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SWAT 4 review: SWAT 4: PC review

SWAT 4 comes blazing onto your PC armed with possibly the most realistic police-based gameplay of any title. And best of all, there's no Colin Farrell in sight.

Randolph Ramsay

Randolph Ramsay

Randolph was previously a member of the CNET Australia team and now works for Gamespot.

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4 min read

Taking absolutely no cues at all from the recent average Hollywood film of the same name, SWAT 4 is the latest in the long running series and comes closer to the mark of 'simulation' than any of its forbears.

Realism is SWAT 4's mantra, and it permeates the game at every level. From real world weapons (no BFGs to be found here) and equipment to realistic locations and character behaviour, SWAT 4 does its utmost to immerse you into its scenarios and make you feel like you're in the steel capped boots of law enforcement's finest.

The single player component of the game sees you in command of a four man SWAT squad, taking on the bad guys in 14 non-linked missions (that is, there's no one storyline connecting them). Each mission starts off with a detailed briefing, which updates you about the situation at hand, provides maps (if one is available) of the location you're infiltrating and more. The briefing is also the place where you can equip your squad members with real world SWAT gear, which includes everything from machine guns and pistols to grenades and door charges. Choosing the right gear to suit the particular mission is vital. If you're going into an area with plenty of civilians, for example, it might pay to take non-lethal weapons such as a Taser. If you're facing heavily armed crooks, maybe rifles with armour piercing rounds are the go.

Actual gameplay occurs in a first person perspective, with the player controlling the SWAT squad leader as they would any character in a typical first person shooter (mouse for looking and shooting, keyboard for moving). As in most other modern shooters, moving while firing a weapon will result in less accuracy, so standing still or crouching gives the best shooting results.

Controlling your squad mates is performed through holding down the right mouse button, which results in an on-screen menu with a series of commands you can input. Your squad (which can be broken up into two teams if needed) can be ordered to perform many actions, including storming a room, putting a gas grenade into a room before entering it, offering you cover fire and much more.

But even though you'll be entering most situations bristling with weapons that go bang, SWAT 4 demands a more patient and deliberate approach to gameplay. True to its goal of realism, the main objective in SWAT 4's missions isn't to take down the bad guys with extreme prejudice, but to resolve as many situations through non-violent means as possible. Just like a real life SWAT squad, players are expected to use violence as a last resort, with more points being awarded at the end of a level for criminals you apprehend without popping a cap in them.

To make non-violent arrests possible, each criminal and civilian in the game has 'morale', which affects how willing they are to put their hands up when asked by the SWAT team. Civilians will generally comply with a few yelled instructions, while some criminals may need more forceful measures such as a beanbag propelled from a shotgun hitting them in the leg before they kneel down. The varied AI of criminals in particular, where some will submit meekly while others may need to to be taken down in a hail of bullets, keeps you on your toes and is one of the highlights of SWAT 4.

As a further incentive to approach situations cautiously, you and your SWAT squadmates can't take too many hits from the bad guys (roughly two to three and you're down). This means that you really have to be careful about approaching any new rooms or environments, as well as making sure your back is covered at all times. You'll quickly be forced to become disciplined - sneak to a door, peek underneath using an Optiwand to gauge what's waiting for you, order your squad mates to enter using the right strategy (do we go in with a flash bang or tear gas?), enter and quickly subdue any crims, lather, rinse and repeat.

Adding to the tension is that enemies and civilians will randomly spawn every time you restart a level, which means that no mission run-through will be the same twice. This, coupled with SWAT 4's extensive Mission Maker capabilities (which allow you to build missions from scratch), gives the game tremendous replay value.

Multiplayer modes also contribute to the great overall value of SWAT 4. While the game does include team-based modes that are playable for up to 16 players online, the most attractive option is cooperative mode for up to five players. You can play out any of the game's built-in missions or you can play one of your custom-built missions in cooperative mode. Co-op SWAT 4 is extremely fun, and the interface allows any player to issue orders. Direct your teammates to open a door, for example, and they'll see a red arrow over the doorknob to indicate which door you're talking about. While the other gameplay modes like VIP escort, team-based deathmatch, and a bomb-defusing game are fun in their own right, SWAT 4's co-op mode is easily the best aspect of its multiplayer options, especially considering the dearth of cooperative games available today.

Graphics in the game are generally outstanding, particularly when it comes to your SWAT squad and the environments you'll be traversing. Non-player characters are noticeably less detailed, however. When it comes to sound, SWAT 4 wisely keeps the music low key to further the game's already excellent realism.

Those looking for an excellent mix of first person action and squad-based tactics will find SWAT 4's extremely realistic and involving gameplay hard to beat.

Additional reporting by Gamespot.com

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Taking absolutely no cues at all from the recent average Hollywood film of the same name, SWAT 4 is the latest in the long running series and comes closer to the mark of 'simulation' than any of its forbears.

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SWAT 4

The Good

Single-player campaign offers plenty of replay value. Extremely realistic yet fun gameplay. Great multiplayer and on-line options.

The Bad

You’ll need patience and planning to get through.

The Bottom Line

Those looking for an excellent mix of first person action and squad-based tactics will find SWAT 4’s extremely realistic and involving gameplay hard to beat.