Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.
When we think of first person shooters, right away the household staples come to mind: Battlefield, Call of Duty, Medal of Honor and even Borderlands. Conversely, ArmA 3, though a fantastic shooter in its own right, falls under the more technical “military simulator” category, trading speed for depth of gameplay.
And so we’re left to choose between fast-paced lone wolf arcade shooters that do little to encourage teamwork (especially with strangers) or the begrudgingly slow experience of “realistic war” that has you spending ten minutes en route to your LZ before you even get to discharge your weapon at an OPFOR. We’re not going to be talking about any of these games, however. Today, we’re going to talk about Squad, the up-and-coming shooter from Offworld Industries that provides a happy medium between the run-and-gun and slow-and-steady camps.
If you haven’t heard about Squad by now, you might recognize Offworld’s earlier work: the Project Reality mod for Battlefield 2 that’s added tons of new weapons, factions, vehicles, maps, and other features like real-time strategy elements and directional VOIP via built-in Mumble support.
Squad is easily described as Project Reality‘s modern, standalone predecessor as the development team seeks to create their own brand of warfare from the ground up (in glorious Unreal 4), rather than on the back of an old game’s engine. Having been available to Kickstarter backers for a while now, the game finally released on Steam Early Access earlier last month, opening it up much to the joy of the masses. And let me tell you: I have a feeling it’s going to be even better than PR.
With going to be as the operative phrase, Squad‘s alpha at present is… well… an alpha. Offworld has done a good job presenting a workable demo with great infantry skirmishes as well as fully implementing their base building mechanics (though I’d venture a guess that as production continues and feedback starts rolling in, they’ll most likely refine and add to these features if time allows). However, there are currently no vehicles to help expedite your conquest across sprawling maps and the list of classes, factions, and scenarios to choose from is still limited. But again, it’s an alpha and great things come to those who wait.
Another system that they’ve even improved upon since Project Reality is the use of directional VOIP. All units can communicate with each other over their squad’s radio channel or even locally instead of trying to talk over one another on the radio. Be forewarned if you choose to talk to the guy directly next to you; everyone within earshot can hear you. You’d be surprised how many ambushes are stopped before they can even begin because of noisy noobs. Don’t be that guy. This is war after all.
That being said, kiss friendly fire protection and ally markers good bye too. As a game that caters to tactical realism, you ought to memorize the uniforms of your friends and foes, knowing what silhouettes and tracers to look for, and to communicate with your team. If you’re a squad leader, you’re able to directly or generally address any other allied squad leaders – a great habit to get into unless you don’t mind getting caught in crossfires.
Now I know sometimes talking to strangers is a bit overwhelming, especially when unwarranted attacks about your mother, sexuality, or mother’s sexuality are in plentiful supply across the FPS genre. Rest assured that these insults will be the least of your worries in Squad because no one’s really interested in slingin’ them. With a heritage deeply rooted in the tactical realism community, a lot of the players understand that not everyone’s going to be great at the game on the first try. Hell, you’re helping out just by suppressing and firing down range at the enemy; nailing one or two of ’em helps, but around them is also fine if it means you’re keeping them pinned while another fire team goes to flank them.
Trust is a big component of being successful in Squad as you must rely on your teammates. If you’re a medic, expect to be reviving fallen comrades and treating wounds; if you’re a squad leader, expect to be giving your squad direction and coordinating with the other leaders, building bases and capturing points (as without forward operating bases, your team won’t be able to spawn outside your main base); and once vehicles are implemented, if you’re flying a transport helicopter, expect to be called on to taxi troops back and forth on the battlefield. It’s all about teamwork and it’s unforgiving when you forget.
Aside from its strong delivery and tight-knit player community, Squad is a fascinating project as we’ve gotten to see a mod evolve into a standalone game. The observant will notice that this game shares a lot of similarities to Battlefield 2 as that’s where it all began. But stand it up next to Battlefield 4 – the canon successor to the Battlefield line – and you see two different interpretations spun from the same common thread. From a sociological standpoint, you also see the diversion of two different types of gamers from a single community.
Either way, Squad is shaping up to be a well-polished game and one with the potential to reshape the first person shooter genre. As Offworld continues to re-add and re-imagine content for the new engine and as the title approaches final release, it’s only a matter of time until gamers the world over realize what a team-oriented modern warfare shooter is meant to look like.
Of course, if you want to know what it looks like through our eyes, check out the video below… or snag yourself a copy on Steam. You’ll be glad you did both of those things.