For computer players the SWAT franchise holds a lot of weight. For the last twelve years this Sierra franchise has impressed gamers and critics alike with its blend of realistic tactical action and compelling ripped-from-the-headlines storytelling. Seeing as I'm not a huge PC gamer I have never actually spent time with this franchise, so I was excited to see what all the fuss was about in this SWAT PSP game. More importantly, I was more interested in knowing just why SWAT was targeting liberty.
SWAT: Target Liberty is a top-down tactical action game set in and around New York City. You play Kurt Wolfe, a man who must lead two other officers through a number of dangerous scenarios. At the start we are introduced to the idea that there are two Korean gangs that are warring over turf, but you'll quickly realize that there's more at play here and that it's up to you to save the day from a nuclear disaster. I'm not sure why these three officers are the only line of defense between safety and the death of millions of people, but this is the story we have to work with.
The problem with games like this is that they often have deep controls that don't translate particularly well on a control pad. For the most part SWAT: Target Liberty's controls feel fine on the PSP, but you will want to take advantage of the four-part tutorial that the game sets up for you before you jump into your first mission. Not only will these tutorials explain how to secure civilians, shoot your gun and hide behind cover, but you'll also be entertained by the tongue and cheek writing. While not as funny as those recent Sam & Max games, this SWAT game does start off with a lighthearted approach that made me want to keep playing. Unfortunately the rest of the game is deadly serious and you'll long for those tutorial mission jokes as your bored senseless by the lame story.
Like all tactical action games, SWAT: Target Liberty is not about rushing into situations with your guns blazing. Instead what you want to do is slowly move around the room hiding behind tables and chairs, and sneaking up to doors and openings. The simple act of opening a door may be the thing that stands between you and safety, so you'll want to take precaution before entering any unknown room. Thankfully you have a few options, the safest thing to do is to pull out your mirror and check underneath the door, this will allow you to get a fix on where the bad guys (and civilians) are standing. Once you've checked out the room you can go in by throwing a gas grenade in or by using your flash grenade, these two attacks will allow you to get the jump on the enemies and you will hopefully be able to arrest them an interrogate them instead of making more work for the coroner.
The good news is that the game is about more than just safely entering a new room, you will also be able to choose from different weapons and control whether your team uses lethal force or simply knocks people out. The non-lethal takedowns are not nearly as much fun as shooting holes in your enemies, but this is a good way for you to get information and increase your overall score.
Before you start your mission you will have the opportunity to fine-tune your teammates, so you may want to read up on the available officers and see what their strengths and weaknesses are. You'll find that there are some officers that are better suited for the particular mission you are on, so it's wise to pay close attention to who you have working with you and what they are good at. What's more, you can also customize the weapons they are packing as well as how they react to enemy attackers. At the end of each level you will be graded on how well you've performed, and the points you earn will improve your team's performance.
Once in the mission you will be able to control these two officers by using different face buttons. For example, if you want one to cover the right side of the room you would point to where you want that person to stand and then push the "O" button. To move the other teammate you would point in a different location and push the "square" button. It's that easy, and for the most part these two officers will do what they are asked and react how you would want them to. I can't complain too much about the artificial intelligence. There are times when my teammates took damage, but generally it was because some guy got the drop on us because of my poor planning.
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