Black Squad is one of the most popular traditional Online First Person Shooters on Steam at this moment, and although is not as popular as the king of Multiplayer action, Counter Strike, it sure has gathered an interesting amount of players.
Originally released on Steam exactly one year ago, the story behind Black Squad goes back earlier, when it was formerly launched back in 2013 in South-Korea. The original concept went through some major changes, to adopt a more realistic modern warfare.
The success of Black Squad was almost inevitable, after all, the producer had worked on Alliance of Valiant Arms, another successful Online First Person Shooter, therefore the knowledge was there, and the entire team worked towards the same goal.
With such accomplish, another problem arose, one that’s very popular in places such as South-Korea; the cheaters!
One thing was clear, though, if NS STUDIO wanted to reach the western audience, they had to step up their game considerably, to be taken seriously and compete directly against Counter Strike. Especially if they wanted to aim at eSports, they had to fight cheating!
And so they did, in late July of 2017, Black Squad was released on Steam, with dedicated servers, and region locked, to separate it from its older user base.
With a short and simple tutorial, even newcomers can join this modern warfare multiplayer First Person Shooter, that’s filled with adrenaline!
The concept is simple; two teams entitled Viper Circle and Peacemaker, fight each other across multiple modes and maps, while earning Experience points to increase their ranks. Each player has a military rank that advances accordingly, and the more XP gathered, the further one goes.
The team behind the game made one thing clear, there won’t be any Pay-To-Win elements, and so far their promise seems valid! Lootboxes however, are one of the more proftible ways NS STUDIO can earn their share!
Players earn free credits, but can also use real money to purchase Black Squad Bullets in order to purchase special crates that may or may not contain the desired weapon or Black Squad coins, the premium currency for rare items. Although, in-game currency such as Credits and Medals can be used to unlock weapons, limited skins, and even a couple of extras to extend the customization!
Exactly one year later, Black Squad is still in Early Access, and with peaks between 5 to 10 thousand players online every day, where does this game stands at in 2018?
In pretty good shape one would say, but there’s always room for improvement. Using Unreal Engine 3, it’s an open door for both players on budget desktops, and high ending ones, plus, the current options allow its user a tremendous optimization.
(With my personal settings with High pre-fix, I always get stable 60fps at 1080p resolution, but no Anti-Aliasing with my GTX 750 Ti.)
Specific in-game options such as Character, Backgrounds, Lightning Effect, Shadows, Effects, and Physics range from Very Low - Low - Medium - High - Ultra, to help you reach the performance you most desire in a competitive game, but many other options are available. Limiting the framerate, Virtual Sync, Anti-Aliasing, Thread Sync and Refresh rate is something players can change accordingly.
Other extra visual options are included such as Gun Trail Effect, Color Filters, and even Blood Effect, where gamers who are sensitive to blood, can replace the red with white, for a much different experience. Crossfire experts will have a great time, as they are custom-built, in size, shape and color. Mouse and overall keys are customized for both click and pressing options, and that’s rare even for new released games!
Visually, it’s extremely pleasant going through each map, either under a clear blue sky, or a night at the docks filled with neon lights. Objects and structures are simple but very well designed, perfect for those who are always visually attracted to the game’s goodies.
Maps are somehow inspired by real locations such the Avignon, inspired by a french city, and they have a fantastic light work. Each area is unique and has its very unique style and artistic approach over war sceneries.
It’s somehow a breath of fresh air to see Unreal Engine 3 being used with a dedicated color palette, even in 2018!
Map design offers all sorts of play style, with different weapons. Each map as a perfect sniping spot, or a runway down for assault rifles. Other maps such as the VBSS, a level based on a cruiser, have plenty of hiding spots for campers or just overall sneaking players!
With a fantastic set of options that were added through this past year to please gamers worldwide, servers across the globe were also progressively added (even if Australia), how does the gameplay stands out you may wonder? It’s a tremendous experience, very fluid, and pleasant. If the gameplay was all it took, Black Squad would be a serious competitor to Counter Strike, but a lot of things influence it, including the netcode, which is solid and responsive, yet it needs improvement. Technical glitches are still present though, but for a small team under 10 employees, Black Squad has been almost outstanding!
Updates have been flowing through this past year, including the competitive match to finally arrive at Beta testing this past week. The already mentioned servers in distinct areas such as East Asian, Southeast Asian, Europe, North America and South America also resulted from distinct updates. This helped the game, avoiding one of the early problems; Ping abusers.
With more servers, come more options, but players can still choose what server to play in, even if that might end up in a bad deal for them. Ping abusers, however, have another problem, and it’s called Battle Eye.
Battle Eye is the anti-cheat system used by many popular games such as Ark Survival Evolved, Rainbow Six Siege, Fortnite, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, and many others. It’s very smooth, and currently one of the best options for non-intrusive but effective Anti-Cheat software. User’s using ping to their advantage are kicked from the match automatically, thus making the whole game more competitive and fun.
The anti-cheating factor on Black Squad is a hot topic since day one. Although Battle Eye is present, it doesn’t seem to be active with all its factors. Players caught cheating are kicked from the current match, but they are not permanently banned. This could be due to monetary limitations, or simply it’s not in the developers interest to mass ban before the official launch. Either way, across all game modes I have only encountered two players who were kicked by Battle Eye for cheating, in 100 in-game hours. This should give our dear readers an idea, even if Steam forums are filled with reports.
Nonetheless, we should wait and see how the official launch of the game will handle cheaters, and if cheating/hacking will have later effect in one’s Steam account, such as Valve’s VAC Ban.
(Official Clip showing some weapons, strategies depending on the map itself. Some competitive variety of options for all sorts of players out there!)
Black Squad has five game modes.
Team Death Match, where two teams of 8 players each fight in rounds of 10 minutes, or maximum kills of 150, where the team with more kills win.
Demolition is another classic mode, where one team must place the explosive, and the other must defuse it. This mode has up to 12 players each side.
Such as Demolition, in Assassination mode, killed players cannot join the session, and as one team must kill the VIP, and the other must protect it, in a match up to 8 vs 8 players.
The final mode called Destruction places two teams, up to 16 players each side, on a large map with destructible objects available in strategic places. The team who destroys the most, earns the most, and the final team to accumulate more points win. This mode as another variant where one team attacks a specific spot, and the other team protects it.
Across all these modes, players can customize their preferences in specific maps and a set of rules, creating a different approach for each mode and guns! After all, who doesn’t want to do a melee-only-match on a gladiator arena? Yes, it is possible!
Maps have been added halfway through this last year, but they seem to come to an end, and their management has changed as well. Across the 30 maps available, locations such as Dust Shield were removed from Team Death Match to become a Demolition exclusive! This happened a few times, and pretty much defined Team Death Match as a frenetic, fastpaced action, where most players won’t be able to rest, not even for a second!
Weaponry is pretty much of what one would expect of a Counter Strike competitor. A large amount of Assault Rifles, SMG’s. Sniper Rifles for all sizes and preferences, a couple of Shotguns and Designated Marksman Rifles, another couple of Light Machine Guns, a handful of Pistols and of course, one Smoke, Flash and Frag grenade.
Weapons have great detail, and the recoil has been updated since the early phases of the game’s launch on Steam. The community has spoken and was listening pretty fast considering this version of Black Squad, is at this point, a much more realistic from the original one.
(Official Clip show casing some of the coolest and deadliest weapons on Black Squad.)
Black Squad went through a few different phases. For fans, this could be a new wave of fresh air, or what the competitor Counter Strike needed.
The hype around its release was no doubt an important step to help the developers create a much better and stable experience. In this specific time, Black Squad was pure gold, and its fluidity and refreshing fast-paced, smooth gameplay made thousands of players to even consider this as the future.
However, time had other plans for this game!
When several Youtubers started to create videos about what should, but wasn’t yet fixed on Black Squad, it was obvious; the community wanted more, and fast.
NS STUDIO has been limited to what type of content its released, it’s mostly been skins and festivity events, with glitches present for months pending to be fixed.
The competitive path for professional players of Black Squad was brighter, but the game still struggles with manual bans, and of course, the Early Access itself. Professional tournaments had been held though, but in a minor scale. This is completely understandable and normal for a recent game, but the question remains… Is a small team hurting the development of Black Squad, to maintain its original form?!
We can’t be sure of its future, but one thing is certain. With no Pay-To-Win elements, and a good amount of maps, Black Squad will continue to bring new players into the genre through the Free to Play factor.
A permanent ban must be implanted, and further character customization needs to step forward, in order to attempt to gain Steam Marketplace attention, with a wide sort of cosmetic items.
DLC seems to be a reasonable source of profit, and exclusive skins and character packs for a substantial amount of money could be a great improvement.
Whatever happens, Black Squad will always be a great experience for what asks of you, which is nothing but dedication and practice. As a Free to Play title, it’s a must for anyone looking for a competitive multiplayer shooters.
As an extra, we left our dear readers with a gameplay compilation of Lim Eun-Jin, a programer of Black Squad.