Years and years ago my first real foray into online gaming came not from Quake, Doom or Duke Nukem 3d (for some bizarre reason I only played those in single player) but fromt Jedi Knight. I spent hours and hours in multiplayer fights, with no ranking or levelling system, just custom maps and lightsaber mods that anyone could use because it didn’t give you any kind of advantage. Me and my friends even set up a clan and spent all night playing it again and again, just because it was so fun. Tactical Intervention has brought me back to those days, where I care much less about the progression system (although there is one), but while getting screenshots for this article I went into game after game, just because I was enjoying it so much.
Created by Minh Le, one of the co-creators of Counterstrike, Tactical Intervention owes a lot to that game. The weapons work in roughly the same way, with no iron sights. Movement feels very similar, with a few new moves added into the mix, levels even retain a lot of the same feel thanks largely to the Source engine which holds up much better than you might expect for something so advanced in years. Tactical Intervention is a free to play game, supported by micro-transactions where you can rent or buy guns and cosmetic equipment in exchange for currency earned through playing or real money. The guns are cheap, only a couple of pounds each, so if you were going to spend say £20 on it you’d be able to unlock a fair bit.
Originally released in 2010, it was taken offline due to a lack of players just a month later by the original publisher. Now picked up by European firm RNTS Games, it’s been given a new lease of life and we’ve been trying out the (now open) beta and chatting to Le about his vision for the game.
There’s a variety of modes in Tactical Intervention, but all put a team of counter-terrorists against a team of terrorists with some kind of objectives such as simply getting more kills or planting a bomb right up to more complicated tasks like escorting a VIP with cars up a mountain highway or grabbing hostages from a shopping mall. Currently the lobby system UI isn’t visually appealing but as Trackmania has proven time and again, sometimes the menus don’t need to be that sleek as long as they’re fast and get the job done. It’s easy to find a space in an active lobby and at any given time, even in beta there seems to be around 500 people playing. There’s a heavy disposition towards the Highway map, but since it’s free to play it’s not too hard to get a group together and hop onto an empty server running the maps you like.
Gunplay in the game is incredibly similar to Counterstrike. You can lean and even blindfire, but the weapons require short sharp accurate bursts as prolonged gunfire expends your ammo in a heartbeat and tends to cover everything except your target in bulletholes. There’s a variety of real weapons to pick from, but without iron sights there’s a bit of a limit on how different each gun can really feel. The sounds are immense and you’re quickly able to distinguish different weapons based on that, but all you need to be wary of is the difference between shotguns, assault rifles and sniper rifles. All are extremely dangerous at the right distances, but useless at others so being aware of what the other team is packing can be a huge advantage.
In a departure from Counterstrike, the levels are much more interactive with rappel points on one map and cars and other vehicles on the highway. While you’re escorting the VIP up the busy mountain road you’re split from the launch screen into drivers and passengers. The driver rather unnaturally controls the vehicle with his right hand sticking out the windscreen holding a pistol at arm’s length, the others can hide back in the car or lean out of windows to try and take down pursuers, or in the Terrorists’ case the VIP. There’s a reason this mode is so popular, it starts of as anarchic but quickly settles into a strategic battle of positioning and aim. Do you waste your ammo taking pot shots from 100m or do you try to close the gap but expose your own car to damage in the process? Do the counter-terrorists try to form a road-block or do they rush ahead to the extraction point to create an ambush? Once a team starts working together it’s a brilliant game-mode and something genuinely new for the genre.
One of the key differences Le is emphasising with Tactical Intervention is that it’s not just targeted at the hardcore Counterstrike crowd. Rounds are short (even the driving one) so if you die you’ve never got more than a couple of minutes to get into a game again, the maps are varied and interesting, the weapons are all available early on. There’s no gating or parts of the game inaccessible to noobs, and with most modes having a variety of useful jobs (driving, protecting bomb carriers, shepherding hostages) there’s always something for everyone to do. Along with the new movement types there’s also an addition of gas and smoke grenades, breaching charges and even an attack dog that can be commanded to hunt out terrorists. The surface may seem very familiar but delve just a little deeper and you’ll be shocked at just how different this game is.
Sadly to delve that little bit deeper you need to get past a lot of rough edges. The Source engine copes well but doesn’t look great by any means, with lots of ugly geometry and odd clipping in spectator mode. Character models ragdoll in ridiculous ways, the AI is pretty stupid, every single menu and UI interface is ugly.
Once you get into a game, these problems cease to matter for the most part although polish would sorely be welcome. Thankfully there’s enough excitement to be had despite the faults and it harkens back to a simpler time of FPS multiplayer games where you just wanted your team to win, rather than worrying too much about XP or achievements. Perhaps it’s the lack of iron sights, perhaps it’s the quick-gratification rounds, or perhaps it’s the ability to throw a fire extinguisher at a dog in a shopping mall. Whatever it is, it’s a lot of fun.