You’ve just reloaded your M4A1 rifle and put a fresh grenade in your M203 launcher, clicking the barrel back against the front of your weapon. Listening closely to the radio, you look across the dirt-covered street to see a few friendly players calling for medics, then an explosion rings out to to your right. Looking over the wall to your left, you see the enemy pushing through the field as your radio buzzes and friendlies rush to your position. Gunfire echoes and bullets cascade into the walls around you while you stand up and start firing your weapon across the field at the enemies rushing your way.
Organized chaos is the result, filled with aggressive chatter and gunfire from both teams alike — which is the typical experience you’ll find within Offworld Industries first game: Squad.
In development since March 2014, Squad is the standalone successor to Battlefield 2’s Project Reality Mod that focuses on tactical, realistic gameplay — meaning that you’ll be spending plenty of time working with your fellow players to communicate and organize attacks that can go to hell in a handbasket if one of your buddies doesn’t cover his corner.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had many attacks that went bad quickly while playing Squad — forcing my team to fall back and regroup in order to form a new plan of attack. Sure, it’s slower-paced than a Call of Duty match, but Squad’s matches are much more engaging and intense because of the change in pacing.
Each match in Squad pits 100 players against each other, separated into two teams of 50. These teams are then broken down into squads that are made up of various classes who work together to complete objectives scattered across the 6 maps included in the game currently.
These maps are absolutely huge too, ranging from forested areas to desert areas. Every map is littered with cover and positions worth hunkering down in, whether they be huts or a group of houses, that are beautifully rendered and filled with plenty of detail for you to admire while firing at enemies.
While playing, you’ll be fulfilling a dedicated role along with 8 other players to form a squad. Some roles are certainly more important than others, such as the medic who has the ability to revive and heal downed team members, but each remains a valuable part of the team. During my time with the game, I primarily played as a grenadier with access to explosives to use against enemy entrenchments and fortifications — which ended up being more useful than I anticipated.
Players also have access to a simple building mechanic which allows them to place sandbags, ammo crates, and various fortifications across the map. These allow you to bunker down on a set position with an organized group of players and dig in, forcing the opposing team to think up a strategy in order to breach your fortifications and take your point for themselves. It’s an interesting mechanic to add when compared to other FPS games on the market; namely because it emphasizes strategy over personal or team skill. It didn’t matter how many times I launched grenades at enemy fortifications, if they build it up strong enough? We had to think of another way to get through to our objective.
Both of these systems work well with Squad’s central mechanic: players can be killed quickly and not only do they retain damage they receive, they can bleed out after being wounded. Players also can’t respawn immediately on their teammates, which makes life extremely precious when you’re moving across the battlefield.
The result is a dedicated player base that works to communicate and keep each other alive — which is something you don’t see in multiplayer games these days. While playing, I was consistently being backed up by my squad and moving with them from cover to cover, making sure that we had each other’s backs. When somebody went down? We threw smoke and got them back up into the fight. When somebody needed fire support? We lined up and unleashed a rain of gunfire where they requested it. There’s was even a time where I peeked out and almost took an RPG to the face; something straight out of Black Hawk Down.
Moments like these are always happening while you’re playing Squad and fill you with adrenaline, thanks to all of the games design elements at play. You’ll hear a hail of bullets drown out your radio while your team is communicating in a firefight and you’ll hear foundations cracking under the pressure of explosives as you defend your fortifications. It’s a heart-pounding experience that truly rewards a coordinated team and dedicated communication — which is something you won’t find in most AAA releases these days.
That being said, it’s important to note that Squad is still in early development — meaning that it’s missing elements like vehicle combat and attack helicopters, as well as additional weapons and maps for players to get their hands on. I also noticed a performance decrease while using some anti-aliasing effects and high levels of shadow, but that’s probably due to the game not going through optimization yet. It may have a long way to go until Offworld achieves their goals set at the beginning, but it’s a promising package overall.
In its current state though, Squad really delivers for an early-access title going through development. Sure, it’s a highly tactical experience that may not be for everybody, but for those who have been looking for an easy to access first-person shooter that feels real and engaging? Squad is absolutely worth looking into.
Squad is currently available on PC via Steam Early Access for $39.99.