Griffin Sendek | Staff Writer
New World Interactive’s upcoming multiplayer first-person shooter game, Insurgency: Sandstorm has been delayed from the original Sept. 19 release date, to Dec. 12.
New World Interactive (NWI) might be a relatively small indie game studio, but Insurgency: Sandstorm is not its first foray into video game development.
NWI began as a team of modders, its first project being a total conversion mod of Valve’s Half-Life 2. NWI released mod Insurgency: Modern Infantry Combat in 2007. Seven years later, NWI released the standalone sequel to the mod titled Insurgency, expanding upon the realistic and tactical first-person shooter gameplay of the previous game. In 2017, NWI came out with Day of Infamy, which took the style and framework of Insurgency and placed it into a World War II backdrop.
This new game was a testing grounds of sorts for several features that would be added to the then unannounced sequel, Insurgency: Sandstorm. Day of Infamy added the ability for players to call in air support, such as bombing runs, smoke barrages and resupply drops. The game also included greater class diversity, larger asymmetry between factions and some basic character customization, all of which have been implemented and expanded upon in Insurgency: Sandstorm.
After NWI’s success with its previous titles, the publishing studio, Focus Home Interactive signed on to publish the next game in the Insurgency series. NWI was no longer working with an indie budget and had the ability to expand the game further than before. The first biggest change made was the switch of the game engine from Valve’s Source engine, the engine that powered all NWI’s previous games, to Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4.
Insurgency: Sandstorm pre-order beta went live on Aug. 9, 2018 and ran to Aug. 13, 2018. This was the first chance for the majority of players, including myself, to get their hands on the game. Unfortunately, the responses were relatively mixed. The game launched into open beta with a myriad of performance issues and a number of glitches. Imperfect performance and a multitude of glitches are what is to be expected from online betas, but even those who had souped-up PCs with all the latest and greatest hardware were still experiencing performance problems and frame rate drops across the board.
Personally, I had to turn every graphics setting as low as possible to achieve a playable frame rate. Insurgency:Sandstorm was a game I had been waiting to play for over a year, so I will admit it was upsetting to see it in such a state. Although slightly upset, I also had faith that the developers at NWI would be working around the clock to get the game properly optimized before release.
The very next day, a hotfix was released addressing some of the issues, and while it did not suddenly make the game run butter smooth, it gave a slight but noticeable performance boost.
My consensus, as well as what I gathered from online discussions, was this: the gameplay was solid; the shooting, for the most part, felt great; and the sound design, apart from the occasional sound glitch, was amazing. All of the framework of a great game was there, the game is just held back by poor performance. While I did believe that the developers would fix the problem, I knew that if they were not able to iron out the issues and improve the frame rate it would be a death sentence for Insurgency: Sandstorm.
After the first beta session ended, the developers had a little over two weeks to do as much work as they could on the game before the second beta opened for players. This beta was set to run from Aug. 30 all the way up to release. After downloading the big patch, I excitedly logged back into the game, and was disappointed to find that the performance, while slightly better, was not in the place in which I had hoped. I logged out after playing a single match.
I did not play the game again until Sept. 6, but having been gone only a week, I came back to find there had been three significantly-sized fixes and improvements. These patches were not only performance fixes but updates to the graphics, animations, character models, map and gun balancing, adjustments to weapon sights, changes to the user interface and even more options added to the settings menus. It felt like coming back to a brand new game.
Being able to play the game with a more consistent and higher frame rate was like night and day. I got more enjoyment out of a single night of playing with good performance than I did out of the entire first beta.
Insurgency: Sandstorm has some of the tightest shooter gameplay that I have ever experienced, and is well on its way to being one of the best shooters of the year. Unfortunately, it is not there yet; while NWI could have potentially kept its original Sept.19 release date and would have done alright, the game would not lived up to its full potential and would have scored more poorly. The developers clearly would not be happy delivering a flawed product.
“This was one of the hardest decisions our team has ever had to make and not one taken lightly.” said New World Interactive on the delayed release. “However, we feel it is in the best interest of the game and our community to spend more time working to ensure we deliver the best possible experience.”
The reality is you only have one release, and no number of patches and fixes after the fact can ever make up for a subpar launch. I agree with NWI’s decision to push the game back: I would much rather wait for a better game, than have a worse game sooner.