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Score: 85%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Irrational Games
Media: CD/2
Players: 1 - 16
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Squad-Based/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

SWAT 4 is filled with realistic simulation of Special Weapons and Tactics operators – the spec ops of the police world. I recall fondly the top-down view of the first two titles, and the complex assignments and strategy involved with arresting and neutralizing suspects. I didn’t get the chance to try out the leap to 3D FPS-style in SWAT 3, but I eagerly anticipated this current, upgraded version. Frankly, it’s Raven Shield with less-than-lethal ammunition and “suspects,” instead of military grunts, to shoot at – which isn’t a bad thing at all.

Graphically, this is one good-looking game. With a liberal use of bump-mapping (the really nice effect used in games such as Doom 3 to add rich details) and some sick environments (literally), Irrational games did a smash-up job here. The environments usually occur indoors, from parking garages to food marts, even a rundown cult house with blood-scrawled walls displaying cryptic messages. The lighting really adds to the drama too. Not sure if that’s a lamp or a terrorist with a hostage? Just toss a flashbang over to make sure.

The weapon effects are fabulous as well, from the noiseless “piff piff” of the silenced MP5 to the crashing roars of a host of non-lethal grenades. SWAT 4 also employs the Havok physics engine, used in games such as Max Payne 2 and the aforementioned Raven Shield, complete with the now industry-standard rag doll physics, resulting in some gruesome death poses. Character models are solid as well, especially your operatives. Each has every weapon and a down-to-the-minute detailed uniform; the bad guys did look a bit bland at times, though.

Sound-wise, this game really brings you into the experience of going into unknown urban war zones. They borrowed the graphics and sound effects from Raven Shield where you get dizzy if you are caught in any of your grenade explosions – the afterimage effect a flashbang produces is especially neat. When launched, the sucker leaves whatever you last saw imprinted on your pupils for a brief second, so always remember to turn away when one goes off.

Each weapon really booms through the environment. As I mentioned before, the grenades are really nice – the rubber pellet emits “stinger” sounds like you dropped a bag of marbles over the ground; the soft hiss of the tear gas (CS) nade gives honor to the real-life counterparts.

The ambiance is also top-notch; from the cries of your fellow SWAT men as they crash through doors yelling “GET DOWN, POLICE – HANDS UP!” to the pleas of hostages and suspects alike to not shoot. I just love issuing voice commands to "get down" with my middle mouse button (sometimes you don’t think they’ll get down if you don’t shout a lot). Thankfully, a little pepper spray usually remedies that. This game is MATURE for a reason – a LOT of cussing is here, which helps replicate the real-life potty mouths out there we all know and love.

Musically, it’s pretty sparse as you’re so gripped in the tense levels you really don’t notice it. But it does add drama when needed during action sequences.


SWAT 4 comes with the standard Tutorial mode, which covers all the basics for movement and weapons, as well as how to use your squad and the command interface. This handy feature acts as a drop-down menu you use to issue orders to your men, such tasks as breaching a door (flashbang and clear it). All these are spot on to real-life SWAT techniques. Irrational consulted with a 30-year SWAT officer who made sure things were as authentic as possible.

If you don’t want to start the fairly short 14-mission campaign, you can opt for Instant Action or the Custom Mission Maker. Each mission employs a random enemy placer, making each level more replayable. In the last mission, the suspect may have been in the bathroom or the alley, this time he may be hiding in the office – it’s very random and cool. Unfortunately though, there is no connecting storyline in the Campaign mode, so basically all these options appear to be the same upon further inspection. It would have been interesting to see a more fleshed-out story mode, with new officers being drawn from a pool of candidates, KIAs, and other details. Your men have to contend with crazed cultists, heavily armed terrorists, and everyday burglars, but all can be taken down with a few well placed shots from your arsenal.

Since this is a police game, there is a host of non-lethal stuff like pepper spray, tasers, pepper-ball loaded paintball guns, and rubber bullet shotguns (my personal favorite). Pop a couple shots in some stubborn creep and they get surprisingly cooperative... fast. Funny enough, if you load out with all lethal ammo, you get fewer points if you kill the suspect, which brings me to question: why model all these MP5s, M4s, and such, if less-than-lethal works fine? Perhaps Multiplayer may hold that clue...

Multiplayer supports up to 16 players in Deathmatch modes, and up to 5 in Co-op. The Deathmatch itself is pretty fun, with lots of camping of doors and leaning around corners, waiting for the enemy to sneak in (and those deadly weapons come in handy here big time). But the best feature is the Co-op mode. In a day and age where cooperative play is rare, I loved to order my human counterparts around and help them infiltrate a hostile room. A lot of good laughs can be had here. Oddly enough, there is no “suicide” option if you fail the mission or want to start over; even after completing the mission, it became confusing as to what we had to do to end the blasted game. Several times players had to disconnect or blow themselves up with a C4 charge rigged to a door.


With the tutorial explaining all the nuances of the game, most players should have a great handle on things before they even start their first mission. Along with customizable options for difficulty, SWAT 4 is pretty simple to navigate and succeed in. As long as you don’t shoot up everything around you, the mission success rate is very high, and becomes almost methodic after a while – breach, flashbang, clear, breach, flashbang, clear, etc. Most of the time it’s wise to let your officers lead in before you do, as you can lose a few of them and you're okay. But if you go down, it’s over. The A.I. is fairly capable, but I’d say letting others go in first nails suspects 95% of the time. Only occasionally will one run and make it cumbersome to track down.

Game Mechanics:

Irrational Games made the game feel natural to control and maneuver, from the Q/E keys for peering around corners to the way the crosshairs bloom when running. Occasionally you may get flustered trying to coordinate between all your squads to deploy a complex maneuver, but this is mainly a tightly made and controlled game. The little picture-in-picture where you can see what your troops are doing is neat as well. Sadly, though, the sniper view is almost worthless as most times, you can do a better job up close. And remember, snipers don’t shoot rubber bullets.

With true-to-life tactics from SWAT experts, sharp graphics, and added multiplayer depth, SWAT 4 makes a healthy entry for FPS lovers to enjoy. While not groundbreaking in any case, the inclusion of a solid Co-op mode, non-lethal tools, and really the only police simulator around, this game has carved a substantial niche into the shooter market with provocative style.

-Tybo, GameVortex Communications
AKA Tyler Whitney

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, AMD/Pentium 4 1.2 GHz, 256 MB of RAM, 2X DVD-ROM, DirectX 9.0c, 64 MB of VRAM, 2 GB of Hard Drive Space, Keyboard, and Mouse

Test System:

Windows XP, 1.83 Ghz 2500+ AMD, 512 MB of RAM, Radeon 9800 Pro, 128 MB

Sony PlayStation 2 Stella Deus: The Gate of Eternity Microsoft Xbox Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated