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SWAT 4 Review
publisher: Vivendi Games
developer: Irrational Games
PIII 1000, 256MB RAM, 2GB HDD, 32MB video card
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Apr 05, 05 (released)
|» All About SWAT 4 on ActionTrip|
For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a villain. Not your every day, run of the mill thug - no, I wanted to be one of those stylish, cigarette-smoking, cynical masterminds that were as dangerous as they were fascinating and as powerful as they were criminally insane. It didn't matter if I was the down-to-earth villain with realistic schemes such as becoming the mob king, or perhaps the more ambitious type with complex machinations of becoming the ruler of the planet, with the ultimate goal of turning the majority of the population into shish kebabs. The only thing important was to be ultimately evil and completely, irreparably insane (Well one out of two ain't bad -Ed). With time though, I started to feel more inclined to the second type, feeling that the life of an ordinary criminal was not for me: you always have to bother with offering bribes to the authorities and keeping good relations with the cops, that whole thing.
Come on, strip already, granny. It'll make it easier for me to shoot you.
What, you got shot during Britney's concert? Man, that's so lame.
Keeping that in mind, I don't even need to mention how hard it is for me to play the role of the good guy if the situation requires me to do so. If there is one thing I always hated about pretending to be a cop, it is the need to issue a warning to a suspect before gunning him/her down. I could never understand the need to warn somebody before shooting them like a dog. "Please stop or I'll shoot!" Come on. You know they'll never stop, and you'll end up shooting them in back. And what if they do stop and drop their weapons? Well, shooting a suspect in the knee proves the point much better than explaining their rights, doesn't it? And do I even have to mention all the paperwork?
You see now why I'm the worst person possible to be on the right side of the law. Still, I got the new SWAT game to play, so I needed to pretend I was a sane person for a short while (Good luck with that -Ed). Soon I discovered how to play my role of a good cop and still enjoy the small sadistic pleasures the job offered me. If nobody was around and I was alone with a suspect, I didn't really see any harm in roughing them up a little. Does that make me a bad person? They would have shot me if they had the opportunity, damnit!
In spite of being too aggressive and intelligent for a cop, I must admit I enjoyed the new SWAT immensely. Playing the leader of an elite police unit is not exactly my cup of tea, but it was not long until I found out that the job wasn't without its charms. You see, SWAT 4 allows the player to command a SWAT team and engage in some nicely conceived, sometimes tricky and demanding missions, without making the process seem overly difficult and needlessly complex. The simplicity of commands and the general ease with which this game is played is what made me appreciate it more after the initial disappointment of having to play (what I thought was) just another cop game.
If not being revolutionary is a crime, then SWAT 4 is guilty as charged. But, with so many mediocre titles that are situated on the verge of unplayability, SWAT 4 offers some cleverly designed and generally very exciting action, which will require of you more than just keeping your finger on the trigger and your gun reloaded. This 'intellectual' approach to the genre does not mean the game's a sluggish and boring simulation of standard police action: it means running around and shooting like a madman isn't always what makes a game exciting and fun. Moreover, it features clever missions that involve some form of storyline and suspense; something that the genre sorely lacked.
One of the biggest virtues of SWAT 4 is the fact that it looks fresh although it dwells on the clich' subjects. It's all the little things, although the basics may seem awfully familiar. The game is split into separate missions that need to be completed in order to get another assignment. It is possible to choose your team's equipment before each mission, as well as become familiar with the mission basics, the info on the suspects, and the map of the location. After a briefing, you and your team of four are thrown in the thick of things to handle the situation the best way you see fit. Of course, as you are the one in charge you will have to decide about the mission strategy and issue commands to your team.
Although it is possible to play the training mission, this is not necessary, as the commands are simple and logical, so you will find your way around in no time. The first-person view will allow you painless interaction with the environment and a relatively good view of the situation. The weapons at your disposal are very easy to use, and apart from primary and secondary weapons (which may have several modes of fire), you will be equipped with standard equipment such as gas and sting grenades, flash bangs, a lock picking toolkit, mace and an optiwand, which is useful for finding out what is going on in another room. Depending on your strategy, you may choose to use the optiwand to find out if there's anybody present in another room so you can enter carefully, or you may decide to 'bang and enter' and introduce the element of surprise, thus gaining the vital few seconds on the bad guys.
It is not advisable that you shoot on sight, because in almost every situation there will be civilians present, and killing those will result in failing your mission. (Bad cop! No donut! -Ed) Although the goals of each mission differ, execution of civilians (intentional or not) isn't allowed in the game. All civilians must be persuaded to calm down, at which point you will restrain them with handcuffs. Some civvies may however be stubborn and refuse to cooperate, in which case they will need some, *ahem*, 'extra persuasion' to put some sense in their head. I usually persuaded them by shooting at their kneecap, and although this is not an option favored by the game, I must admit it is by far the most effective one.
There are several categories of NPCs present in the game - from the mentioned civilians to the potential or classified suspects. The main suspects usually need to be neutralized (e.g. shot like dogs), while some can be persuaded to cooperate. You can disarm them and order them to get on their knees, at which point you'll restrain them with handcuffs. If they refuse to cooperate, and they usually will, you are free to shoot them until they turn into a bloody mess. Remember to report the situation occasionally, whenever you restrain a person, neutralize a suspect, or discover wounded civilians in the building.
The members of your team are not the brightest people on Earth, but they do follow your orders closely and if they decide to act on their own, they are quite successful at it most of the time. Of course, they do possess the capacity to get themselves killed, but most of the time they are capable of taking care of themselves just fine. Overall, I'd say that the AI behaved pretty well. As ever though, it is advisable that you monitor their actions and issue specific orders that they'll follow. Issuing commands is simple and it involves some standard options, such as opening the doors and breaking in, clearing the room e.g. taking care of the suspects with or without the use of flash bangs or gas grenades. You can order your team to move to a specific location or just stay on your six. Your team is split into two sub-teams that can be separated at any time by giving them specific orders, like sending them to one part of the building while you and the rest of the team take care of the other. This is sometimes a good strategy as it doesn't allow the suspects much freedom of movement and makes them more difficult to escape. Suffice to say, the whole thing works well, which is another point scored for the AI. Your opponents aren't stupid either, so they'll run when they see you if they are alone and inform others about your presence. Sometimes they'll come back with their armed friends, and sometimes they'll just try to avoid you at all costs. Be sure in only one thing - they are never going to follow the same pattern, so if you repeat the mission several times the position of suspects will change and their behavior will differ from one occasion to another - awesome way to add replay value to the game.
8.7 Very Good
Cleverly conceived missions, interesting locations, a relatively large weapons arsenal, simple and functional interface and commands, authentic and believable atmosphere, general playability;
The game does not bring anything new or revolutionary, and more interaction with the environment would be nice.