Squad (Alpha) Review – A Promising New Tactical Shooter

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Squad
Offworld Industries

I still remember loading up my first game of Squad just days ago. I was thrust into one of the six maps that Squad, still in its Alpha stage, has on offer—called Logar Valley. Logar is a large, dust-swept valley flanked by craggy mountains. Down in the valley itself, there are dusty roads that wind through rows of orchard trees and irrigation canals, with mud hut-type dwellings interspersed along much of its length.

True to the game’s name I promptly joined a squad and took on the role of a light machine gunner, or SAW gunner. Our squad leader barked some terse orders at nine member outfit and we moved into action, sprinting toward our first objective which was a capture point above the eastern side of the valley. Soon, I found myself panting and noticed an endurance meter at the bottom right hand of the screen that had turned red. I settled into more of an easy double-time march and caught up with the rest of my squad.

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Soon, we arrived at a ridge, and clearing it, found ourselves staring down into the vast valley from our first objective point. Just as we captured the point and turned its flag icon to a U.S. one, one of my squad mates cried out: “Contacts! West…across the valley on the ridge!” Sure enough, we spied a loose band of insurgent fighters maneuvering down the opposing mountain ridge to the west. After gaining permission to fire from our squad leader, I hoisted my hefty M249 SAW and commenced to disburse fully auto lead death. As my weapon began to spit metal across the valley the rest of the squad joined in and started firing their carbines, resulting in a loud cacophony of cracking rounds. We won the sustained firefight and invaded the valley proper.

At some point we’d gained access to the central portion of the valley which was heavily guarded by wily insurgent fighters that had dug in amongst the huts and low walls. The fighting was fierce and in order to break the resulting stalemate, a few squad members and I decided to try a flanking maneuver on an insurgent hotspot.

After detouring around the enemy’s frontal kill zones we quickly realized that the crafty insurgents had a few fighters guarding their flanks for just such an occasion, and I found myself by myself after my squaddies went down one after the other in hails of AK bullets. One insurgent remained on the flank and as I sprinted across a dirt-caked road he took shots at me but missed. I ducked down into a patch of trees and bushes and then I heard it.

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In his over-indulgence of lead dispersal he’d drained his entire magazine and I could hear him retract it from his AK-47. I quickly sprang to my feet and rushed his position, a mere fifteen feet away, and just as he was reinserting another magazine into his weapon I raised my red dot scope at his forehead and pulled the trigger, dispensing my own version of metal hell.

This concluded my first (winning) game of Squad, and the first thing I’d like to report is that it is one tense experience. Just like Project Reality, which it is the spiritual successor to, there is a careful build-up of tension as both sides (there are six factions so far) capture points spread out over each map, and also construct forward bases (FOBs) which act as handy spawn points.

Squad’s developers, Offworld Industries, count a few of the guys who worked on Project Reality amongst them, which is one of my favorite (if not most favorite) games of all time. So, it’s only natural to see the latter’s influence on this newer tactical shooter. After Project Reality 2 was abandoned, Squad was the new hope for a large-scale, thinking man’s, teamwork-based war game. According to its marketing wing, Squad was “in development since March 2014, publicly announced October 2014, Voted #1 on Steam Greenlight in April 2015, Kickstarter successful with US$350,000 in June 2015, Closed Pre-Alpha July, Closed Alpha Sept. and We released on Steam Early Access on December 15th.” Whew!

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Right now there are six maps to play on in Squad, with 30+ weapons, and although there aren’t any vehicles to play with yet, they are being worked on as I write this article. The game’s current state is perfect for getting used to its tight infantry combat which can be quite tactical and more often than not, explosive. Using cover and concealment, communicating with squad members (mics are mandatory for the full game experience), articulating bullet-drop, properly implementing flanking maneuvers—all of these factors and more combine to form one of the most solid tactical shooting experienced I’ve ever experienced in a game…and there is much more to come.

The game’s visuals, based off of the Unread 4 engine, are outstanding. While not quite on the level of say, Arma 3, they are pretty enough, and combined with a much more intuitive control scheme and much less clunky game mechanics, Squad fits quite perfectly between an arcade shooter and a realistic military sim. It has enough depth to tickle any tactician’s fancy while not being too goofy and unrealistic like a Battlefield or Call of Duty title. Dust trails behind soldiers and insurgents as they bound across cracked, parched earth, and the sun drifts through tree branches as individual rays. And blood? Let’s just say that in my earlier gameplay description when I unloaded at my unfortunate foe with my weapon, half of my screen was awash with crimson arterial spray—what a guilty pleasure.

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Weapons have real heft and even standing still you’ll notice your avatar swaying ever so slightly in a realistic manner. The sounds also compliment the beautiful visuals, with sharp reports from rifles and grunts and groans from wounded combatants. Squad also features built in positional VOIP radio which means that you can tell where your teammates are in relation to you at all times, through your headphones or speakers. I would suggest headphones for the fullest aural experience.

Squad thankfully doesn’t feature any grinding or cute little florescent, tiger stripe, pink weapon skins. There also isn’t any insta-respawns and magical health regenerations. If you’re wounded you’ll have to patch yourself with a field dressing temporarily until you can get some proper care from a nearby medic. Again, teamwork is the key here, so any bunny-hopping Rambo types will quickly find themselves ostracized by the rest of the players—glory hounds need not apply.

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If you’re looking for an exhilarating tactical shooter with a good amount of depth, however, Squad is for you. Even in its alpha stage it is a blast to play, with realistic ebbs and flows taking place throughout each and every engagement. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Squad progresses and based on what I see so far, it’s going to be one solid tactical shooter that will raise the bar for large-scale war games. I, for one, will be playing this for many years to come.

SCORE: 89%

Squad has some amazingly good graphics that should be played on a higher-end gaming laptop or gaming PC.  We recommend playing it on a beefy machine in order to see how great they really are:

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