Will SCUM Rise To The Top?

 

 

 

To answer the question outright, yes and you heard it here first (maybe).

It seems like SCUM is set to rise to the surface of the pond that is the survival game genre, selling over 250,000 copies in its first 24 hours and amassing 700,000 sales in the first week – in what has been Devolver Digital’s biggest release to date.

But what is it you ask? You can get up to scratch on the ins and outs of the game by reading this article or instead enjoy this one line summary;

SCUM is a multiplayer survival game set in a dystopian future where corporations force prisoners to compete in a murderous blood sport reality TV show.

And if that doesn’t tickle your fancy then you probably shouldn’t bother reading this review. It’s a project that in many ways is looking to change the face of the survival genre and from my interpretation of its mission it’s looking to make survival games less futile. Something that as a fan of the genre, I argue is all too often the case. This is the biggest reason why it’s so appealing to me and so I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release ever since I found out about it.

The sheer scale of the game is as such that I feel to cover everything would take a small dissertation. So for the purpose of this review I’m going to be focusing on what I know has been of importance to the community and what you as a potential buyer should know.

 

 

First Things First

This has to be stressed, as I feel a lot of big names that reviewed this game have missed out this important detail or not stressed it enough.

SCUM is in early access and there is a lot more planned for it. Overlooking this fact has led to a lot of harsh and unfair criticism being levelled which doesn’t match up to my playing experience or expectations.  Stating this fact most likely won’t inspire confidence in many of you and I understand why…

Having personally learnt of the perils through games such as H1Z1 and DayZ, like many others I tend to avoid them and am rightfully suspicious of any upcoming early access releases. That being said I’ve wholeheartedly backed SCUM which released at the reasonable price of £15.49. However I decided to back this horse the whole way, so I forked out a further £7.19 and got the extra supporters pack.

Why did I spend more money? To put it simply, the USP and team behind this game have really inspired confidence in me in the run up to release. Since my first week of play and the proof from the pudding so far, that confidence seems worth doubling down on.

In the run up to release developers Gamepires and producers Croteam have been pretty transparent with what they have in the woodworks and their intended goals, doing wonders for my distrust in developers of early access games, even if they admittedly have been a tad bit vague. They’ve been interacting with the community and taking heed of feedback, a trend that has continued since going live,  listening and taking points on board they’ve been quick to hot fix issues and release patches.

With more reputation at stake than other developers who’ve cashed in on the survival genre and legged it, as well as having a sure-fire hit on their hands, means I have high hopes for this game that I am confident isn’t just pie in the sky.

 

 

The Detail In The Realism

The massive level of in depth realism is something that to my knowledge is unprecedented in survival games.

Through the ‘BCU implant’ the puppet masters at corporation TEC1 have bestowed you with, you can monitor everything about your character. Just check out how much info it gives you;

 

BCU.png

 

 

From skill progression, to current injury/ailment, your vital signs, number of teeth, calorie macros, to the volumetric content of your stomach, intestines and colon – just for example. SCUM has a lot of really impacting character micromanagement.

This takes the survival aspect to a whole new level in a ground-breaking way. You must account for so much that will genuinely effect your character and gameplay meaningfully. Everything from your diet, your health, the weather to your physical fitness and beyond.

If you don’t watch how much you’ve eaten, you’ll vomit. If you don’t monitor your bowels and bladder, then my friend you will drop your weapon and your kecks to shit or piss in the middle of battle. If you don’t stay dry and warm, you’ll get hypothermia. You’re getting rained on without waterproofs, your stamina is effected as your gear gets heavier. Get in one too many fist fights and lose your teeth, you ain’t eating well.

Even the inventory menu and how you interact with objects acts in a way that lends itself to reality.

 

Inventory.png

 

 

For example, if you want to load your weapon you must first bomb the magazine up, inserting the rounds and then ensuring the right weapon is in your hands you can drag the magazine over to the free slot to load it. You can’t move items en masse from your inventory meaning that even looting has to be carefully considered and is realistic in that you can only move things one at a time when picking them out of a container. Anything you have in your hands will be dropped when completing actions or picking up new things if it hasn’t been assigned a space in your inventory. In this way I have dropped many, many weapons, losing them, for I am a fool.  You can even throw most all objects in your hands which has become kind of an obsession for me;

 

 

 

The sheer ambition in SCUM’s approach to detail in realism is a lofty but clearly achievable goal and is long overdue for this genre.

 

 

Character Customisation And Progression

As with everything in this game the team behind SCUM have gone for depth and impact with this aspect. A lot isn’t readily available currently owing to the nature of early access but even so there is still a lot to consider when creating and customising your character.  Take a look at a quick glance in the video below;

 

 

A lot more to come but still in-depth despite the bulwark of customisation being currently unavailable. You must build your character wisely to suit what you want to get out of them for your playing style, do you want them to be smart enough to craft every single item? Want them strong or able to run faster and longer?  There’s a lot of different build styles and with more to come that will only broaden and allow you to focus on different areas, thought must be put into who and what your character will be.

Too slow with bad endurance? You’ll probably be the first poor sod to snuff it as your faster mates leave you behind as an insurance policy. Not intelligent enough? Resources will be scarcer for you as you can’t craft certain items.

Your characters skillset will progress with time and experience which remains after death when you’re resurrected, something I’ve personally not come across before in a survival game. Another factor that I feel sets SCUM apart and gives it a deeper meaning and something to work towards.

 

The Setting

The map is based on islands of the developers’ homeland, Croatia. As I said in my previous article they should be given a job for the Croatian tourism board because it’s absolutely stunning. Nice variation between rustic farming villages, larger towns, a prison, an airstrip and various military installations spaced out thoughtfully amongst beautiful landscape, making for a well-rounded and enjoyable setting. I’ve also found what appears to be a TEC1 headquarters which so far isn’t interactive, perhaps pointing to some of the lore and story that’s to be added as the game develops.

 

Scum setting

Setting

 

 

It is a big map, some say too large for the up to 64 player servers. However I still manage to run into potential friends and foes at a steady pace, so personally I think it does the game justice. Making encounters all the more special and lending itself to the realism dynamic, fight or flight must be carefully considered, this isn’t a run and gun game – it’s survival and it’s very unforgiving.

 

Desktop Screenshot 2018.09.07 - 16.15.18.22

 

 

The stunning landscape lends itself well for the sheer amount of walking, jogging, running and catching your breath you’ll be doing.  Something you should keep in mind if buying this game, the reality of going anywhere over a long distance is a bit of a hike especially if you’re not the fittest and fastest build.

 

Another notable point regarding the scenery of SCUM’s world, is the diversity in flora and fauna which really makes it feel more real and immerses you in the world. For example there are boars, goats, donkeys, horses, bears, chickens and deer that I’ve spotted so far with many more to be added as you can see in the crafting menu under meats. Dogs, cats, ducks, pheasants, sheep, geese, rats, cow, rabbit, wolves and small rodents for definite so far.  Without listing the different fauna you can consume and utilise this seems to be the most extensive list I’ve come across in this genre. Doing wonders for world building with its variation.

SCUM seems to consistently be bigger, better and more in comparison to its peers.

 

Graphics, Gameplay And Mechanics

One of the biggest issues and complaints levelled by the community so far is regarding poor performance issues and cheaters exploiting a weak anti-cheat system. FPS drop and server lag have been an issue for many, something the developers have been working on incessantly to tweak. This is something that is to be expected within the early days of an early access game, so of course we can cut them some slack. I personally haven’t had any issue with performance, however I have just upgraded my PC to a 1080 GPU and am getting decent FPS and splendid graphics, with a higher end machine it runs like a dream and looks like one too. Double check the minimum requirements for sure when looking to buy this one as it does seemingly take a lot to run without a hitch.

The gameplay and mechanics in my opinion are smooth and intuitive with the gunplay being nice and realistic enough, making shooting things a pleasure. Unarmed and melee weapon combat is also pretty smooth and tasty, I enjoy boxing with the Puppets (resurrected dead AI prisoners who attack you) as its pretty fun, as well as punching my mates.

 

 

 

I particularly like the way the 3rd person vision doesn’t give you an advantage and only allows you to see other players your character would see in 1st person mode. Allowing for 3rd person to be used without any unfair advantages. Camouflage and stealth work well and in my experience the camouflage system is the most realistic I’ve ever seen, in the fact that it actually works.

Awareness is also a cool and useful mechanic that has been done well, a skill that if you hold down the right mouse button allows your vision to focus and your hearing to sharpen. Depending on your characters level you can hear and see exponentially better, giving you an edge when listening and looking for approaching enemies. It can also be used for hunting animals, in that you can track their last direction moved when focusing as well as better hearing where they are.

Mechs that guard the military bunkers and installations are a great touch, giving you more to consider than just blindly running in. The Puppets alongside the mechs give a nice PvE element on top of the PvP. You never feel 100% safe and always must be wary if you are to live long.

 

 Desktop Screenshot 2018.09.06 - 18.46.07.80

 

 

Fame And Events

Fame is a points system that your character can build up through kills, actions and just surviving day to day. They allow you to choose where you resurrect when dead, whether it be on your teammates for 100 fame points, random for 25, 75 for your home shelter or 50 for the sector you’re in. This means if you keep dying you will go into the negative and it will take a long time to build back up. This aspect of the game is nice as it stops people from committing suicide over and over to get the spawn they want to come back and get revenge or what have you.

 

 Events

 

 

If your fame is high enough you can spend some of it to join or initiate events such as TDM to gamble the possibility of winning more. This gives you more to do than just survive and is a fun way to break the game up and win rewards. If you join, your character will be safely logged out in the spot you were in until the event is over and you return. Nice little feature that I hope will be expanded on for more variety.

 

 

Backstory Lore And The Higher Purpose

All I have to say on this is, I want to know more and I want to know now! There is such a great potential this facet that I hope isn’t squandered.

So far the only logical and feasible higher purpose that I’ve seen rumoured to be implemented is to stage an escape from the island. Something that I hope is suitably convoluted but in an enjoyably difficult way so it’s not just thrown in haphazardly to match their promises of the ‘higher goals’ billed by developers for SCUM.

I want it to be engaging and lengthy enough to not feel arbitrary and hollow, like shooting a chicken when you’ve already got a full belly …

 

 

 

 

 

From where I’m sitting (incidentally that’s in front of my PC playing SCUM) the bottom line is, this game is a whole lot of fun with a whole lot of depth and meaning I’ve never before come across in a survival game besides, maybe The Forest. With the team behind it promising more, the best is probably yet to come.

With such a successful launch showcasing its potential for longevity and with much more in the pipeline, I feel it can become the pinnacle of survival gameplay. Either way it has the market cornered on bowel movement simulators.

Lovely to look at, immersive, realistic and with goals to aim for – but most importantly wholly enjoyable and a good laugh. These are the reasons why I’d recommend any fan of survival games and mental ultra-violent prison experiment reality TV shows to give SCUM a go.

It’s simply bloody SCUMptious and you should sink your teeth into it.

 

Vermintide 2s’ New Patch 1.0.5 Overview And Review


If you’ve yet to read about Vermintide 2 and would like to, you can check out my first impressions review here.  I didn’t think I’d be writing another article on this game so soon, but I feel this is worthy of a look. It seems FatShark are holding true to their promises and 3 month plan (I wish it were a 5 year plan just because of the implication) by listening to feedback from players as well as fulfilling the promise of regular updates.

Having not even been out a month they have released a patch to fix some minor issues as well as to change the game in a small but critical way across the board. By tweaking a few things here and there to redress some of the balances and problems regarding difficulty level, heroes, their power level and weapons. Let’s take a look at what I feel are the most important aspects of the patch in regards to possible improvements or let downs.

With the approach FatShark have been taking so far and with what they delivered on release, I’m pretty confident it’s going to be mostly positive. Which is a shame as mostly all my looks at games have been positives, but then I guess I’ve just been lucky or smart with choice of games recently, either that or I’m supremely easily pleased. It’s true, I’m loving Vermintide 2.

 

 

1.gif

 

If you want to read every little bit of the patch note and digest all the flesh of the words picking their posts’ bones dry, you can do that here.
Anyways here’s my thoughts ….

 

giphy.gif
Difficulty and Hero Power

Overall it seems this patch has sought to make the game slightly easier and less punishing on the grind side of things. Buffing what rewards you can get and giving a greater cap on Hero Power on Veteran difficulty. I feel this was justified and needed as the real test should be the higher 2 levels of Champion and Legend, the leap from recruit to Veteran was just too high as it is. Especially with the kit and equipment you receive at Recruit level. Now rarer item drop rates have been upped, hopefully that should set that issue straight. As it could at times feel like a bit of a slog to get anywhere near strong enough to deal with the onslaught you face at the upper difficulties.           .

Why have these changes to make the game easier been implemented?

 

‘We don’t want Hero Power progression in the game to stop at Veteran. This change makes it less punishing to stay in Veteran to gain Hero Power.’

 

Thanks for having our back FatShark!

So, the specifics, your hero power has been changed in how it is capped. It is now not capped at all on Champion and Legend meaning you can keep getting stronger which is probably needed if Veteran is anything to go by. Although I’m not too sure on how I feel about this one as perhaps it could make the skill challenge of the higher levels moot? I would hope it won’t detract from the challenge too much, whilst also making it more accessible to those of us who just don’t possess the skill to keep up with the intensity in difficulty. As well as allowing for more progression in the game. There also has been scaling of Hero Power below the top 2 difficulties for a better balance, with a maximum of 300 on recruit and 500 on Veteran. Chest rewards from Veteran will be scaled up from 200 to be capped at 300 hero power, allowing for an easier loot grind to make the top levels attemptable. All this will mean we’ll be noticing some changes to the difficulty at all levels.
It has also been made so that the game will less frequently spawn more swathes of enemy whilst you’re still in the middle of containing another horde or special unit, something that was needed as it became a bit overwhelming at times and was a lot of wet work hacking and slashing. That’s what we are here for at the end of the day. But I felt like I survived a real medieval battle and got a bit fatigued at times when they seemed to be unleashed never-endingly. No one wants to click to the point of tired clicking fingers and we all know nobody wants carpal tunnel syndrome, we’re here for good times only thanks.

Finally, there are now less roaming elites by a slight margin on Champion and Legend to further add to this nerfing of the games difficulty settings.

All-round I believe this was needed, whilst I do admire the challenging nature of the game there’s no reason to make a game too hard to the point that it becomes a chore. So good work.

 

 


Useful UI Changes

There has been updates for issues with errors in translations from English to other languages as well as missing subtitles, so good news for those who prefer to have subtitles in their first language. Or those who can’t read English at all, to those of you in that category staring at this page confusedly, hello. Often we native English speakers take for granted the global dominance of our language so it’s good to see FatShark looking out for our pals whose first language it ain’t.

There was an annoying issue where you had to unequip an item to be able to re-roll its’ properties or traits and that’s been solved. You’ll no longer have to backtrack and deselect the weapon or item, this may seem little but it was wearing thin on me, as usually I’m using the item I want to make better as it’s my bestest and most favourite.  So glad that’s been solved.

Instead of indicators for amount of ammunition being under a players portrait now a yellow icon appears near them when they have less than a third of their ammo left. An effective way to allow other team members to know who needs ammo when and who should be prioritised when it comes to single use ammo pouches. Making the game slicker, especially when playing with a team of random players who do not communicate. The bar below the character portrait has thus been replaced with a much more useful indicator of how full or empty a players’ special ability is. Meaning you can now know when your pals can use their specials and can call it into play asking them to use it when necessary. Just some small changes to the UI that will bleed into the tactics and gameplay in a way that enhances it I feel.

With this patch the UI has been made more slick and user friendly as well as more functional in-game.

 

 


Character And Weapon Tweaks

To put it simply and keep you from nodding off with all the facts and figures of every single of the 5 playable characters’ changes as well as their 3 career paths I’m gonna keep it short and sweet. I‘m just going to state that the biggest takeaway is that they have been buffed overall in many different ways, further making the game a bit easier.

I will say this on the subject, a lot of issues with special moves have been ironed out, for example making Bardins’ ‘Oi! Wazzok!’ more reliably taunt bosses. As well as a wee bit of scaling with their statistics here and there for the sake of balance again.

One major issue with weapons that I had started to notice that has henceforth been sorted is the fact that many enemies were ignored in weapons that used sweeping multiple enemy attacks. Turns out they were using a single target priority meaning they missed enemies that should have been hit. This effects Siennas’ mace, the Elven Spear of Kerillian as well as her glaive/dual-swords/dagger and finally Krubers’ executioners’ sword and halberd. This was a major issue I was noticing, as I got overrun by enemies I had clearly just felled with my swooping halberd so glad that’s done away with.

You can now better switch from ranged weapons to melee weapons for a quicker block, as the devs have prioritised the switching of weapons in the input queue. Now you can better deal with enemies that sneak up on you or charge you quickly whilst using ranged weapons. This is useful in boss battles, particularly when charge attacks are used by the big baddy and you’re trying to keep at range. I was forever getting caught out trying to get back to a weapon I could actually block attacks with.

The rest for the most part is just statistical balance and scaling I feel it positive just not so noteworthy personally, a few rare crashes and level bugs here and there were fixed. Just little specifics that are good but were less interesting to talk about in my eyes.

Overall this patch has sought to fix the balance of the game in the direction of being slightly less punishing. Some may boo, hiss and curse this decision, those who are purely in it to be beaten by the game just as much if not more than they beat it. Sadomasochists!

Some good work from FatShark that goes to show they are serious about that 3 month plan they’ve set up and listening to the input of the people who both buy and play their games. This patch showed that, as well as proving there wasn’t too much of any issue with the game at launch and showing that you can always improve a good thing.

Games can always evolve in different ways and are more than ever, developing entities, this one just ranked up.

Squad V10 Overview/Review – An Indeterminable Period Of Waiting Followed By Much Enjoyment

It has been well over a month since the V10 update dropped on the 5th of February and I’ve had more than enough time to enjoy it. So it’s about bloody time I reviewed the long awaited and excitement inducing update for Squad. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the game itself, don’t fear as I have a review you can check out before reading this, for those of you are, get stuck in and enjoy.

In this review I will not be covering every single aspect of the update, just the bits I consider to be the most important, interesting and exciting. To include everything would take quite a lot more pages of an already long article and I don’t think you or I would like writing or reading every little detail all that much. First off check out the trailer because it’s so damned good;


Gameplay And Meta

One of the biggest changes to the way the game is played is the fact that now you cannot utilise the flag rush meta straight off the bat in AAS game types. If one enemy is on a flag, you cannot block the capture with superior numbers without searching and destroying the single enemy. Meaning that you cannot stop the enemies’ advance dead in its track from the get go.

Even though I have always enjoyed crushing the enemy from the beginning of the game, I do feel that this is a better way of balancing things out for teams so the game can actually get started and flow, not dying a death before it has even begun. Encouraging teams to focus on the progression of the game as well as installing a proper supply chain for forward operating bases. You can still block the flag but this requires hunting and destroying all enemies, which is more likely to be a high risk gamble and waste of resources.

There has been a 3 minutes ‘staging period’ added at the beginning of matches, allowing time to spawn up, organise your squads, which vehicles you are taking and the like. However your movement is limited to the staging area of the main base until the time elapses. Graciously the developers have made it so you cannot discharge your weapons, having the foresight to know what gamers made to wait can be like and so helping to avoid griefing.


Mobility

An aspect of life that’s for the most part highly important, becomes even more so on the battlefield, what with the wanting to run away when the loud noises start and all. With V10 you can now run away even more effectively, a part of the update that is definitely applauded by heroes and cowards alike.

The addition of the ability to vault over objects and use your buddy as a boost to climb hitherto unreachable places, means taking cover and traversing the terrain has become even easier. No more being trapped behind knee high walls while the rounds kick up dust at your feet. Well, that is unless you’ve not got the stamina to carry out the mantling move.

A free look bind has been added allowing you to be even more observational on patrol with a 180 degree arc of vision. The speed and ease of entering the prone position has been made more slow and difficult, meaning goodbye to the tactic of drop shots and hello military realism. Whilst prone you can also now lean round, perfect for peeking corners, turning your whole body out and giving you a much better field of view when looking out from cover. Crouch sprinting has been implemented, meaning you can now run distances with a lower profile at the cost of speed.

Another feature that comes into play with your movement is the fact that your weapon length is now a valid factor you must take into account when near obstacles. It will be made to lower and you cannot fire, meaning that your secondary weapon pistols can often now have a bigger advantage in tight spaces, especially as a marksman with their long barrels.

All in all this update has done wonders for your mobility and has brought much more to the table, realism and gameplay wise, making getting around smoother and more tactical.

FOBs And Deployables

Now when you place a FOB radio set down, both the ammo and construction points are set to 0, owing to this, a number of the deployables have been cut in the points that it costs to place them. This has been implemented as previously they relied heavily on the points you initially started with for placement. The ammunition resource cap has been doubled to 2000, meaning FOBs can now be better defended and provide better cover and support, something that will make this feature of the game more useful and hopefully therefore more used. As all too often mortar teams are seen as pointless. Packing more of a wallop over a sustained period should make them regarded as useful as they should be. Another element which further develops the usability of mortars is the new smokescreen rounds. Which cover a large area and can last up to a minute, allowing for advances to be made.

Logistics trucks now work a bit differently, you can now decide with what you would like to fill the truck. Either construction materials, ammunition or both depending on your FOBs needs and your squad leaders’ orders. To drop supplies off you must use the number keys 1/2 or mouse scroll to select which resource you wish to drop, then hold the left mouse button to drop off. To pick up supplies you hold down the right mouse button.  Lastly logistics trucks now have the ability to load up from a FOB to take the materials elsewhere, the significance of this is that now if retreating or advancing you can salvage what’s left and redistribute it. The developers have stated there will be more development on these building aspects in the future, hinting that perhaps some FOBS could be used as supply hubs in a logistics chain.

 


An anti-aircraft emplacement has been added as a deployable for both unconventional warfare teams, a ZU-23 twin barrelled 23mm AA gun. It costs 100 ammo points to reload and is limited to one per FOB, costing 400 construction points to build. This addition is hinting that perhaps we are getting closer to the promised incorporation of helicopters which the developers have been working on since 2017. I hope they get implemented soon as I really cannot wait to play flight of the Valkyries down my mic in local chat at the nearest possible opportunity as we hover onward into battle, sorry fellow players.

 

SPG-9 emplacements and the mounted variants now have the option to choose between high explosive anti-tank or fragmentation rockets. The latter being best for hitting grouped together infantry units or those taking cover inside buildings.

The militia now have a new defensive deployable in the form of a wooden trench wall section, limited to 10 per FOB and costing 150 construction points.

FOBs are a vitally important part of gameplay and I’m enjoying seeing these developments, how they can be used and pondering on what can be added. I think it will be interesting down the line to see what other developments are being worked on and what effect they’ll have on the game itself. 

Weapons And Kit

A lot has changed in regards to weaponry, a lot of it being very minor and fiddly details that I don’t feel worthy of noting as they are none to exciting. So for this section I am going to cut it down to what I feel are the most important elements. Many of what I am going to gloss over are just points on kit changes that bring balance to the different teams as well as more true to life loadouts and damage changes.

Firstly, all animations for the equipment and weapon usage have been completely rebuilt from the ground up for V10, some nice smooth animations (when they don’t bug out.) Furthermore the way weapons handle overall has been revamped too – recoil, weapon sway and movement are all something you’ll have to get used to again, which are all effected by your current level of stamina. I do find the weapons are a lot more realistic to use now, but somehow smoother at the same time. Same can be said of the swapping between what’s in your inventory, you can now cancel your reload or equipment change to select another weapon a lot quicker. Giving you better ease of response to developing situations, which can be vital to your survival out in the field. No longer will you be stuck doing something you need to stop. Almost all weapons can now have their scopes and sights zeroed in, to help aid at different ranges, something I haven’t quite got to grips with, but I’m certain will be useful once you know what you’re doing.

Now for one of the biggest factors of new weapons and kit that has been afforded to us, machine gunners. Finally they have been equipped with bipods to allow positions to be set up and for more effective fire to be levelled against the enemy. You can deploy them on most any surface including your squad mates back if they stay still providing you a firing position, and potential meat shield. Win win for the gunner eh?  All belt fed weapons have been given visual animations of the belt diminishing as ammunition is fired through, adding a nice little touch of realism and a better visual feedback for when reload time is near. These kits are great when used in tandem with marksman or other fire support roles, having a spotter to direct fire – they are best operated from a held position providing overwatch for your squad. Equipped with 500 rounds they can sustain fire for a large amount of time. You can get a rifleman to lay sandbags to make their position elevated and slightly protected.  A brilliant plus for your squads’ tactical fighting ability this kit unlocks at 5 squad members and is limited to 4 per team, unlocking one per 10 people on your team. Giving it a nice balance I feel.

Squad 1
Here’s a quick run through of the most important small noteworthy changes for brevities sake;

All the reticules bullet drop compensation indicators on scopes are finally fully functional. Coming in great handy for those long distance shots you just can’t calculate yourself. All marksman kits now have binoculars meaning they can play their role more effectively. Also binos themselves have become more effective – equipped with a proper reticule and rangefinder, which helps you indicate range by the height of the enemy at different distances. All non-scoped riflemen now get a reel of razor wire alongside their deployable sandbags, helping your squad dig in further when taking defensive positons.  The Insurgent raider kit has been given 2 drum magazines that hold 71 rounds, good for pushes and holding against a numerically superior force. Making you into bit more of a shock trooper. Insurgents now too have a grenadier kit, however it is restricted to 3 per team, better reflect their more heavy reliance on RPG weaponry in the real world.

Some lovely new changes in this sector, bringing more diversity to the game.


Vehicles

The first thing you will notice on all vehicles in V10 is that it now takes a while to enter, exit or move seats. How long it takes depends on the vehicle and type of seat you are moving to. This means that soloing vehicles is no longer as effective as it used to be, thus encouraging teamwork. Meaning vehicles take up more of your squad to operate or are less effective. Adding to the realism and overall balance of the game.

Insurgents have a new vehicle in their arsenal, a civilian coloured Ural 375D logistics truck (only in certain maps.) Both Insurgents and Militia have a MTLB variant with a ZU-23 AA gun on the back as well as a smaller PKT turret up on the front mount. A vehicle that can be operated to full effect by 3 people means that smaller vehicle squads of friends can get a lot of enjoyment out of this one.

Squad 44.jpg

squad 22.jpg

Me and my pals have had much fun using it so far and have found it best to be used at a distance to deal with people holed up in hilltops. It makes light work of smaller vehicles, but is vulnerable against the more heavily armed and armoured ones. Has to be said, it handles like a dream and is quite speedy, making it good for withdrawing and getting about in general. It costs 18 tickets when destroyed and only takes 6 minutes to respawn (thankfully as I absolutely love this addition.)

squad 33.jpg

Alongside the aforementioned vehicle, the Insurgents now have an Ural 375D mounted with a ZU-23 AA gun on the back which shoots high explosive rounds. It is a very vulnerable and cumbersome vehicle which is best used at a distance or for ambushes as it cannot fire directly forward. When destroyed it will cost 12 tickets and also has a 6 minute respawn timer.

squad 4.jpg
BTR-80 / BTR-82A / MT-LBM 6MA / MT-LBM 6MB / BRDM-2;
These above vehicles have now been fitted with a coaxial PKT machine gun, which is much more useful to supress and dispatch infantry threats and can be switched to in the inventory slot number 2. All vehicles mentioned above, as well as Strykers are also now equipped with smokescreens shot from launchers, you carry 2 loads worth and it’s great for beating hasty retreats or tactical advances. They are reloaded at the cost of 75 ammo points per piece. Developers have done this to ensure this feature is not abused and the map is not a constant mess of smog. Which I feel is very sensible, making them viable but not abuseable.

MT-LBM 6MB and BTR-82A;
Are now equipped with a high explosive round for their main cannon, which is good for dealing with infantry taking cover or inside buildings. But best to switch back to your armour piercing rounds to deal with vehicle threats, even though HE does deal some damage. It’s not the firepower you need for blowing up armoured vehicles.

BTR-80 and 82A;
Now come fitted with a periscope for commanders, giving an extra seat. One day this will be rolled into the driver seat to make them the vehicle commander. But for now this is a nice little asset for SLs to use as an extra set of eyes.

V10 has made vehicles much more versatile, realistic and effective and I am absolutely loving using vehicles even more now since V10 dropped. Great fun, great effect – all round good update on this front.

New Map

There have been a few changes to a few of the existing maps, mostly bug fixes or adding more variation in buildings, populating certain areas and giving them more playability. But I am going to focus on the newest addition, the snowy map of Belaya. It includes 2 AAS game versions as well as 2 different invasion game type layouts.

squad 3.jpg

This tundra is set in Eastern Europe and is a nice change from lush grasslands and deserts we’ve been hitherto used to. Giving a nice new terrain to play in, with light to heavy snowfall which really adds to the immersion, obscuring your vision somewhat and giving you the need to focus more in outside areas on patrol. My favourite part of this map is the tunnel complex of the train yard, which makes for some truly fun close quarter combat and is both fun to defend and attack. It’s quite hilly but not too mountainous, has plenty of bisecting roads for vehicles and is generally quite passable in off-road routes, depending on your vehicle of course. A beautiful addition bringing something new to the table that plays very well.

Squad 2.jpg


User Interface

The main menu UI has been completely overhauled giving it a nice sleek look and making it easier to navigate. It also allows you greater access whilst joining a server with the ability to browse the menus without being dropped from the queue, so any last minute bind changes or what have you can be sorted without hindrance. Installed Mods are now viewable while in the main menu and a music player has been added, allowing you to choose through the Squad soundtrack. I’m hoping maybe we will be able to add your own playlists in the future, although there is no word on that.

INTERFACE.jpg

As a SL there has been some changes to your UI, vehicle claims appear on the left hand-side of your screen and you can now approve the request using a hotkey rather than fiddling around on the map. You have also been given more symbols to mark on the maps, one for ‘request pick up’ and another for ‘mine spotted’. You can now invite unassigned players into your squad if you wish to fill your ranks too though I haven’t worked out how to do that yet.

In general all weapon selection icons have been given a new and updated style, current selected weapons and equipment names are shown to you above your ammunition counter, allowing you to know what you have selected at all times. Coming in handy particularly if you have different types of rockets or grenades to switch through.

Miscellaneous

There is now some limited integration with discord, so you can see who in your channel is playing, what server, team and squad they are in. Hopefully there will be more of these little additions that are helpful. Another feature added is mod support through the steam workshop, all you modders and fans of mods out there will be delighted to hear!


Bugs And Glitches

There has been a number of existing bug fixes here are the ones that the developers have listed;

  • Fixed US Logistics Truck windows being fully bulletproof.
  • Fixed destroying certain vehicles crashing the server.
  • Fixed ammunition indicators and inventory being invisible while in a vehicle turret.
  • Fixed the “Ballerina Pose” bug that was occurring when a player dies or exits a vehicle.
  • Optimised the burn effects for vehicles and destroyed vehicles.
  • Fixed incorrect bullet casings being used on all AK74 and AKM series rifles.


Still with these bugs fixed, there are still a great great many issues. Here are a few that I have been experiencing and feel need to be addressed pronto;

Glitching through structures such as roofs when revived.You can mantle through certain windows with frames. Sometimes when you switch weapons your models hand comes off it and goes up into your face disrupting your view. Also weapon models disappearing from character which can be fixed by changing weapon sometimes.Players in vehicles sitting outside of them at some distance. Or even in the drivers lap obstructing view.

And a bug that I sadly didn’t get a clip of, where I was tilted upside down and couldn’t walk or move without spinning upside down… it was hilarious but quite disorientating and I had to be run over several times by my obliging squad mates before it corrected.

And these are just the ones I know off the top of my head. There are probably quite a few more to contend with.

All in all even with the unfixed and new issues, I absolutely love this game and they can’t detract from it – it is just enjoyable to no end. Most of the bugs are just funny but some do hamper gameplay in a number of ways as well as others being exploited to unfair advantages. Either way, they all definitely need fixing, however understand that with such a large game as Squad there are bound to be growing pains that need ironing out. Let’s just hope the ironing is done sooner rather than later.


All being said and done this update was a leap forward in the Squad experience thus far, also hinting at the course this game is taking and continuing to take, with glimpses of the future (i.e. aircraft counterparts to the AA weaponry.) It’s a course I myself will stay following closely and urge you to join if you like team based tactical shooters and large scale warfare, this is for you.

 

Squad; A MilSim Masterpiece

If you’re a fan of Military simulators and haven’t played Squad yet, I implore you to check it out right away. Usually you should probably wait until you have actually started the review to say that, however Squad isn’t your usual game. I’m so convinced that you’ll be convinced, I’ve jumped the gun.

Squad is a PC game set in the modern day war environments of the Middle Eastern occupations and insurgencies, as well as the Eastern European separatist Novorossiya movement. It is a tactical first-person shooter, with a massive focus on cooperating within your squad, as part of a wider team  in up to fifty-a-side servers.

In this game communication is vital to survive the fight as well as win it and this really sets it apart from a lot of games in its field. But why else do I think you should check it out?

Community

Developed by Offworld Industries it was created in the same vein as the Project Reality mod which was well received and known for its heavy focus in the realism of gameplay as well as teamwork. Squad does its ancestors proud and has brought this focus and love for communication and cooperation into the forefront of the next generation, as well as the community who make that facet work. Starting out on Steam’s Greenlight service it received over 9,000 votes in just a day and a month later a Kickstarter which lasted a month raised CA$434,805. Although there are many other reasons why Squad is great, what truly makes a MilSim successful, is the community who love to play together and work together. Squad has cornered that market well.

Squad photo 1
The developers announcement a day after the Greenlight campaign.

Realism

Having stemmed from Project Reality which does exactly what it says on the tin, means squad is up there as one of the most realistic military simulators to date. Whilst still keeping it fair enough by allowing you to be revived and healed, its damage system is pretty unforgiving. It takes a while to cycle through heavy equipment as well as giving you realistic stamina and movement. It takes practice to get a hang of the different weapons at different ranges, but anyone who appreciates realism in military shooters will appreciate all this in Squad.

No other game has made me feel such terror and excitement at the sounds and visuals when taking and returning fire. From the realism of the crack of bullets on the ground around you to the meaty sounding explosions which kick up dust and small rocks at your feet, it feels intimidating.

One minute you can be patrolling peacefully through the beautiful forests of somewhere in Eastern Europe towards a capture point, the next you’re being mortared from out of nowhere and genuine fear grips you as you panic in the maelstrom.

Factions And Squad Member Roles

You can play as one of four factions so far, with similar squad roles except a small split along the lines of conventional and unconventional warfare found in contemporary combat zones.

Squad photo 2
The Four flags of the factions included so far.

                                                                

Squads are split into three role sections;

Command and support –

  • Squad Leader – Arguably the most busy and stressful position, but to me, ultimately the most fun and rewarding. You are in charge and responsible for co-ordinating with other squad leaders in the command voice channel, you will need to also give orders and relay information to and from your squad. As well as marking enemies and such other points of information on the map, placing ‘rally points’ (the point from which you can spawn) and approving vehicle claims (nothing to do with insurance honest). You can place forward operating bases (FOBS) and the buildings you can construct in them, every other member has a shovel to build on your orders as well as deconstructing enemy positions.
  • Medic – You are responsible for keeping your teammates fighting fit, and should probably not be doing too much fighting up front, often you’ll find yourself sticking close to your squad lead to the point of feeling like their batboy. A vital support role that can be the difference between an attack failing and succeeding.

Squad Roles –

  • Riflemen – You are the core, the main fighting force who will do the bulwark of the killing and dying, if shooting is your thing this should probably suit you best. There are a few different primary weapon and optics choices. Equipped with a grenade, smokes and sandbag emplacements as well as a shovel for building structures or taking down enemy structures. You will do the groundwork and grunt work for your squads’ success.
  • Scouts (Unconventional only) – This is another one of my favourites roles, you operate up front and sometimes behind enemy lines, gathering information for your squad and causing disruption to your enemies. You are equipped with a lesser rifle but come armed with an IED (Improvised explosive device) which you can place and set off with a remote detonation device. Along with the IED you also have an anti-tank mine, these can both destroy vehicles entirely, which is vital to unconventional factions as conventional factions hold all the best vehicles.

Fire Support Roles (Limited to 3 per squad) –

  • Machine Gunner – You will take positions to offer suppressing and supporting fire to your squad as ordered.
  • Light Anti-Tank (LAT) – You are a vital member of the team equipped as a rifleman but in place of grenades you have anti-personnel rockets as well as anti-tank rockets. Vehicles can make or break your attack or defence and must be dealt with efficiently.
  • Heavy Anti-Tank (Unconventional forces only) – Same as above except you are equipped with a heavier rocket to help take out the better armoured vehicles of the conventional forces.
  • Grenadier – Great for assaulting enemy positions when they’re taking cover, good to help your approach or stave off enemies taking cover when approaching your position.
  • Marksman – As and when required your squad leader will give you special fire missions but in general you are a more precision fire support role watching over your squad.

The roles add to the variety in game play and tactics making for a diverse play experience overall.

Squad photo 3
Squad role selection screens compared; unconventional on left and conventional on right.

Varied And Detailed Map Design

There are maps from environments in South-East Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, some are based on real regions, but all of them are stunning and great for combat in their own ways. The map designs are based around objective capture points which are well thought out and conducive to the flow of the game, they are balanced and allow for different strategies and tactics so the game Meta is wide-ranging. There are infantry based maps which are smaller scale and vehicle based maps which are vast battlefields. The amount of detail and thought that has gone into the map design really sets it apart from other shooters.

Large Scale Mobile Warfare And Base Building


There are a plethora of vehicles in Squads factions which match some of the hardware available to them in the real world, and their weapons are a pleasure to use as they really pack a punch. However driving is tricky and true to life and being effective is difficult, especially considering drivers and gunners have to communicate and work together closely whilst undertaking their separate tasks. This mobile dynamic is highly enjoyable whether in a supporting role to infantry or as a focus of your squad as a whole and it is also much needed. Some maps are so vast that without vehicle transport, you’d be running a marathon. You’ll be surprised to know that the most important vehicles on the battlefield isn’t even armed, it’s a logistics truck, the use of this vehicle can make or break your teams efforts.

Logistics trucks are vital in base building, they supply FOBs with ammunition and supplies for building the HABs (respawn areas) as well as mortars, machine gun emplacements, solid defences and ammunition for resupply.  With base building the developers have given you the ability to change the face of the map, created a staging point for attacks and a fortress for defending wherever you please.

Indeterminable Boredom Punctuated By Moments Of Terror?

I have found that this old quote regarding war rings true to some when they first play Squad.  And admittedly I can see why, if you’re on the back foot and the enemy team is just doing better altogether, it can feel more like a running to your doom simulator than a MilSim. But sometimes, communication and teamwork breaks down and you’re going to get steamrolled.

However, even when this happens I find there is fun to be had in the camaraderie of the challenging struggle to fight for a comeback. Not to mention, the landscapes are so great for jogging through it might actually have sale value as running simulator. The breath-taking vistas of the maps are done great justice by Squads graphics. So if you find this happening in your first games, just stick with it, losing is so much less boring when you can understand what’s going on and see the bigger picture. Just check out the beautiful views until you’re ready to lead. Then you can take charge and ensure you never have to play a running simulator again by always leading to victory.

Squad photo 4
One of  the maps many vistas, this railway bridge is found on the map Mestia.

Squads large scale gameplay and immersive realism means that so many different stories and narratives are created on the battlefield. Such detailed maps and so many different roles from an individual basis to squad level means each fight is a different experience. There is just so many variables to react to in this immense and immersive battle and that makes it a MilSim masterpiece in my eyes. 

With Version 10 just having been rolled out live this month adding many more features, there is no better time to get involved with your boots on the ground. Squad is a game with a community backing behind it and developers that sincerely want to push their project forward in the best possible ways for the genre and those who back it.

Look out for a V10 review coming soon and to all my future squaddies and enemies, see you on the battlefield.