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Insurgency: Sandstorm, PS4/PS5 Review

Insurgency: Sandstorm vs Games. I strongly suspect Tom Clancy is spinning in his grave with Ubisofts recent treatment of “his” tactical video game franchises. Rainbow 6 has become a toxic, fluro-laiden, run and gun fest. Ghost Recon is now a soulless open-world monstrosity which as of last week is set to become of all things, a Battle Royale!? And Splinter Cell has been missing in action for almost a decade. What I’m getting at is that the goods on offer for the Tactical console gamer are slim pickings at the moment.

But thankfully dear squad mates, I have good news! Insurgency: Sandstorm has finally migrated from PC to the console and there is now some solid tactical shooter goodness to be had. Originally a PC release in 2018, it has built a loyal following and has continued to be developed and improved by New World Interactive. Now it drops on PS5 and Xbox Series S/X with a suitably 2021 4K resolution and 60fps. But that’s not all, as the developer has announced further upgrades are also expected in 2022 to really take advantage of the next-gen hardware too.

Insurgency: Sandstorm is a current day Tactical FPS focused around close quarters battles. “Security” forces (aka: US Military) go up against “Insurgency” fighters (aka: ISIL, Taliban, Al-Qaida etc…take your pick). There are two main modes, a PvP mode and Co-Op vs A.I., both built around objective capture and control.

Less pace, more patience…

Mechanically the game is two squads of up to 8 players either attacking, defending or claiming control points. Similar to Rush and Conquest in Battlefield. But unlike Battlefield, the pace is far slower. Cover, leaning and tactical movement is a must. Not to mention the limited respawns being a big reason to play smart and not just ‘Suicide-Sam’ it! Being slow, listening for footsteps and proximity sensitive mics (you can hear when the enemy are using radios nearby) is tense and thrilling. Overall the audio design is fantastic.

Now this isn’t a Call of Duty, run-n-gun type of game. Think more ARMA-lite with a touch of Operation Flashpoint. Weapons and Loadouts are not unlocked, but just weight based. Every class has full access to their appropriate arsenal (sniper, gunner, rifleman etc…) right from the start. It comes down to how much gear you want to equip and a players overall weight points available.  Classes’ are limited in a round and actually have roles to play in every match, especially the Commander and Observer class.

At level 20 the Commander and Observer unlock and these classes need to work as a duo to make the most of their abilities. Using binoculars the Commander can call in close air support, artillery and mortars. But the Observer is his radio operator and the Commander can’t use these tools unless the radio is nearby. Real team work is needed, and if they do their jobs, it has a huge effect on a match.

You have to want to play Insurgency: Sandstorm.

Like any tactical game, the most fun comes when solid tactics are actually used. Thankfully Insurgency: Sandstorm is a lesser known title and the sorts of gamers who gravitate towards it, WANT to communicate, plan and execute solid plans. It’s a blast. I match-made into a game with a random mix of Aussie and British gamers. Total strangers and we were talking, clearing rooms methodically with flash bangs and had a great time. It felt like OG Rainbow six and I loved it.

Insurgency: Sandstorm is in the Double (AA) space. It’s not suuuper pretty, the menus are a bit janky and there are a huge amount of cosmetics which are micro transactions focused. But I’m ok with that! It’s the price you pay for a niche console title. As being niche is what makes it great!

Sure its not as pretty as the latest Battlefield or doesn’t boast a flashy ‘Warzone’ Battle Royale mode. But for me that’s OK. It is a “smart-gamers” shooter… and it has made my 2021 GOTY list, that’s for sure.