How to Beat the Competition in Insurgency: Sandstorm

Learn how to win with this guide to Insurgency: Sandstorm.

Learn how to win with this guide to Insurgency: Sandstorm.

Because Insurgency: Sandstorm tries to bridge the gap between hardcore simulation and casual FPS, strategies from both camps are applicable when fighting across its sandy battlefields.

Like a simulation, you won’t be getting back up from a couple of bullets, and don’t expect to dump an entire magazine without looking at the sky. Like a casual FPS, you can get away with taking out entire teams after a flank or jumping across a long sightline if you’re quick enough. 

Neither is easy to do consistently, but if you follow the three rules outlined in the guide below, you’ll have a much better chance of pulling off plays that’ll have voice chat singing your praises.

Soldiers run down what looks like a middle eastern street in Insurgency: Sandstorm

Tip 1: Set the Pace

The first rule of any match is this: the team that sets the pace wins. It’s a classic FPS strategy; if you and your team can determine how fast or slow the game flows, you have complete control over who is where when, and how they’re going to act.

It’s a trickier task in this game, though, as you die so quickly and one misstep will put the reins of the match back in enemy hands.

How, then, do you grab hold of a round and never let go? Simple: be methodical.

You have to embrace the Insurgency‘s slower gameplay and approach almost every engagement with caution.


  • every corner could hold an enemy
  • that “corpse” is probably going to shoot you
  • stay out of sight as long as possible
  • keep some cover between yourself and open space
  • watch where your teammates are headed and use them as bait/cover
  • use smoke
  • take the short route
  • never take the long route

Most of all, use your ears. Sound is paramount in Sandstorm, and you’ll hear your enemies coming from a mile away. Remember, though, that they’ll hear you coming, too. To shake up their position, approach from a direction they don’t expect. Get a teammate to help you and punch through their defenses. 

Once you’ve started capturing an objective, slow the pace down. Let the enemy come to you, and once you know you’ve got friends on the point, take off on your own to scout around and strike from an off angle. 

Your ultimate goal is to keep the enemy team off balance, but keep them from descending into chaos. Chaos breeds unpredictability, and if you can’t control your opponents, everything you worked for will be for nothing. 

Like I’ve talked about in previous guides, the funnel effect is your friend. In Sandstorm, maps have natural chokepoints you can use to create effective kill boxes, but again, don’t overstay your welcome at any one of them.

If you have to start guessing at where your enemies will be coming from, you have to start all over again.

A soldier holds an M-16 from a first-person perspective while watching a firefight

Tip 2: Keep Team Composition Balanced

There are flashy ways to play Insurgency: Sandstorm. Few of them will win you matches.

Instead, focus on playing the long game. The second rule of winning in this game is: play the role your team needs, not the role you want.

Ask yourself before each match:

  • Are there a ton of riflemen but only one observer?
  • Is the commander spot open?
  • Is there only one sniper, and is he doing his job?
  • Could the team use someone with a shotgun or SMG?

Unlike most AAA FPS’s on the market, you will rarely succeed through brute force alone. And sometimes that means giving up the spotlight in favor of becoming the enabler. You won’t get the shiny credits at the end of a round, nor will you rack up a huge kill count. But your team will thank you for biting the bullet.

Every role in Sandstorm is a powerhouse in its own way. The commander and his observer can block off entire sides of a map with smoke or close air support. That gives the snipers breathing room to move into an advantageous position and hold down a sightline for long periods.

With overwatch, the riflemen and CQC soldiers can move toward an objective without fear of reprisal. And when the boots on the ground secure a forward position, the commander and his observer can move forward and get a line on a better chokepoint to control.

In other words, following Rule 2 makes Rule 1 easier for the whole team.

Everything cycles, but remember that your enemies will have the same idea. Your job is to be better than they are at playing your role. If you can’t, it might be time to switch things up.

A player leans to get a better line of sight on their target as teammates provide suppressing fire

Tip 3: Bravery Before Foolishness

Flashy plays are possible in Insurgency: Sandstorm, and though they don’t win matches on their own merits, they can enable you and your teammates to accomplish the otherwise impossible.

That’s why the third rule of this game is: take calculated risks but don’t jump headlong into enemy fire.

I know it sounds obvious, but you have to know that you will rarely, if ever, be shooting or bunny-hopping your way out of a mistake. Instead, when you do want to make the clutch play your team needs, take in the whole battlefield first.

Consider the following: 

  • What pushes have failed previously?
  • What successes have you had on the outskirts of the objective?
  • How long has it been since you surprised the enemy team?
  • Which route has your team routinely not been taking, and have you tried it yet?
  • Where would you sit if you were waiting for the odd flank?

Your answers to these questions should inform what play you make, though every risky endeavor puts you deep in harm’s way. 

You’ll need to be confident in your movement and your shot, and you’ll be putting some of your faith in teammates (a travesty, I know) to keep the majority of the enemy team occupied.

Gather a couple of buddies you can trust, or think you can trust, and set out. You have to be careful when and how you spring your trap, but once you’re in it, dedicate yourself to staying alive as long as possible.

Even if you’re the only one left — or the only one who went — the big plays depend on being a consistent thorn in your opponents’ side for an extended period.

If you can accomplish even one such play per match, you’ll open up opportunities for your teammates to make something of themselves. And that, I think, is the ultimate win.

Insurgency: Sandstorm is unlike most other FPS titles on the market, but many of the same strategies still apply, even if you have to adjust them to the game’s unique mechanics. If you want to know more about the game, be sure to head over to our review and see why it ight be a gem in the desert. 

About the author

John Schutt

John Schutt has been playing games for almost 25 years, starting with Super Mario 64 and progressing to every genre under the sun. He spent almost 4 years writing for strategy and satire site TopTierTactics under the moniker Xiant, and somehow managed to find time to get an MFA in Creative Writing in between all the gaming. His specialty is action games, but his first love will always be the RPG. Oh, and his avatar is, was, and will always be a squirrel, a trend he's carried as long as he's had a Steam account, and for some time before that.