posted 6/6/2005 by Jennifer Lam
other articles by Jennifer Lam
One Page Platforms: PC
How Police Quest transformed from a 2D adventure game into a full-fledged tactical shooter is beyond me, but the world is much better off now that it has. Sierra has been furiously toiling with the SWAT franchise, producing everything from a full motion video simulation to a 3D isometric strategy game. With SWAT 3, the company found itself a nice niche in the first person tactical shooter market and has decided to exploit it to the fullest potential. What we have today is SWAT 4, a title that really brings tactical shooters to the next level.

SWAT 4 is a first-person tactical shooter that has many similarities to Ubisoft’s much talked about Rainbow Six franchise. While that franchise features in-depth planning, SWAT 4 features more realistic on-the-fly situational tactics that need to be executed on a moment’s notice. Using a simple targeting cursor based system; the designers do an excellent job of giving players full control over the action.

The system is context-sensitive, so highlighting a door with the cursor will bring up options related to entering the next room. Deciding which tactic to use becomes vital to the success of the mission. You’ll always want to “mirror” under the door (with the use of a high tech remote camera) before you enter so that you’re not greeted with the business end of a deadly weapon. The tough part comes next, figuring out how to approach the situation. One of the key tenets of SWAT is the preservation of life so you’ll have a number of non-lethal options in your arsenal ranging from flash bangs to gas canisters. What’s great about this system is that it allows you to step back and take point on the door, or step into the fracas and deliver the projectile yourself.

Making this experience even better is some of the best squad-AI available in a first person shooter. Your teammates will approach each situation realistically, scanning each room, corridor, and nook and cranny before pressing forward. When playing SWAT 4 you get the feeling that each of your cohorts are living, breathing human beings who want to make it out of the encounter alive. Luckily (or not, depending on your point of view) the enemy adheres to the same great AI and serve as more than just cannon fodder. They’ll take up realistic positions in each room and tend to utilize cover to their advantage. It would have been nice to see enemies exhibit squad behavior as well (even thugs can coordinate their efforts) but what we have definitely gets the job done.

Core gameplay progresses through a series of scenarios that take place in and out of Los Angeles. Mission variety is excellent and ranges from a barricaded suspect in a home to a gas station robbery. Level design is believable and the structures feel like they could have been recreated from the blueprints of buildings in and around Los Angeles. Furthermore, suspects and innocent bystanders are always placed in random locations during each outing, leading to unique gameplay experiences every time out. Completing the mission will unlock newer missions that are more complex and more challenging to the gamer
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