can look forward to having competitive matchmaking, rankings, and anti-cheat.
"The focus will still be on the close-quarters infantry combat experience, we're going to carry over a lot of the multiplayer and cooperative game modes from Insurgency because we know that they work. We want to carry over those game modes like Push. However, on the competitive side, we have modes like Firefight, where there are three objectives and you can only respawn your team when an objective is captured, and not just for five versus five, but for larger scale matches too.”
Finally, there's a new horde mode for up to eight players - they battle forward, capturing checkpoints to revive any fallen allies and keep the fight going.
That’s every scrap of detail we were able to get out of New World Interactive. If you think the ambitious sequel will be worth the wait, drop us a line in the comments below.