By Craig Pearson on February 14th, 2014 at 7:00 pm.
Intruder is a tactical multiplayer game currently in very limited alpha. I was one of the few people to get early access, and more keys are on the way. The best place to keep track of sales is the Superboss Twitter account, and I think after you hear about my experiences with it you’ll probably want to. It’s lots of fun.
There is a pivot point in most tactical multiplayer games, a moment where plans crumble and everything goes wrong, and–if everyone is friendly– it makes the game ten times better. Swat 4 had it. Rainbow Six had it. And Intruder has it. Hell, Intruder quantifies it. On the bottom left corner of the screen is a balance indicator: keep it in the high 90s and you’re a sniping, sneaking, stealth master. When you’re panicking and sprinting away from danger, which is the only time you should be running, it lowers to under 50, affecting your aim. Stand on a railing, however, and it hits zero, pitching you headfirst over the side. Intruder makes you clumsy by design.
It’s trying to slow you down, to keep you quiet and tactical, and sort of punishing you but also not really. It became like Father Dougal’s big-red button to me. There is a particular railing in the lobby of the main map that I had to stop myself jumping on every time I passed through the building, saving it as an end-of-game treat. But this is a game of tactics, and there is that one time I tried to use it tactically.
Intruder is a multiplayer game of guarding and infiltrating. Two teams start at either end of the same building, with the guards given payloads to protect and the intruders attempting to steal them. The lobby in the main map is a nexus of at least four main entry points, so it can see lots of foot traffic. I’d crawled from the Intruder’s side of the building, taking the direct route by shuffling across the dark bridge that links the two sides of the building. As I arrived at the Guard’s section, I could hear a whispered discussion below. I heard a plan forming that sounded so hushed, so intricate, that I wanted to mess it up immediately. My best guess put him directly below me, and I imagined his surprise as my body came out of nowhere and knocked him out. I leaped onto the balcony, heard a squeak as my feet slipped from under me, and plummeted head-first into a plant. At least I received a yelp of shock as my reward.
I am not a smart man.
Intruder is as much about communication as it is about gun-play. The game is best when it’s three vs three and everyone at least attempts to have a plan. I’ve only played one main map: a sort of house cum office that’s just open enough to let you catch glimpses of the enemy, but with enough edges and rooms to make each view a fleeting moment. There’s a number of potential routes for the players to take: a garden you can sneak along, using bushes to keep hidden; there’s a bridge that offers a direct route, but you’re easily spotted there, even if you crawl. The vent is a bit stealthier, but it’s slow; trickier players will smash windows and leap into the water, but smarter players will slide the windows open and lower themselves down into the water via the vines at the back of the building. Guards and Intruders could pass within inches of each other and not even know about it, and just one wrong noise is enough to tip someone off. Voice chat is always on, enabling you to chat to team-mates in close proximity or over the radio, but anyone close enough can hear you talking. I coughed once and gave us away. It’s a lesson learned, and now in enemy territory I use a static-y click of the radio’s ‘transmit’ button as acknowledgement that I’m still alive. Two clicks means I’m living life to the max.
The mousewheel doesn’t flick through your weapons, something I’d consider an affront to FPS game design if not for the fact that it’s used to open doors and windows. It works wonderfully, and serves the levels perfectly: unlocked doors and windows react immediately to the mousewheel, smoothly swinging according to how far you tease them. The other gadgets, bound to the number keys, are suggestive of careful calamity: along with grenades and guns, you also have a C4, a proximity sensor, a radio for long-distance chit-chat, and my two favourite things: a cardboard cut-out in the shape of a sniper, and a camera on the end of a pole that you can use to see around corners, through gaps, and to take carefully staged selfies. Observe.
I love the camera. I love how extending it manages to be both cool and ludicrous. It never fails to crack me up when I encounter an enemy poking it around a corner, or I see it snaking out of a vent. I spot it, they spot me, and then there’s that moment’s hesitation before they back off, camera slowly escaping into the vent. What now? I could crack the entrance just enough to slide a gas grenade in there, but by now the vent jockey is probably out of range, perhaps sneaking off to another vent exit, or maybe back-tracking to attempt an entirely different route? I could crawl into the vent after them, but the first time I played Intruder I managed to trap the lead developer–a man who is named Rob Storm–in the mail room: we snuck in through a vent, a proximity sensor alerted the opposing team, and they remotely detonated some C4. I died half in and out the vent. His only escape route was corpsed-up and we lost when the guards swarmed the room.
Even though I’ve only spent time on the one map, it’s never boring. The modern design is open enough for me to sit on the roof of the Intruder side and watch for glimpses of movement all the way through to the opposite side of the level. You can see guards slip between floors in a controlled panic, planting bugs, waiting for any sign of movement, but trying to keep out of view. They crouch walk, they poke cameras everywhere, they fret when a cunning and handsome sniper shoots out a window on the opposite side of the building to where they are and crackles instructions to his team.
Glass breaks, smoke bursts, and plans become obscured. Let me tell you about an amazing little moment I witnessed from the ghostly realm of the spectator view. When you die, both teams come together to watch the remaining players spectacularly dodge each other. Our Graham, in his first night in the game, was left alone vs developer Rob Storm. Graham was backed into a room, but had the door covered from the inside. Rob, who invented the game, placed C4 on the door and backed off into a large, square room that’s basically an exposed box of glass. The smart level design means this apparent dead-end is nothing of the sort: he smashed a window and climbed onto the ledge, crawling along to the room Graham had hidden himself in. Graham was watching the door as Rob fired into the room, and when he tried to escape the C4 finished him off.
That same glass room was the scene of my finest moment. Like Graham, I’d been backed into the area, though this time it was with multiple guards. They weren’t being subtle because I was the only one on my side left. Shouted instructions filled the corridor, then a burst of smoke cloaked the doorway. I was dead! I turned to the window, fired a bunch of bullets as I ran at it, and dove out just as it shattered. I landed in the water and survived a few more minutes before being caught, but it was a glorious and silly escape, and completely indicative of Intruder’s emergent nonsense. I can’t wait for more people to play it.