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SWAT 3: Elite Edition

Score: 90%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Sierra Studios
Developer: Sierra
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 5
Genre: Real-Time Strategy/ Action/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

First of all, use 3D acceleration, Luke. With it, the worlds of SWAT 3 really come alive. Every scenario is meticulously detailed, from the inside of a convention hall to the house of a sniper. The environments look and feel real, with lots of useless “clutter” that only makes them that much more there. The character models are nice too, with recognizable SWAT team members (they even have their names written on their backs) and all sorts of different suspects and innocents. You can tell that a whole lot of time has been spent on this game’s appearance.

Even more apparent, however, is the time spent on sound. Every piece of voice acting is top-notch, from the briefings before the missions to the in-game chatter. It’s very important that you keep a good ear out, because hearing what’s happening can be the difference between life and death in SWAT 3. Combined with music that blends just right (i.e. quietly) and highly realistic sound effects for the various weapons, you’ve got a game with impeccable aural qualities.


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.


Some of the missions in SWAT 3 are near trivial, while others are extremely difficult to get out of alive. Oftentimes, it depends on just how the computer sets up the level -- sometimes people are more dangerous than other times, and they often end up at different locations as well. You can always try the mission again if you fail, though, which is completely unlike real life, yet keeps us gamers from getting extremely irritated. All of the missions are doable if your team trusts you and you keep them on the right path. It may take a few tries to figure out just what’s going on, but perseverance will prevail.

Game Mechanics:

The first time you play SWAT 3, the controls may feel a little overwhelming. The issuing of commands is confusing at first, and getting your team to do what you want can be a pain. But once you know what you’re doing, the commands become second nature, and you’ll have your team working like, well, a team in no time. The actual game controls are easy and intuitive, and you can always change your key mappings if they don’t fit your style. The menus are clear and understandable, although it may take you a second to figure out where the Options menu is (hint: click the bird). And the in-game mechanics are impeccable, from the way that bullets penetrate objects to the workings of the locations.

While it has a bit of a learning curve, SWAT 3: Elite Edition is a great game in the tactical action genre. You’ll find yourself immersed in the environment, jumping at every sound and move, and fighting to keep everyone cool. It’s a great game, if a bit short, and certainly a must-have for any fan of the genre. Neutralizing a suspect has never been so real... and please, please don’t take that as a suggestion to make it really real. The visceral entertainment of SWAT 3 should quell your urges.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:

P233, 32 MB RAM, 550MB HD Space, 4X CD-ROM, 4MB SVGA Video Card, Sound Card, Mouse, Keyboard

Test System:

AMD K6-III 450 running Windows 98, 256 MB RAM, 6X/24X DVD-ROM, Sound Blaster Live!, Creative Labs TNT2 Ultra w/32 MB RAM

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