Monday, 20 April 2009


On the advice of my erstwhile colleagues Dave and Nick (Plughead and Brax to their groupies), I recently purchased tactical FPS SWAT 4. This was partly because it's still a really great game that's fun to play in co-op, but mostly because it's one co-op game where Brax can't yell "Tank!" every few seconds and hack his game to make his character laugh every time he shoots someone.

(The graphics are still excellent)

I was a little wary at first, as I've never warmed to the tactical squad shooter genre. I don't mind stealth, I don't mind planning, I just don't like very very slowly crawling around a map with a bunch of useless bullet-magnets who take commands yet rarely obey them, while being unable to shoot straight yourself and having about fifty keys and a hundred items to keep track of.

And you know what? I was totally, utterly wrong, at least in SWAT 4's case. The teammates are, as I suspected, a little bit brainless (particularly from Dave and Nick's point-of-view), and tend to shoot first stun later. Still, at least they can throw better than Dave.

Apart from that quibble the game's excellent, and far exceeded my expectations. My squad, while a little trigger-happy mostly did what I told them to, even sensibly avoiding corners until they'd been scouted. The equipment was all kept quite sensible, the masses of commands were mostly all mapped to the right mouse button in a lovely simple menu, and it mostly just felt like one of my beloved (but rare) FPS stealth games - except with a squad.

(This is one of the first pictures I got after typing 'SWAT 4' into Yahoo's Image Search. There's not even four of them!)

I'm enjoying the single-player just as much as the co-op, and it reminded me what a great developer Irrational was before they sold their soul to 2K (as much as I like Bioshock, I suspect most of the problems the game, and indeed the franchise now, was down to publisher interference). I can only hope 2K won't stunt their creativity. Still, I'll never forgive them for "2K Boston".

Another Freedom Force, please. '70s-style.
- Chris Capel

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