I barely recuperated from my dangerous trips to South-East Asia in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory when my editor in chief told me to put on my Special Weapons and Tactics-outfit and review this forth title in Sierra’s SWAT series.
Vaguely I remembered the strong critique his predecessor got and prepared for the worst while I put the cd in my cd-romtray. During the trainingsmission you get a crash course on weaponry and after that you learn how to make use of the command menu.
You will have to know this menu by heart if you want to be able to succesfully complete the missions in the campaign mode. At the start of each mission you will be able to equip yourself and your four teammates with a wide variety of weaponry and gadgets. You decide whether you want to opt for a non-lethal approach or whether you don’t want to take any chances and shoot everything that moves. Unnecessary use of force, however, will result in penaltypoints. If you have too much penalties, you won’t be able to proceed to the next mission.
The amazing ragdoll physics and realistic NPC-animation are the main reasons why SWAT 4 can compete with other recent hit games. Today, the absence of amazing cutscenes could be considered a downpoint. However, Sierra was able to create such a realistic and dense atmosphere that cutscenes weren’t necessary. The occasional weapon belonging to a down terrorist that gets trapped in the wall isn’t really bothersome either.
On to audio-effects than. Again, the boys and girls over at Sierra did a very good job. The more then twenty weapons all sound very realistic and the soundeffects are a treat to listen too aswell. At the start of each mission you get to hear a very realistic 911-emergency call.
I mentioned the command menu in the beginning of my review. This makes it possible for you to, with a simple click of the mouse and a turn of the scrollwheel, give orders to your team. With a press on the tab-key you can choose whether your orders are addressed at the blue, red or gold (red+blue) team. When you split up your teams you will most definetly need the little window on the topside of your screen. This screen gives you a live feed of each team member. This way you can assess the situation more easily. The whole squad system requires a bit of practice, so it can be a bit confusing for the first time you play it. That’s why I suggest you get the hang of the game before you start splitting up your teams.
What aggrevated me most in the beginning was the fact that you cannot saves during missions. Imagine you have spent 40 minutes carefully clearing every room of the house and then you’re shot by a crazed maniac with a kalashnikov. However a save-option would probably damage the game’s realism and when you play a bit longer you learn how to deal with these situatations more carefully.
Sierra was aware of the fact that you’d more than once have to play a mission before you succeeded. To keep you focused at all time, they made it so that at the start of each mission all hostages and hostagetakers spawn at random. This feature is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time.
On to the multiplayer then. When you thought nothing could top the singleplayer campaign, you were wrong. In co-op mode you get the chance to replay every mission with a total of four friends. This multiplayer experience is incredibly addicting and stimulates teamplay in a way I’ve never seen in a videogame.
A downside to this mode is the fact that at the end of each mission you have to go and look for all the remaining weapons from downed terrorists you forgot to pick up. Before you find those darned things the mission will not be successful.
Next to co-op SWAT4 also contains a standard deathmatch mode and a variant to CTF in which the SWAT-team has to defuse three bombs and the terrorists, ofcourse, have to prevent this from happening.
Sierra’s SWAT4 was able to entertain me from the beginning to the end and even now I still sneak behind my computer to enjoy a relaxing few hours of intense co-op. Marvelous graphics, beautiful soundeffects and an exquisite gameplay make this fourth title in the SWAT-series a real hit. Definitly worth spending your hard earned allowance.