SQUAD is a tactical first person video game that many are calling an online mil-sim, which is short form for military simulation, and sells for $40. Developer Offworld Industries says their goal was to create a game “built around teamwork and co-operation.” I say that Squad is the next generation of video gaming.
It wouldn’t be possible until now.
Many years ago, outdoor environments were notoriously difficult to render in a 3D environment. One of the first mil-sim’s was released in 1993 for DOS and it was called Seal Team. This ambitious game had a flat green earth, a simple blue sky and trees that looked like green cones pointing upwards. The gameplay was great but the visual technology just wasn’t there.
In 2015 the folks over at Offworld Industries used the Unreal Engine 4 to create their own version of a previous mod they had developed for Battlefield 2 which was called Project Reality.
And reality is something the team has achieved.
The instant you fire your weapon the crack of the gunpowder explodes and dust kicks up around you. It’s such a simple thing, but no other game handles it like this. Every sound is 100 per cent accurate. Localized VoIP technology (voice-over IP) means you can use your microphone to voice chat with teammates within 20 yards.
The voice-over IP feature is one of the best parts about SQUAD. There are Reddit threads wondering why every online game doesn’t implement VoIP. I’ve had some great conversations with teammates (and also some not so great “conversations”).
The landscapes, trees, hills and skies of the SQUAD world are rendered with realistic lighting and shadow effects that leads to one thing — immersion. Half of the maps have huge green forests littered with bases and underground bunkers to explore. The other half seem straight out of Afghanistan, complete with opium fields and brown stone buildings.
There was a moment when I was laying prone in some bushes waiting for the enemy to run across a roadway. After a lengthy wait, I noticed four American helmets moving just behind a stone wall. They didn’t know I was there and my adrenaline hit me as I stood up and rushed in.
I ran around behind them and mowed them down with my M4 carbine in close combat. They crumpled onto the pebbled ground and that was it. A simulated event like that didn’t happen to me ever before and maybe never will again.
In military combat this could have been a medal-winning moment, but it was both glorious and terrible — it felt dirty. Why?
SQUAD is designed to accommodate 100 players on a 50 vs. 50 server and this means the battlefields are absolutely huge. It also means that most combat is done at medium and long ranges. You don’t even know where the enemy is sometimes until they open up and fire on you.
This game doesn’t hold your hand. Your character dies from one rifle bullet to the chest or head or two in any extremity. Rarely do you fight up close and personal, but when it does happen it’s very memorable.
There can be some really amazing action.
Unfortunately, most of your time in SQUAD is spent either hiking with a gun, running with a gun or staring into the forest with a gun hoping to see some movement. For those of us who grew up in the bush amongst forest culture, this video game seems very familiar.
There is a plan to implement vehicles by August 2016 which will help transport players in and out of battle which will hopefully cut down on the running simulator aspect of the game.
There was another time I was running with my squad having a nice jog and we realized there was a single enemy jogging along beside us. Because there isn’t a HUD it’s hard to tell friend from foe except by uniform colours and weapons. We had to put him down.
After 100 hours in, I finally feel confident with the standard load out of assault rifle, fragmentation grenade and smoke grenade. You are also provided with bandages to stop bleeding, and a shovel to build reinforcements for your Forward Operating Base (FOB).
Each squad requires players to choose the medic position and you have to sneak around the battlefield and revive friendly players. There is also a grenadier and rocket launcher guy and heavy arms dude for suppressive fire, which really does make a difference in this game. When a bullet whizzes past your head the screen gets blurry for a few seconds.
The most important position is the Squad leader (SL). The SL directs their eight-man team whilst forming strategies with the other leaders over voice communications. Not everyone is cut out for leading their own squad. A squad leader needs to know the battlefield but the most successful ones have the voice, personality and charisma to be get their team following orders.
The intricate ways your squads interact on the battlefield is truly the backbone of this monumental game. It really lives up to its motto — Communicate. Co-ordinate. Conquer.
-Top notch graphics and sound are realistic and immersive.
-100 player maps are mind blowing
-VoIP communication is next-gen.
-$40 for an unfinished game in alpha stage? Wait for a Steam sale.
-Finding a good game is difficult. NA Servers seem completely full or empty.
-Steep learning curve. In the beginning you will die. A lot.
Visuals and Artwork: 9/10
Gameplay and Controls: 8/10
Music and Sound: 9.5/10
Replay Value: 8/10
Final Rating: 86%