Written by  :  Kasey Chang (4620)
Written on  :  Mar 09, 2005

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Great tactical sim in desperate need of a technology update

The Good

Random threats and objectives -- each time you play the mission it's different. The suspects can be in different rooms, armed different, have different attitudes, and so on

Bullet penetration -- behind a door doesn't mean you're safe. Suspects CAN and will shoot through doors, walls, etc.

Random amount of extra enemies -- you never know if you've really gotten everybody until you actually do so. (random amount of hostages too!)

Hostage behavior -- unsecured hostages (and suspects) will run around, and sometimes pick up weapons!

do things yourself or let AI do it -- you can be as hands-on as you want or as laid-back as you want, lots of flexibility

lots of mod support -- mod community have extended the game with lots of mods, from extra weapons to better AI, and so on.

The Bad

it's old and behind the times -- many games have surpassed it in detail. Soldier of Fortune series surpassed it in actual damage to specific body parts. Many other games have much better AI for both friendlies and opponents.

Can't use flashbangs properly -- AI have problem with door penetrations and proper use of flashbangs

Still not quite realistic -- no shield man, no ram man, no sniper, it's all shooters. almost no non-lethal weapons

The Bottom Line

SWAT3 is the first wave of tactical simulations. Its minimal-violence approach is refreshing among all the other tactical shooters on the market, both then and now. Having hostages around adds an extra dimension to your tactical environment. Proper use of tear gas and/or flashbangs is vital in ensuring the survival of you and your AI teammates.

Most of the game is spent on missions. Before each mission you get a thorough briefing on what has been done. If it's a crime / barricade / hostage situation, you get a list of hostages, possible suspects, weapons, events leading up to this, criminal records if available, etc.

Your team is then sent in to perform the mission. Ideally, it would be to arrest every suspect without violence and rescue every hostage. It is not always possible to do that, but hostages are still more important than criminal lives. You have strict rules of engagement... Shooting suspects in the back is NOT allowed, nor is shooting surrendered suspects. All suspects (and hostages) must be secured and evacuated from the premise.

Missions steadily ramp up in difficulty. You start with simple sniper/barricade, and end up with full terrorist attack with dozens of civilians and/or hostages and perhaps a dozen terrorists (against only 5 of you!) You may also have to diffuse bomb(s) under a time limit.

Interface is very simple and functional... You have a first-person viewpoint as team leader. Give orders via a simple number-based menu system that is context-sensitive (depending on what you are pointing toward). Point it toward a door, and you get breach choices. Point it toward a hostage and you get secure choices. Access inventory via the various function keys. The only thing missing is a map.

Even the same mission, when played multiple times, will be different, as the suspect location can be randomized, their attitude can be randomized, and so on and so forth.

Later patches added a 10-men special campaign that let you clear a building with 10-men (two teams) instead of just your team. You can't control the other team though.

Another feature is picture-in-picture, where you can view what your other team members (and if two-team missions, the other team's members) are doing.

Extra maps, mods, skins, and weapons are plentiful, many of them are full-blown huge maps, some are professional and others are fan-made, many are extremely impressive.

All in all, SWAT3 is an excellent achievement given what was available back then. Even now, with AI turned up to maximum and some enhancement packs thrown in, it will be a challenge to most players. With SWAT4 already in pre-sell, this classic is being included free as a part of SWAT4 pre-sell package, and should be savored.