Good thing the game rocks, too. With missions that play differently every time you do them (and, admittedly, some setups are considerably harder than others), SWAT 3
can keep you busy for a while. And when you’ve run out of action in the single-player mode, you can hop online and have at it with people from around the world.
You command a SWAT element, which is divided into two teams (Red and Blue). Depending on the mission, you have different goals -- from arresting a suspect to saving some hostages and everything in between. The only way to succeed is with careful management and planning, keeping track of your team, and keeping everyone safe. You’ve got a reputation to keep up, and foolish actions only hurt it.
Before each mission, you’re briefed on what to expect. There’s a lot of info even at this stage, from the events leading up to the SWAT team’s entrance to information about the various characters you’re likely to meet in the course of the mission. Once you’ve loaded everyone up with what you think they need in the way of gear (don’t expect Quake-like variety of weapons here; it’s strictly realistic), you’ll find yourself at the location. From there, it’s up to you.
Much of the game is done by issuing orders to your team. You can have them pick-lock a door, for example, then use the mirror on the end of their gun to see if anyone’s inside. The A.I. is generally excellent, doing the right things at the right times -- neutralizing threats if they fire, keeping an eye out and helping you stay informed. But since you’re the leader, it’s often up to you to play it right.
Some of the missions are short; others require extensive amounts of methodical action and careful management of your team. The enemy A.I. is no idiot either; watch out if someone drops a weapon, as the bad guys are going to scramble to the gun and start firing at you. It’s this sort of thing, along with the fact that you can’t take 20 bullets ala Quake and survive, that really make SWAT 3 feel real. Along with the constant (and important) radio chatter, you feel as much like you’re there as any non-SWAT team member ever will.
This Elite Edition of SWAT 3 also adds multiplayer support. You can play over the Internet, which is quite fun and relatively lag-free, or (the best option) you can do it over a LAN. While playing on the Net is entertaining, and certainly doable -- setting of waypoints and issuing commands can keep everyone understanding each other with a minimum of confusion -- the game really shines when people get together and play it in the same room. Commands can be issued to each other via voice (shouting, too -- no need to worry about the people in-game hearing you!), and a solid play experience can be had all around.