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Squad: hands-on the closed alpha of this enormous FPS
Squad is an upcoming first person shooter in which teamwork is an absolute must for success. It’s been developed by Offworld Industries. Most of the guys working for this team were also involved in the Project Reality modification for Battlefield 2. Squad is, in fact, based on the ideas of the PR mod.
Squad had a very successful Kickstarter campaign and got Steam Greenlight with a 96% approval rating. The closed alpha of Squad has started September 23rd, so I’ve been engaged in lots of combat. Well, long distance running to be honest.
The maps in Squad are big, massive really. The earlier maps are 1-2 kilometers squared in size, going up to 4-6 km, but there are plans of maps up to 16 kilometers squared. This is necessary too if you want to have fights with up to 100 players.
Communication and teamwork are extremely important
The beta doesn’t have vehicles yet, and that is pretty annoying with maps this big. In the beginning, I’ve been running for quite a while, because the action took place far away from the spawn point. Then just when you think you’re getting near the combat zone, there’s some hidden enemy that shoots you down, and the long distance running starts all over again.
As soon as you hit a server where communication is better, things are very different. Your Squad Leader (SL) should tell you what the plan is, set up spawn points (so you won’t have to run all the way back once you get killed), and is in contact with the other squads. On these well organized servers, combat is completely different. Everyone seems to know where to go, what to do. And the cooperating team is always aware of the surroundings, and therefor survival chances are much better. Sure, sometimes you run into a loner. He might even get 1 or 2 of your squad members, but the team will always be able to locate him and terminate the danger.
But nonetheless, the moment vehicles arrive in Squad will be a glorious event. Having a transport helicopter ready that’ll drop you off near the action… In the meantime you sit back and ‘relax’, maybe listening to some tunes from Vietnam movies. You can also crew a gun-truck with your mate and shoot at anything that moves (if you have permission from your SL, of course). With maps up to 16 kilometers squared, having vehicles at your disposal is going to be a welcome treat. Implementing these is one of the top priorities of the development team at the moment.
Won’t Squad be chaotic with so many players?
Well, yes. But hey, it’s wartime, man! Squad isn’t as chaotic as you might think though. You won’t hear 99 other players shouting in your headset. You’ll communicate with your squad members; ideally your SL will give you clear orders over the squad radio. The game also has a so called intuitive positional VoIP system which means you will only hear the team mates that are near you in the field. It’s a proprietary system developed by Offworld Industries themselves. Your SL is in contact with the other squads, so you don’t have to worry about that.
Check out the Steam Greenlight Trailer below.
Squad’s big maps are detailed
It’s quite clear that some maps in Squad require some more work still than others. But the maps that do look finished, are absolutely well designed. They look really good thanks to the Unreal 4 engine. When reaching the top of a hill overseeing a valley with small towns and beautiful poppy-seed fields, almost makes you forget you’re fighting a war.The only thing missing in such big stretches of nature is life. There’s not a bird in sight, not a cricket to hear. I’m aware we’re here to fight a war, but certain parts of the maps are so peaceful and quiet, I was just expecting to see some of the local fauna. I’ve been told they are working on that, but it just hasn’t got -understandably- the highest priority.
Despite being big, the maps are very detailed, and designed for you to take advantage of the surroundings. If you don’t want to get spotted by the enemy -and who would want that?- you can prone into one of the many bushes, hide in buildings that are everywhere, crouch your way through the poppy-seed fields, you name it. Since the maps are so big, there are towns, hills, forests….and they all create a different combat style. Being aware of your surroundings will give you an advantage in Squad, as you can even ambush opponents.
Squad is still a work in progress
As mentioned before, not all maps are finished. And there are some other things that need some polishing. The map isn’t very clear. Within all the green dots it’s hard to see where you are exactly, and also the location of the medic or wounded squad members is unclear.Altogether, Offworld Industries are quite happy with how things are going with the closed alpha. They have tested servers with 100 players, and all went well. At the moment they are working hard on getting the vehicles implemented. That’s the next big thing. After vehicles, there will be new maps (PR’s Fools Road is in the making!), and a new aiming and animation system.
Keep an eye on this website to stay up-to-date with all the news surrounding Squad. If you want to have a better look at the game already, try the Twitch channel of Sacriel or else Bluedrake42 on YouTube.