NM Impressions: Squad Is A Daunting Experience

I am out of my element.

(Disclaimer: I received a key for this piece)

This week I was offered the intimidating prospect of playing Squad, a tactical first person shooter that had been on my wishlist in the sense that being an astronaut is in my docket of potential careers; it’s there but it wasn’t a mountain I expected to climb anytime soon. Or ever. If you catch my mid-air collision of analogies.

After playing for a number of hours I wouldn’t do this game the disservice of a full review as if I’m some kind of expert and can give a thoughtful analysis of something I have little understanding of. I can appreciate what Squad is doing in the same way that I can watch a surgeon performing an appendectomy and recognize that he’s doing an alright job even if I don’t have the knowledge or training to do it myself.

You have to come into Squad with the understanding that this is not your normal FPS. It is closer to ARMA than it is say Call of Duty. Teamwork is not just important it is downright crucial to making sure that you are successful on the battlefield and don’t spend most of your time watching the respawn counter tick down. You have to play tactically, intelligently, and most importantly you need good eyesight because you’ll regularly be in long range battles.

I don’t have great eyesight evidently. I thought I did, but then I got shot by someone from far enough away that they were a pixel on the horizon of my screen. They saw me just fine. Squad has team damage and when you can die from one or two bullets that prospect can cause a person to freeze when trying to figure out if that soldier you see running toward you is a friend or foe. Other players do not have such hesitation.

You need to play the squad game to get anywhere in Squad (astoundingly) and that means having a microphone and that means communicating with your squad. You can’t lone wolf this otherwise a lot of the content is locked off and by that I refer to the classes and guns. Everything in Squad has weight including yourself which is why you can’t jump ten feet with a hundred pounds of equipment on your back without seriously injuring yourself. Guns have kick, maps are big enough that you need transportation to get around, and teams need people who know what they’re doing for tactical advantage.

Even if you’re not great on the battlefield you can do things like helping supply teammates or supplying an FOB with necessary gear from the home base. Honestly I think my best bet in Squad is to just be a glorified UPS driver and get ammunition and stuff to the bases that need them. It makes me much more useful than running around for ten minutes and getting sniped. Games are based around capturing territory and every death takes away from a ticket counter that impacts the overall team.

The side effect of this is that every action you perform in Squad feels far more satisfying than it does in an arcade shooter. I got my first kill in one match and that kill gave me more pride than the entire Call of Duty beta weekend I recently played. As I learned the ins and outs of how the game worked I was still outmatched by most of the people I was playing against and that only amplified my ego when I would get the drop on a group of enemies and kill more than one of them before being gunned down.

One of the squadmates ran up to me shouting that he needed ammo and I hit a button to drop him ammo. He thanked me and ran off to kill some more baddies. In another area I was able to patch up a wounded soldier and he thanked me and then covered me when I got hit a few seconds later so I could patch myself up. Moments of sheer violence are fleeting in Squad and it makes every match so much more memorable because of it. You’re not doing crazy 360 noscopes here, everything is grounded and far more methodical.

One bonus I will give to Squad is that the community is for the most part fantastic. There’s an understanding when you play games like this that there are going to be a lot of new players who don’t really know what they’re doing, or just people who don’t go deep into the tactical mindset. People like me. What I found was that the community goes really out of its way to help people learn the game and they are quite accommodating to new players.

That being said this is a game with high skill ceiling which means even the servers labeled “new player friendly” aren’t exactly friendly to new players. Presumably what this means is that you can faff about and be safe knowing that you won’t be chewed out by some dude who has seven thousand hours invested and doesn’t want you screwing up his meta gaming.

That said the community doesn’t screw around and it is absolutely possible to wind up on a public ban list through poor behavior or reckless gameplay. Being on that list could lead to getting blacklisted by a lot of the major servers. It’s definitely a game where your actions have consequences.

If I had to rank Squad I would put it far above Battlefield on the military sim scale while also not being anywhere near the dredge that is ARMA. If Battlefield is a one and ARMA is a ten then Squad is a seven. It’s the kind of game that you don’t have to know your military phonetic alphabet to be good at, but you definitely need to go into it with the right mindset and know that you’re not going to be running and gunning or playing quick matches.

But if you like tactical FPS games this is going to be right up your ally. Squad is sitting at an 88% positive Steam rating with nearly 44 thousand reviews. It has an extremely dedicated and sizable community and if you show up wanting to learn and aren’t a toxic person they’ll happily accommodate you.

At $50 you should definitely know if a highly tactical game is what you’re looking for. Check out Squad on Steam.

%d bloggers like this: