True soldiers are meant to fear what they can’t observe. Squad is the most accurate war shooter that makes a player advance slowly through each map and count each bullet. The game's deep tactics and great community of experienced players will guarantee a lot of fun for anyone who decides to buy it. Squad is available through Steam's early access program for the price of 36 euro and has enough content in it at this point to justify the price. It is developed by OffWorld Industries who were previously know for Project Reality, a mod formed on the Battlefield 2 Refractor Engine.
The weakest part of the game has to be the graphics. I could compare the weapon designs to something used in modern games but still they stand a couple of years back in terms of textures and coloring. The metallic part of the weaponry looks unpolished and almost unfinished, I was also expecting to see some scratches or any indication that the gun was previously used and at first I had assumed there was no such thing because I mainly enjoyed the M4 Carabine on which wear is hardly noticable at the front of the stock, on an AK-47 however things are different. The AK-47 took a rough cut at the manufacturing plant or so it would appear. The gloves a character wears are in the pretty decent range. The stiches are visible and make the gloves distinguished, also there are different materials used just like in a real battle gloves a military unit carries. The environments however aren’t visually impressive. The maps mostly consist of average looking tress and foliage overall and some last minute crafted building here and there. Most of the buildings are roughly textured just to stand out a little from the rest of the objects on the map which aren’t much to begin with.
On the other hand, weapons are fully animated. The recoil is seen and felt. Changing a magazine is done nicely in the game too, I liked seeing the magazine clip into place every single time I needed to replace it. Bullets flying out of the chamber are missing but that isn’t that big of a deal considering most of the time you won’t focus on that exact part of the weapon. Character models are out of date a little bit and this comes from an avid Arma 3 player. Smoke effects are adequate but the smoke does travel through objects which isn’t correct. If there are no holes in those objects that the smoke shouldn’t be able to penetrate them.
The most surprising part is that there isn’t a big visual difference between the high and epic setting in the game and they are one gigabyte of video memory apart. There is no explanation given as to what you get when going on the EPIC graphical option. Then for instance medium graphics quickly exchange the outdated graphics to something along the lines of Rainbow Six Vegas 2.
Squad is multiplayer only. The servers can take up to 72 players at a single time but it isn’t recommended to play in the most populated ones because of performance problems. After choosing a side of the conflict, you have to respectively join a squad in which you will have the option to pick a role (if it isn’t already taken) and go into battle. Gameplay consist of certain objectives being taken and held by your team and elimination of the enemy. It is a pretty standard formula and some might consider it boring but this isn’t where the game excels. True fear is meant to be had by those who take up a weapon and want to fight the enemy. Most of the time you will spend running around forest trying to protect yourself from bullets you can’t see. This is one of the few games where sound is more important than sight. If you haven’t spotted the adversary from the start and he got the drop on you, then you have to focus on pinpointing the direction from which a weapon is fired and that could mean dropping to the ground and laying in fear just trying to block out everything apart from the gunfire.
As I had a 7.1 virtual surround sound headset strapped onto my head, getting the smallest clue for the location of the enemy was vital. Was the fire coming from the left or the right? From the back or was the enemy positioned right before me? I did also spend a fair amount of time exploring where bullets were landing on the ground next to me because the trajectory a bullet had could help me identify where the enemy had set up. You don’t get the most diverse choice of weapons as I would like to see something like the SCAR-H rifle which had become very friendly with games of this genre. The most amount of time you will be bringing along with you a simple AK47 because it is the primary weapon for the normal class and it won’t usually come with a long distance scope which I consider a must for this game because without one it is almost impossible to pick off enemies from a distance or even see them between the vast amount of trees. A gameplay necessity are vehicles which aren’t added at this point. The maps aren’t small and running around on foot with stamina that drains in a couple of minutes is horrible.
Even getting to the center of the map could become boring and annoyed most people I talked to. Simple motorbike or a Humvee could be added to spare us the tiresome running to a destination which extends a match beyond an hour. Sometimes figuring out who the enemy is becomes an issue. Usually there should be a name pop up on each friendly unit but the last time I played there were still issues with that and some friendlies were handled like enemies and in the fast response, I’d sometimes take down one of my own men.
The HUD is very minimalistic, barring only the essentials like a compass so you have some idea of direction, small health bar to show your current condition and the stamina bar to indicate how much energy you have left. That is all in the HUD. The map has to be brought up with a key so realism takes place in the game. There also isn’t an ammo meter that shows the current ammunition you have or how much bullets there are in your current clip which lead me to believe at first that ammunition is infinite.
Communicating with your squad is the only way to play the game because otherwise you are compromising the mission. When I first jumped into a match I had my microphone turned off which appeared to be a giant mistake because I saw an enemy creeping up on us from the North and wanted to relay that information to my time but how since my microphone was off? In a game where it’s very hard to spot an enemy in the distance, it’s best to keep communication as a priority if someone from your team knows the enemy’s location and can share that information with you. Also there are some excellent commander players in the game that have deep strategic value to a mission and can give out life saving orders.
Here the game needs a lot of work. For instance, running and crawling sound normal but bullets I have a problem with especially when they hit a wall. It’s almost like getting shot with paintball ammunition rather than an actual bullet. Sitting there behind cover and hearing the same soft crack next to you almost makes a person take off the headset he is wearing, it gets monotonous. There is no real kick behind a bullet trying to penetrate a concrete wall, if I had to explain it better it almost seems like the bullet would flick off the wall rather than make a serious impact on it and for a game based on realism, this is a serious issue. Weapons also sound the same, there is absolutely no sound difference when firing the primary ones at least, you might notice some difference when firing a pistol but the rest of the rifles are almost identical in sound.
Early Access titles usually don’t have good performance because most of them haven’t reached the optimization stage. With an i5-4460, GTX980 Ti,16 gigabytes of RAM-I got over 40 frames per second most of the time on EPIC settings which require more than 4GB of video memory available. Unfortunately changing the resolution and graphical settings didn’t do much to improve my performance, I was always getting the same end result. It has to be noted that in this game there is a high CPU usage issue at the moment because it is multiplayer focused and supports 72 players on some servers. This does mean that after some serious gaming sessions your CPU could go over 70C and result in some throttling which at least I think I have noticed. There hasn't been any information on an upcoming patch that would improve the performance.
Realism when it comes to tactical combat
Being part of a Squad is intense
Stategical thinking when going into battle