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Police Quest: SWAT 2 (Windows)

100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Kasey Chang (3655)
Written on  :  Apr 04, 2005
Platform  :  Windows
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Too far ahead of its time to be fun, even with the simplified procedures

The Good

Lots of authentic SWAT gear, negotiation side seldom seen in any media, much less games (but you have no control over that), ability to call in the big toys (helicopter and the "tank"), strict rules of engagement, decent debriefing

The Bad

Zone of View rules are unclear, dropping throw phones procedure was never explained in "training level", lack of tutorial (they give you 2 training missions, and that's it), scenario ends automatically without any time for you to gather evidence, no debriefing timeline explaining what happened at each step.

The Bottom Line

SWAT 2 is an attempt to create a game based on proper SWAT procedures, from hostage rescue to proper challenge of suspects, from defusing bombs to Stockholm syndrome, this game's got it all. It will even let you play the other side, as the terrorists who will go against LAPD SWAT teams. There's some mumbo-jumbo about the leader Basho, and some blah-blah about Fifth Order... Heh.

The game has two major sections... In the pre-scenario setup, you create and outfit your two types of SWAT elements: assault (usually of 1 leader, 1 scout, 1 rear guard, and 2 assaulters), and sniper (1 observer and 1 shooter). A variety of gear can be given, from pistols and MP5 submachineguns, to rappel gear and gas masks, from tear gas launchers to flashbangs, from EMT kits to Battering Ram, we got it all. (The terrorists gets fewer but nastier toys to play with) Once you got them setup the way you want, it's time to go to the scenario/mission.

The mission gives you a short video overview of the situation, then you start with initial deployment. LAPD units have blocked off the area, and SWAT bus has just arrived. It is up to you to cover all the exits and determine when to move in with assault elements should negotiations fail.

You get a 3/4 isometric view of the surrounding area, with a minimap in the lower-right coner. The right-side is a status window of the element and member of the unit you have selected. You can tell them to equip certain items with that window as well. You can swap the mini-map and the regular map if you wish to get a bigger view.

If the green telephone icon is flashing, Lt. Alvarez of CNT (negotiator) is trying to update the situation for you. He will keep you appraised of the situation, and ask you for decisions occasionally. You can authorize a throw-phone (i.e. shock-proof cellphone you'd toss to the suspects in hopes of establishing communication) if the situation warrants it. On the other hand, sometimes the situation just escalates with no hope of negotiation, esp. when you're dealing with a deranged person. In that case, it's time to assault. However, negotiations will take as long as it needs to resolve the situation... Unless shots are fired inside, in which case, immediate assault must take place to rescue the hostages. Otherwise, suspect's demands will often be met, like money, food, getaway car, etc. Remember, they all come out of SWAT budget!

The team can all be equipped with gas masks, and you should immediately equip that, unless you're fighting indoors in VERY confined spaces (where the tear gas can be lethal). Then it's a matter of breaching the door (with the ram if it's locked, or the door breach charge if you need a BIGGER door taken down). Then you have to decide on the strategy... Tear gas inside first, or flashbang and then rush in? The hope is to arrest the suspect(s) and free the hostages with absolutely no casualties. However, should you have to choose, save hostages first, police second, suspects third. Leave shooting as a last resort, though. Use flashbangs and tear gas to coax suspects into surrendering (or just rush in an arrest them while they are incapacitated). And if you spot any evidence, remember to snap them up. Items such as handguns, drugs, and other items may be found and will help secure convictions

The problem is you only have two "training levels" to practice your skills on, and that's simply not enough to do all the skills like throw phone and such unless you want to play training a couple dozen times. And who'd want to do that?

Another problem is the clumsy interface. You can't move while having the gun armed, as you only got a "shoot" cursor when that happens. There's a hotkey to bring up the long gun, but not to put it away. To activate the ram, I have to remember who had it, click on him, go through the inventory, click on the ram to activate that, then activate "door entry mode", and click on the door to breach, Then I need to coordinate the flashbang tosser, and the rest of the team to go in after the bang. At least one other will need to have flashbang or tear gas ready to hit suspects upon entry...

Fortunately, the time scale can be slowed way down to 1/5th or less real-time. to make the game less hectic, but the flip side is often nothing will happen for sveral minutes. And when it happens, it happens fast, so you'll have to slow down time again.

When all the suspects are neutralized or arrested, and all the hostages are freed, that's tne end of the mission, unless you need to defuse some bombs and boobytraps and such. So if you want to grab all the evidence in the compound, you better do it before you "rescue" the final hostage or take out that final suspect. Else the mission will end automatically, and you'll miss the extra stuff.

The game's graphics are decent, considering the technology available back then. The music, however gets a bit grating after al while.

The AI is perhaps too smart, as it seems to be the first game to use sort-of fuzzy logic to make decisions for all the non-player characters, and it's difficult to predict what the AI may do next.

ALL in all, SWAT2 manage to wound itself with its sheer weight of SWAT authenticity. It is neither a game nor a simulation, but some sort of weird hybrid. While it rewards players for good job, it doesn't give players enough tools to figure out what had went wrong and what can be done to rectify that problem. The performance is also not that good. Perhaps it's a bit too ahead of its time. Fortunately, SWAT3 took out all the boring parts and went to full 3D, thus reviving the series, but that's for another review.