Military based first person shooters are not what they used to be. The glory days of the original Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six and Operation Flash Point are long gone. Those were hard, tactical, thinking games. Games that separated the men from the boys.
Nowadays, first person shooters are usually a run and gun craze fest. Dumbed down, non-tactical, arcade shooters. They have become stale and familiar. Teamwork has crumbled away. True in game tension is rare.
Squad strives to be different. And it is. We finally have a developer that gives the middle finger to the status quo and risks doing it their way, whilst taking continual on-board feedback from the community to improve.
There are two teams and each has several squads, with each squad having a variety of infantry roles, from medics to marksmen. Choosing wisely and playing to each others strengths will increase your chances of success.
Attack and secure is by far the most popular game mode. It’s a familiar capture the empty bases scenario. Spawn points can be created in the form of a Forward Operating Base (FOB) and Rally points. FOBS can be spawned on indefinitely, although they can and will be dismantled by the enemy if your defences are down. FOBS can become powerful, fortified areas of importance if managed successfully. Rally points on the other hand are temporary and only allow for a limited number of re-spawn attempts.
Each team starts with a set number of tickets – the winner is the team who manages to reduce their enemy’s ticket count to zero. Tickets can be lost and gaining in a variety of ways, including getting killed, which loses a single ticket for your team.
Each conflict in Squad takes time to mature. If you are patient, embrace teamwork and carefully consider the options, you will have one hell of an experience. An experience that no other modern FPS can deliver. Firefights in Squad can be a long, drawn out experiences that are tense and will have you fearing for your life. If you get pinned down, you will damn well know about it. Smoke will become your best friend.
Kills can be rare, so when you do floor an enemy, it can feel immensely satisfying.
Communication Is Key
If you don’t talk, you die. Team up with a willing bunch of comrades, and a close alliance will grow. A confident and knowledgeable squad leader is essential though, as they help keep order and build moral between players. A bad squad leader will simply lead you to an early grave.
In its current alpha state, Squad is not brilliantly optimized. It takes a decent machine to reach higher frame rates (60+). Modest setups will likely need an upgrade to make playing a pleasurable experience.
The graphics, although not always the prettiest, are decent and at times, can look visually stunning. Looking over a meandering river, with a golden sun setting in the distance will make you stop in your tracks to admire the view. There are a multitude of huge maps to choose from. From barren desserts to lush forests, there’s something for everyone’s taste. View distances are impressive and integrate well with the large terrains. Distant enemies will appear a long way off, so you will have to get close and personal if you easily want to take someone down – this is a good thing though as it adds to the realism.
Due to the large terrains, a form of transport is usually the best way to get around. Although walking on foot delivers it’s own pleasures , usually in the form of banter or tactical planning from other teammates.
The in game sound is immersive and realistic. The crack of a bullet impact, the shift of gears in a transport truck, the crackle of a squad mates radio, all help generate the perfect atmosphere. Distance frags and mortors will get the heart recing.
The voice communication works incredibly well and is the backbone to the games success.
For an early access title, the price of Squad is perhaps a little steep at 30 UK pounds. That said, if I’d known what Squad was about, I’d happily pay the going rate. The game feels rock solid and could easily be released in its current state. During sale periods, Squad is often half price – an absolute steal that you’d be mad to miss.
Is It Worth It?
So to sum up, Squad finally gets the formula right again, with its varied pace and the need for collaborative combat. Tentatively moving through enemy held territory with your teammates close by gives you a real sense of connection, a true feeling of being an important cog in a well-oiled machine.
Squad isn’t going to be for everyone. There are those who will not like the, at times, slower pace. Those that find constant communication with teammates tedious. Those that prefer a lone wolf approach. That all said, if you loved the glory days of the early PC first person shooter. You love a challenge that requires you to collaborate and think under tense military conditions, this might be just what you have been looking for, even praying for, for the last ten years or so.