The SWAT series has come a very long way and reached new heights in the past couple of years. The series first appeared in 1995 as a simple strategy game entitled Police Quest: SWAT which didn't receive rave reviews. 1998 saw a short sequel to the series which really didn't do much better than its predecessor. It wasn't until 1999 that the SWAT series was transformed from a typical strategy title into a full-fledged 3D tactical shooter with the introduction of SWAT 3 . It may have had a few rough edges, but it played out very realistically and could easily compete with the tactical shooter giant that is the Rainbow Six series. Now just over five years later the much desired sequel to the series has finally been released. As you'll soon see, SWAT 4 packs the same slow-paced action of the third iteration in the series, but it has a number of upgrades that should appeal to any fan of realistic tactical shooters.


SWAT 4 sees you commanding a four man squad into some high-risk missions. Most of the missions consist of hostage rescues and robberies gone wrong. These missions also mainly take place in small corridor buildings that don't offer a lot of breathing room when it comes to dishing out some law enforcement in a firefight. In other words, it's realistic. To make it even more realistic, each mission randomly spawns enemies and hostages in at different spots each time. So playing through one mission won't be the same when you play through it a second time as all of the enemies are in different spots. This offers some high replay value and a different experience every time. It sure keeps you thinking on your feet when it comes to deciding quick strategies as how to advance through the level.

As far as the story goes in SWAT 4, there really is none. It's 14-mission campaign isn't linked together in any way, which means that each one is more like a solo mission that has nothing to do with the others. This isn't necessarily a bad thing at all, as each mission offers up a unique scenario. However, a storyline may have been an added incentive to move throughout the game. Instead, every mission just becomes growingly more difficult testing your skills as you go on. Each mission is paced well and contains its own set of objectives that normally include saving hostages or eliminating select targets. However, this can get old fast, and its SWAT 4's command interface that really strengthens the gameplay.


The new context-sensitive command interface is probably one of the most unique and biggest changes within the game. Not only is this new interface extremely easy to use, but it can also be customized in four different ways. The interface allows you to issue both quick and well thought out commands. In order to issue a quick command, all you have to do is simply place your aiming reticule on a select spot. So if you want your men to barge into a door then just simply aim at the door and press your quick command button. Same thing goes for securing hostages and suspects, telling your men to advance to a certain position, and other actions as well. If you want to bring up the whole list of commands all you have to do is point your aiming reticule at a specific spot and 'right-click' the mouse. A menu then pops up on screen with many choices that consist of anything from blowing a door open to using special items such as door wedges and mirroring corners. All of these actions really give you the opportunity to create a different experience each time by giving different orders and effectively creating different strategies for each situation.


Another way to further advance the command ability is for you to either control your team as a whole or split your team up. Doing so allows you to more effectively plan your attack by sending in one team from the rear and one from the front. Of course splitting up your team means that you're going to have to go with one team and the other will need to be on their own, so fortunately there is a way to control the team that you don't stay with. You can do this by viewing what they see. Basically each one of your men have mini cameras on them from which you can cycle through each one to see what they see which enables a small window to popup in the upper-right corner of your screen. This way you can issue some simple orders to one of your teams from all the way across the map. There is also another viewpoint that is used for snipers. Certain missions do have snipers setup in the area. When a sniper sees a target he'll call it out, and you can then switch to his view to take the enemy down. It's a system that's not only easy to grasp, but it really gives you the upper edge into seeing exactly what the rest of your team is seeing.


The one factor that truly sets SWAT 4 away from any other tactical shooter is the combat. This is definitely not a shoot first and ask questions later type of game. In other words, shooting without giving your target time to surrender will count as excessive force. That's especially not a good thing if you're playing on a harder difficulty level. Each difficulty level demands that you receive a certain amount of points in a mission in order to advance to the next one. These points are determined by your use of force, whether or not your guys stay alive, and whether you report secured individuals and weapons as well as other factors. So if you're all for gaining a higher score than you might not want to run in and blow away the first person you see. Instead, you'll need to slowly advance into each room and yell at every single individual in order to tell them to get down and put their hands behind their heads. Once they comply, you can then cuff them for later extraction.

Another aspect of SWAT 4 that's very different is the pace of the game. The pace is very slow, and that's just the way it should be. In fact, it feels so slow that when you run in SWAT 4 it feels like walking does in your usual action games. This slow pace is a toss-up, as it fits the profile of the game, but it may not appeal to some gamers due to the fact that it's very different from what we're used to. Not to mention the fact that when you get injured you move even slower. Also, a lot of intelligence is given to you at the start of each mission including profiles on your enemies, an overview of the whole situation, and even a recording of the 911 call if one was made. It's a lot to take in at once and may just be a little too much for those who just want to jump in and play. With that in mind, patience is the key to successfully completing this game.


SWAT 4 just wouldn't be a realistic shooter without a variety of cool weapons and gadgets. This is also another factor that adds to the replayability of this title as you can equip each of your squad mates with different gear for a number of situations. You can hold only one primary weapon, one secondary weapon, and a number of grenades and gadgets used for both tactics and breaching. The primary weapons that you can choose from consist of a wide variety of assault rifles, shotguns, and even a pepper-ball gun to disable your target. The secondary weapon choices contain just two different handguns as well as a taser stun gun for a non-lethal takedown. The tactical side consists of stinger grenades, CS gas grenades, flashbangs, pepper spray, an optiwand and door wedges. The optiwand is a nice tool that allows you to see around corners and under doors through a small scope and viewing screen. The door wedge is also a great tool to have when you want to barge into a room but are afraid that your enemies will escape through the other side. Just simply place a door wedge on some of the other doors and your enemies won't be leaving at all. The breaching equipment consists of C2 charges, a breaching shotgun, and lock picks are always on hand. It's a lot of equipment to sort all so you should really try each mission with different load outs.

If SWAT 4's single-player campaign just isn't enough for you, there are some other game modes here that are sure to keep things interesting. The 'Quick Mission Maker' allows you to create your own scenarios at any of the given single-player levels. You just choose which level you want to play in, how many hostages and suspects there are, and the load outs for your squad. You can then save your missions allowing you to replay them at anytime.

The multiplayer in SWAT 4 consists of three different gameplay modes. The first is co-operative. Here you can play with up to five other players to fill out a full SWAT team. All the single-player missions are unlocked in this mode allowing you to play either one. It's definitely much more challenging trying to coordinate your moves with four other players during combat. The only thing that's missing here is the ability to fill out your team with AI bots.


Other multiplayer modes consist of 'Barricade' which is similar to a team deathmatch mode, and 'Rapid Deployment' which is more like a bomb defusal mode. The 'VIP' mode is probably one of the more interesting ones, as you must escort one of your teammates across the map, while the opposing team has to secure the VIP for two minutes. This mode usually gets screwed up, though, as everyone ends up accidentally killing the VIP. None of these multiplayer modes are necessarily revolutionary, but they do help add to the mix of gameplay in SWAT 4.

The AI in SWAT 4 is both intelligent and stupid at the same time. The enemies will actually flee from you and hide somewhere in the level. Some will also pose as civilians and when you tell them to get down on the ground they'll start to comply only to then take out a hidden handgun and go crazy. On the other hand, your teammates can be rather stupid as they repeatedly get in the way, bunch up when going through some small doors, and occasionally wait way too long to shoot. For the most part the AI is clever, but it's got its rough edges.

The visual effects seem to be ok, but they could have been better. The graphic engine used in SWAT 4 does incorporate such effects as slight bump mapping, but most of the textures just look too low-resolution for a PC game. The lighting effects are also decent, but it's just not enough to make up for some of its other flaws.



Overall, SWAT 4 is certainly one of the best tactical shooters around. It provides for a high replay value and is more realistic than ever before, and it does all of this with an easy-to-use interface that anyone can easily pick up and play. SWAT 4 isn't without it faults, though, but thankfully what little problems it does have seem to be minor. It's great to see that the SWAT series can still hold its own in the tactical shooter genre.

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