Review | Insurgency Sandstorm

There is a huge absence of hardcore first-person shooters across the console platforms. With Rainbow Six Siege dominating the scene in this field for several years, many were left wondering whether anything of a similar premise would ever arrive. Insurgency: Sandstorm finally makes its mark on the Xbox and Playstation platforms after multiple delays. Developed by New World Interactive and published by the recently rebranded Focus Entertainment, the wait for a brand spanking new multiplayer tactical hardcore first-person shooter is over. 


The journey of Insurgency: Sandstorm is quite a lengthy one. Formally announced way back in 2016 and launching on PC in 2018, onlookers on console were craving some of its fictional Middle Eastern conflict. The development team received critical acclaim for the realistic gameplay, level design, sound engineering, atmosphere, visuals, and fluid animations. There was some criticism though. Technical issues and optimization in the early stages hampered the game. This forced the dev team into the cancellation of a planned campaign to focus purely on the multiplayer aspects. 

What most may not be aware of is that the console release was initially meant to be timed to the same window as the PC version. Ultimately though, this may be a blessing in disguise. That three-year window has meant that the team could work hard to iron out any issues and focus on a healthy port. With a closed BETA phase of a continuous two months allowing players to rigorously test the game on both Xbox and Playstation.

Ease your way in gently!

This is no run and gun fest. Insurgency Sandstorm requires patience, precision, teamwork, and pushing the objective. Time to kill here is instantaneous, shoot on sight and kill or be killed. I suggest you get hands-on with the tutorial. This will hold your hand for no longer than five minutes or so as you focus on movement, how to change weaponry from auto to single shot, customisation of equipment, and how to complete objectives. The firing range will give you unlimited time to test different weapons, get a feel for their recoil and power. Recoil is hugely noticeable in this game and believe me when I say you’ll need practice with the guns before going into battle. Finally, the lessons section of the menus will display well orchestrated short videos on a range of mechanics such as how to kick doors in or apply a gas mask.

Modes and maps aplenty….

A question most have when a new shooter arises is usually the same, how many maps and modes are there. I am a fan of objective-based game types whereas some may like to be catered for with conventional search and destroy style battles. Thankfully there is plenty to cater for all audiences here. Lone wolf or as part of a team there are plenty of maps, 14 in fact.

There are options to play co-op against AI enemies or PVP online. Domination was my go-to mode and if you’re a first-person shooter fan you’ll instantly feel at home here. Capture and control three sectors across the map. Push is an attack and defence affair. Attackers must advance to capture objectives whilst the opposing team defends. Frontline has you attempting to find the enemy cache to destroy it. The variety and variance of the whole package ensure different experiences on the battlefield.

Customisation, Weapons & Gunplay

No shooter would be the same these days without being able to customise your character. The act of playing will grant you in-game currency to purchase from a plethora of apparel. Alter your soldier’s headgear, glasses, uniform, and more, and work towards the appearance of your liking. What is refreshing to see is there are no microtransactions, not a loot box or battle pass in sight. This allows for everything unlockable to be worked towards with normal gameplay.

There is an abundance of weaponry on offer in Insurgency Sandstorm all with realistic recoil and handling. Guns such as the M4A1 carbine, AKS-74U, FAL, M16, and more feature here with an array of attachments. Before entering a match or between deaths you’ll be able to select which weapons you’d like to take with you. Equip sights, stocks, grips to your gun, and grab a grenade or two.

Gunplay is super satisfactory here, and the weapons feel like they have real weight behind them. I’ve never played a shooter where the recoil for each was so realistic and different. You’ll need to take your time with certain guns to feel comfortable. I recommend the FAL with a single shot option to start with as it is steady and easy to control.

Graphics & Sound

Visually Insurgency Sandstorm is well presented on Xbox Series X at a locked 60fps in 4k resolution. The development team has promised even more next-gen enhancements in 2022. For the most part, though the graphics hit the spot. The visual elements blended into the maps such as marble tiled floors with lighting gleaming back at you was impressive. The most stunning factor for me was the animations when you kill an enemy. The blood splatter as they fall to the ground along with dust flying up from the floor as missed rounds burrow into whatever is in their path is terrifying and incredibly well done.

The sound design is where this game excels. The blood-curdling screams of people dying from being shot, the clatter of continuous firefights echoing through the narrow streets along with loud deafening. To the footsteps close by really leave a lump in your throat with nerves is it the enemy or one of your team. It makes you tread carefully, and the game is by far the most immersive shooter I’ve played. It captures the atmosphere and aura of close-quarters battle.

In Conclusion

If you’re looking for a hardcore shooter that relishes realism then you absolutely must buy Insurgency Sandstorm. For the price point, it is more than worth it for the amount of content on offer here with more on the way in 2022. If you played the recent Hell Let Loose and its vast and complicated experience wasn’t for you, then this game might be right up your street. For me, it is a game I will dip into on occasion but for veterans of shooter titles, you may see hundreds of hours of fun here. A game that is fantastic fun alone or with friends with no HUD and instant time to kill authentic hardcore warfare is well worthy of your time.

Insurgency Sandstorm





  • The best hardcore shooter on console
  • Sound effects are super realistic
  • Map design is fantastic


  • Could be too hardcore for the casual audience
  • Launches in a wave of so many other shooters

Jordan Campbell

Writer for XboxEra, owner of xboxera.official on Instagram. Residing in Penzance, Cornwall, UK

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