Insurgency: Sandstorm is here and immediately there is a problem. Not a big one, but it’s there – it’s called, the players. Poker is a game of two halves. The experts know all the odds. They know how much to bet based on a whole raft of variable, not just the cards they have been dealt. Are they under the gun, how many players, who those players are. There are rules – lots and lots of rules. And we know that because a billion people have written a billion books on how to play the game.

So, Insurgency: Sandstorm. It is brilliant – dazzling to look at, maps not too big, not too small, and there is a multitude of variables in there on how you can play it. And that’s the poker problem. When a professional poker player plays an amateur poker player, anything could happen. No amount of rules or planning will have any effect. They will bluff a tiny hand.

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Players in Insurgency: Sandstorm will attract the amateurs, and quite rightly too. It’s fun. But they have no rules. They won’t care about how slow you will get if you load up with too much gear. They won’t care about the subtitles of all the various targeting sights that can be fitted to all the many weapons. They won’t care about matching weapons with locations.
They won’t care about team tactics and approach paths to targets. They may not care that they can choose a class including commander, observer, rifleman, breacher, gunner, demolitions, advisor and marksman.

They will grab the quickest loadout and charge in. And that’s fine. However, the developers here have worked overtime in a balancing almost everything. This is a game, I feel, that the professional player will adore. This could even be, heaven help me for saying this, but a genuine alternative to Counter Strike.

You need to learn the maps inside out.  You will need to work with people you know, using an app like Discord or Team Speak, and spend time offline planning attack approaches, tactics, class spread, all those good things that will confound and confuse the amateur poker player.

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This is all-in urban warfare. Two shots to kill, which I love, and complex maps which I love. But there are just a few too many rooms in too many buildings and that is my only criticism of the maps. Camping is suddenly in vogue. This is hardcore sneaking around. This is also charge in and shoot everything that moves.

Air strikes are complex to organise. Be a commander, stand next to an observer, select the type of strike. Too difficult at first, and definitely a feature that requires a small degree of teamwork to pull off.

The weapon sounds are apparently authentic even depending on what environment they are fired in  – bullet drop is also pretty authentic so careful with those long shots as I’ve found on many occasions when firing across a map from the rooftop to another. The bullets also go through some barriers, like wood barricades and vehicles. Oh, yeah, you get vehicles. Trucks mainly.

Matches, then. I moaned the other day about server details going missing from many games. What’s nice is that this kind of setup has never left the Insurgency series and are back again with Insurgency: Sandstorm. I like low pings, and low player numbers to avoid that mental charge of the suicide brigade style play. Nothing wrong with that, just not for me.

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There’s co-op, versus, competitive and custom play modes. Each then has push, firefight and skirmish. Play them all, learn which you prefer. Push means you have to destroy weapon caches. Firefight is a bit like capture the flag. Capture a point, and dead mates are respawned. Take all three points, or kill the other team to win. Skirmish is a sort of blend between the two. The differences are small, but you’ll find them all fun.

A nice touch is the almost complete lack of a heads-up display on the screen. Hardcore, remember? No infinite bullets, either. Running out? Find more. And don’t just spray indiscriminately.  You do get to use every weapons right from the get go, no grinding through levels before you have something worthwhile. And you get to dress up too, albeit a few aesthetic changes to your soldier. No in-depth character customisations here.

The developer is promising to keep adding to the game as well. All free, too. And that has to be a good thing.  Let’s hope they don’t get too bogged down in which shirt a player can wear and just puts out new maps, the backbone of any game of this type, whether you are an amateur or professional poker player. For more information, head over to the Steam page.