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Black Squad is a new free-to-play FPS in early access on Steam. With the FPS market being arguably more crowded than it has ever been, will Black Squad be able to carve out a niche for itself?

Black Squad is a simple first-person shooter by today’s standards. The game offers a more nostalgic experience, opting to ignore more contemporary genre trends in favor of a simpler approach. The game lacks much in the way of verticality, but has a decent feel to it. Controls are tight, but some of the bindings and default settings are quite the headscratcher. First, I found the default aiming sensitivity to be way too low to be useful. I got it to a good place with some fine tuning though, so it’s an easy fix. What isn’t an easy fix is the sprint binding and animation. The default sprint button is the scroll wheel click, and using it puts away whatever gun you’re holding and draws your knife. This adds even more time between stopping your sprint and shooting at an enemy as you redraw your weapon. It just doesn’t make sense.

Confusing control choices aside, the game plays rather smoothly. Respawn times are extremely quick; the game tosses you back into the action almost immediately. Aside from this, the game doesn’t reinvent the wheel in terms of basic gameplay functions.

Visually, Black Squad looks sharp. Models and animations are crisp, and enemies are easy enough to tell apart from teammates. It isn’t the best-looking game I’ve ever seen in the unreal engine, but it’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination. The only stand-out visual flaws are the occasional awkward rag-dolling on a dead body.

Gameplay in Black Squad takes place across four different modes.

First, you have the traditional team deathmatch. Play to a score of 150 to win.

Next up you have Demolition mode. This is a standard bomb plant mode, where one team tries to plant a bomb, and the other team defends. Demolition mode comes in two team sizes: 8v8 and 5v5, and is a no-respawn mode. As such, eliminating the other team entirely is a method of winning as well.

Third you have one of the two most interesting modes in Black Squad, Assassination. This is a no-respawn mode in which the attacking team attempts to infiltrate a building armed with laser alarms and the like. Once inside, you must assassinate the VIP target. The VIP can fight back with a pistol, but that’s it. Once you’ve killed the VIP, the attacking team must make it to the helicopter extraction point with at least one team member alive to win the round. The defending team must escort the VIP to safety or eliminate the attacking team entirely to win.

The final game mode in Black Squad’s early access build is Battle Match. The name doesn’t really fit, in my opinion, but the mode is a lot of fun. Each team has five points on the map designated with letters A-E. At each point, there is a massive crate. Your goal is to destroy all the enemy team’s crates before they can destroy yours. It starts out a bit slow, but close games get more and more frantic as they near the end. When I first played this mode, I wasn’t certain I’d like it, but it quickly became my favorite mode.

Black Squad doesn’t feature a ton of weapons to unlock. The game sorts the available arsenal into class loadouts, which break into the predictable class categories. There’s assault, sniper, SMG user, and so on. The problem is these classes are only available in battle mode. They disable them in the other modes for the sake of balance, but it damages the potential depth of the game as team composition becomes less of a factor.

You win gold, the game’s most prominent free currency, from playing matches. Weapons unlocked with gold are strictly rentals, however. If you want to unlock guns permanently, you need to use another currency called medals. You earn medals for completing daily and weekly challenges, and is also a gameplay only currency.Black Squad also has its cash currency, bullets. You use bullets on cosmetic boxes for skins and new models for in-game items. There are no gameplay affecting items available for purchase with money, so the game keeps its promise of “absolutely no pay to win”.

Black Squad does still have its share of problems though. The largest of these was the overall barebones feeling of the game. The game is still in early access, and there’s still a ton of time for the developers to add additional content, but each mode only seemed to have one or two maps available, and honestly the maps didn’t feel unique or interesting.

The game plays well but has a rather generic feel to it. There was nothing about the game that made it stand out in any remarkable way from the other slew of free to play shooters available on Steam. Between this and the questionable default control setup, there’s no real reason for me to recommend Black Squad. It’s not terrible, and if you really like shooters, then definitely give it a try. In my opinion though, you’re better off going with something like Warface that offers a great amount of PVE content alongside its PVP modes to keep you coming back for more.

Another problem worth mentioning is hacking. The game has no kind of anti-cheat software of any kind at present. I didn’t encounter any super obvious hackers in my time playing the game, but there’s enough of an uproar over it in steam reviews and the community at large that its worth keeping in mind if you decide to try the game.

Additionally, having character classes feels utterly pointless if you can only use them in one match type. Even when you do use them, the weapon loadouts are the only noticeable change. There aren’t any other major class features that differentiate the classes from one another.

The current state of Black Squad makes it feel as though the developers may have pushed it into early access too soon. As I said, there’s still plenty of time for new content and changes to the developers can make to spice the game up, but as it stands right now there’s virtually nothing that makes Black Squad stand out against the sea of other generic FPS experiences on PC.

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