PC REVIEW: SWAT 4

Definitely a contender for game of the year, SWAT 4 provides a great balance of gameplay features with an easy-to-use interface and realistic situations. I wouldn't be surprised if this game was being used in training sessions for special forces recruits.

SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics. As part of an elite force, you and your teammates will be assigned a variety of missions that take advantage of your training, skills and deployment of tactics, weapons and gadgets. There is no story mode, which I think is a good thing since you are facing different unrelated situations in each mission just as would in real life. The briefing before each mission is the only background you'll get on any particular situation and it will help you to make decisions as to what weapons and gadgets to use in addition to adopting a team strategy before you begin.

I like the absence of a story mode. It makes each mission feel like a different game. For SWAT members this is just another day at the office. The threats range from crazed robbery suspects to heavily armed intelligent terrorist cells. Each mission requires a different approach. Use of non-lethal force is highly recommended in all situations. If you are able to bring the suspects in alive you will be rewarded with more points. In most real-life situations lethal force is the last option. There may be hostages or other innocent lives at stakes. It's also better to have the suspects alive for interrogation as they may be deeply involved in political conspiracies.

To that end, weapons, gadgets and tactics are implemented to provide maximum safety to all parties. The shotgun is not a particularly deadly weapon but if you manage to shoot an enemy in the arm or the leg with a high-powered assault rifle, more often than not you will end up killing them. It's unfair but it's something you'll have to live with. Non-lethal weapons include a taser, pepper ball gun, bean bag ammunition, flashbang grenades, CS gas, and a stinger grenade which releases rubber pellets that render the subject in pain temporarily. Body armor will protect you but it's no substitute for avoiding hits altogether. Considering how good the enemy's aim is that's no easy task.

The enemy AI is smart, sometimes smarter than your AI teammates. The enemy will run, take cover and wait for you to expose yourself or fall into a trap. Although you may give your teammates commands they sometimes follow them too closely and won't take the opportunity to engage the enemy when ambushed since it's not really part of the command. It doesn't happen all the time but the only way to guarantee this doesn't happen is to play with three other reasonably intelligent humans in the co-op mode.

Using team tactics really gives you an advantage. For instance, when you converge on a door you can use the optiwand to scan the room and learn where the enemies are located. Then your team can take aim and cover all the hot spots before you open the door. This technique comes in handy even when you can't see in before you breach a door. Using teamwork and timing to your advantage is the key to good play. It's really satisfying to pull off some good team moves as it motivates you and your buddies to tackle the next mission. Thanks to randomly generated enemies, you never know where they'll be located when you play the same levels over. This is also true for the other multi-player modes which include Team Deathmatch, Escort and a bomb defusing mode called Rapid Deployment which is a race against time.

Commands have been streamlined in the most obvious of situations. For instance, when you approach a door you will be asked if you want to open it. There's no need to go surfing through an interface to do that. Depending where you place the cursor you will be offered a series of pertinent commands which really speeds the gameplay up.

All of the environments are heavily detailed - almost too much. The developers are really showing off here and it shouldn't go unnoticed. When you enter an office building you will see rows and rows of cubicles but each one is decorated to reflect the one-third of an individual's life that is spent there. Some are messy, some are clean but most of them are different and that's the kind of realism that immerses you in the gameplay. Darkened corridors, lanes and stairwells will get your blood pumping as you know that the shadows may be harboring some kind of potential threat.

Just when you start to get jaded and you think that a particular genre may have run its cycle, a game like SWAT 4 comes around and turns you into a drooling fan again. I can't imagine how Irrational Games is going to top this one but I'm glad that's not my assignment.

Preview By Chris

SWAT was a successful series first released by Sierra. The series was based on a story line following four rookies and their progress in the unit. Fans of the series liked the realistic stories and situations that the games placed you in. With the last game the whole control system was changed and with new team members creating the game it sort of lost its roots so to speak. Now SWAT is returning and the game will have some major changes.

I would take a chance here and guess many of you are too young to remember the first or second game. For those that were fans of the series I can feel a bit better that I am not the only one old enough to actually have played the games. Fans of the series know that while the games featured great action and true story lines, it had a tendency to become frustrating while trying to control all four team members.

The new game will take care of this and you can even split the team into two separate groups. A helmet cam will allow you to know when you need to help out someone on your team. This is a huge improvement since most of the time you were always wasting time saving the weakest or inexperienced member on your team. I touched on the controls and the new interface will allow players to customize the controls. This will also come in handy for those who have never played any of the other games.

SWAT 4 is a long way off from being released. In the early demo the deep story lines that were revolved around each member is history. Another step in improving the total game is that it will feature story lines but will be based more on the missions than the squad. Taking a look at the early screen shots the game sure looks good. Realistic surroundings and interactive areas will play a key part in this one. When you run or look for cover, the game will actually show realistic looking areas rather than the old style of the previous games. Players can expect more action, weapons and scenarios.

As of right now there seems to be three game modes with talk of a few more being added. A career mode, although different than in the past games, a quick action mode where you just jump into a mission and a Co-Op mode are included. SWAT 4 is also going to take advantage of the newest graphics and sound available to bring the game a more realistic feeling. We also know that there will be an editor to create your own levels. No word on any online modes yet. Take a look at the early screen shots and we will update the preview with all the features and details as soon as we have them.

Press:

"We are working collaboratively with Irrational Games on SWAT 4 to develop one of the best games in its genre," says Michael Pole, EVP, Worldwide Studios, Vivendi Universal Games. "SWAT 4 delivers a tactical first-person squad-based shooter experience that is a worthy successor to this hit franchise."

Featuring graphics courtesy of the Vengeance engine powered by Unreal, SWAT 4 delivers 16 authentic environments set in stunningly rendered locations representing a wide variety of operational environments. Realistic ballistics and Havoc defined object physics will further heighten the experience for the player by providing an added layer of atmospheric authenticity.

As a S.W.A.T. officer, players will have access to authentic assault gear including tactical mainstays such as the Colt M-4 carbine, the Benelli M4 Super 90 shotgun and Surefire tactical lights. However, as with their real-world counterparts officers in SWAT 4 have to hit hard and fast in order to take down the bad guys and keep the innocent out of harms way. SWAT 4 will also ship with three competitive multiplayer modes as well as a cooperative campaign mode.

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System: PC
Dev: Irrational Games
Pub: Vivendi Universal
Release: April 2005
Players: 1 - 4
Review by Stew XX
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.5
GRAPHICS
4.5
CONTROL
5.0
MUSIC/FX
4.0
VALUE
4.0