After nearly 2 years of speculation, infighting, waffling, loss and gain (and loss again!) of the community's good will and a lot of dedicated beta testing, this update to what is possibly the most realistic military sim is finally available. It's also still free, although you can order a real live nekkid pressed CD for the measly price of 12 bucks. While most of the above W/U is still correct, as the goal of the Sentry Studios¹ team was always realism, teamplay and fun gunplay, there have been some changes and improvements intended to increase certain aspects of the game - especially teamplay. Let me rehash some of the old features and then segue casually into the new.

The SS team has always prided itself on extreme verisimilitude of its impressive arsenal. This was achieved by: 1) painstaking research into everything from precise dimensions of the weapon and bullet alike, to sound effects, to muzzle flash pattern, 2) the lack of crosshairs and unique iron sights² aiming (while other games such as America's Army and Hidden and Dangerous II also have these modes, they are simple bitmap overlays, with the crosshairs placed in the exact center of the screen), 3) accurate bullet ballistics. Let's talk more about the actual firing mechanics.

Once you've aimed, the bullet goes where you point the rifle (allowing for gravity) - no cone of fire here, this is after all a realistic simulator. When you fire, appropriate recoil is applied to your free-moving barrel - you have to correct for it to fire repeatedly with accuracy. When walking, slight barrel sway is applied; running makes your soldier avatar move the game to "hipped" position, where shooting is still possible. Of course, you're no longer certain of where the barrel is pointing, since you're not looking down it. Unlike many games which generate bullets from somewhere behind your shoulder (to mimic the effect of weapon -> target fire³), Infiltration actually generates them from the barrel of your weapon, with all that implies. Amazing, that.

Since the barrel is actually in-game, it stands to reason that it should be a physical entity - and it is. You will find this out when you try to move sideways through a narrow doorway with a rifle, or strafe around a corner. Your barrel will hit the wall with an audible thunk, and your progress will be impeded. This initially irritating feature boosts the player's situation awareness tremendously, but in previous versions it wasn't enough to prevent corner strafing while firing - the slow-firing AKMSU with its 75-round drum was a particularly fearsome implement of this ah, reality circumvention. 2.9 added the long-awaited ricochet calculations; anybody attempting this tactic now will find themselves self-perforated.

Finally, equipment weights have been tweaked; while your stamina doesn't decrease as fast as it did in previous versions, your total stamina is more affected by your loadout. For example, my "Scout" loadout consisting of an FN P90 SMG, 3 magazines, suppressor for the SMG, FN Five-SeveN pistol with 2 magazines, and 3 grenades is no longer considered light, and now carries a slight stamina penalty. Add to that an armoured vest, or swap the SMG for a heavier weapon, and you're getting into truly hefty territory - again, this only serves to limit players' weapon hoarding and rambo-like behavior so prevalent in CounterStrike. Tactics take on a new meaning when the squad SAW carrier moves oh-so-slowly.

All these seemingly small, but actually quite complicated tweaks serve to slow the game down to a more thoughtful, calculating pace. What adds to this is that in version 2.9, walking and running speeds have finally been tweaked to feel appropriate - previous versions were invariably too fast, allowing for experienced players' running and gunning. Action is still fast; now you just have to think about it more prior to execution.

New to this version are the H&K Mark 23 SoCOM pistol (with suppressor and laser sight, if so desired), the massive and stamina-draining FN M249 SAW, the Benelli M1 S90 tactical shotgun, the suppressor for the Giat FAMAS G2, M18A1 Claymore mines, flares and 3 types of tactical armour - Helmet, Level II and Level IIIa vests. That's right, with the suppressed SoCOM and FAMAS you can indeed have the stealthy Solid Snake loadout. The Claymore mine is perhaps the most interesting, and its deployment is fantastically detailed4.

All of these things only add slightly to the teamplay factor already present; the real change is the new game mode and the addition of highly Infiltration-specific maps. This mode, called EAS for Enhanced ASsault, comes in two forms: standard, and Specialist. The standard mode calls for a defense of an object from a hostile force - the other's team goal is the capture and extraction of this object. The game can be played with either timed respawns or none. The defense is notified when the object is stolen but, in a nod to realism, there is no way to tell who has the CD until they are actually spotted by a defender - a radio signal is then sent out and the thief is shown on the radar. If the radar is turned off (it is a server-side option), a geographical direction is sent to the rest of the team, along with the location of the spotter.

The Specialist mode is similar, except now there is only one person who is capable of retrieving the encrypted data from a laptop - that is the Specialist. There can be only one, so you must guard him carefully or the mission is failed. The Specialist is armed only with a pistol and is wearing an armour vest - he also has more stamina restrictions. While he could technically pick up a weapon off a corpse, it will seriously reduce his maneuverability. Finally, the defenders are not alerted that the Specialist is hacking the laptop - the alert will only go out if a defender makes visual contact with the Specialist. Obviously the teamwork has to be the highest in this game mode.

Finally, 2.9 comes with a host of options to customise your Infiltration experience. You can setup matches with any sorts of loadout limitations (from pistols only to simply forbidding grenade launchers), HUD specifics, mutators, camo types and mission rotation. Offline players will be glad to know that bots have been tweaked severely and now use advanced tactics such as covering 360°, close cover of friendlies and hotspot ambush setup (especially visible in EAS maps on the defending team). Considering that they're running off of the Unreal Tournament idiot bot code, that's no mean feat.

People interested in games like Raven Shield or Ghost Recon might want to give this a try - the download is free and if you do not have Unreal Tournament it may be picked up for 10 bucks. With a huge arsenal, some of the most realistic depictions of weaponry both visual and aural, pioneering several FPS innovations (the iron sights and accurate depiction of long-distance directional firing sound, to name just two) and focus on solid realism, Infiltration beats out just about all competition. Players focusing primarily on speed of play and the latest graphics (it still is Unreal Tournament, no matter how much tweakery was done to expand the playing field, improve the bot AI and add dynamic events) might want to give it a miss.

Infiltration can be found and ordered at


¹The Sentry Studios team is comprised of ~10 core team members, and counts about 10 more dedicated mappers. Most members are in their late 20s, early 30s, although there are a few older members as well; most of the team hold fulltime jobs and work on the mod in their so-called spare time.

² The way this works is that the model of the gun on your screen is actually not fixed - you can move it away from the center of your viewpoint. After all, your hands move independently of your head, most of the time!. At a certain threshold your viewpoint will start to move in the standard FPS fashion, but the detachment of weapon from viewpoint is a fantastic immersion boost. The bullets still go where the barrel points of course - so you can remain perfectly stationary (say in prone position) and still have significant coverage of an area.

³ Think about it; in most games you can see the majority of your weapon right there in your FOV. This is ridiculous, as either you'd be aiming the weapon (so it'd be right in your face, taking the majority of your FOV on either the right or left side - based on your dominant hand), or it'd be at rest, below your FOV whether it was slung across your waist or alongside. Since in most games the rendered weapon's model has nothing to do with the actual bullets' origin, the bullets need to come from a place the player can easily think of as "the weapon" - this is usually behind the right shoulder. Pretty weird, huh? Sidenote to the footnote: You could see this in action in PlanetSide, where the bullets originated too far behind the player - players kept getting shot when directly behind chaingunners!

4 You have to take the mine out of your backpack, place it on the ground (facing the direction of the desired blast effect), and arm it by holding down the action button for 15 very vulnerable seconds. If you want to use tripwires, get out your knife, approach the claymore, use the knife to cut the wire, run it out to your preferred trip location, and use the knife again. Suffice to say, this is all during a multiplayer round, so make sure you either have escort'll be dead.