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SummaryGood as it is, excellent with the add-ons
The GoodThe game promises realism, and delivers. Proper CQB tactics must be used to survive in the game, spray-firing with hostages in the map is strictly forbidden and making sure everyone has their backs covered is crucial.
Graphics are more than adequate, and on some spots offer almost photo quality, and locations are very well designed. The physics sometimes look bad (climbing stairs often make them float and if someone is killed on an upwards escalator, he can reach the top and stay floating in a 45º angle). I'm not particularly fond of the UIs that remove the gun and show only the aiming reticule, but the rest is well executed, and issuing orders takes only a few seconds.
Missions, although the game could use more - even a branching campaign - are varied, from arresting an individual shooting cars in the highway to protecting VIPs (without fancy suits with auriculars and sunglasses, sadly) and disarming bombs, the player also has the chance to visit some LA landmarks such as the Convention Center ("teh E3 place" for gamers) or the City Hall. As hostage and terrorist locations are randomly assigned, each mission can be a bit different. If you're used to finding a terrorist behind a wall at a certain spot, and try to pierce the wall between you and them, there's a chance that there's nobody there, or worse, there's someone who you should protect.
The maps are smaller than in, say, Rainbow 6, and as such do not require fiddling around the plan editor, as most of them are all pretty straightforward: select an entry point (which can be crucial, depending on where the targets are), secure hostages and neutralize terrorists or other objects. Adding a plan editor would just complicate things too much...
The Bad... but on the other hand, some missions could use at least a path editor. The sewer level (which I won't go into much detail), for instance is a freaking nightmare.NIGHTMARE, I tell you. It's also too easy to lose a mission on details. As all weapons have a certain penetration power, in maps such as the thin-walled Convention Center, a bullet that misses the target and hits the wall might well kill a VIP on the other room. Same as being sniped from a terrorist in urban camo behind a shelf, but that just adds to the realism of the game - it can get occasionally frustrating, so be warned. Another problem is the lack of sniper support, so everything must be dealt in CQB fashion. One of the main aspects of these games is the equipment available. It's all fine and dandy to have all real SWAT gear, but that's it. You have a shotgun (Benelli), a couple of MP5 (regular and suppressed), a M4A1 to choose from plus the obligatory M1911 sidearm, each with different ammo (slugs and breaching for the shotgun, hollow or piercing for the MP5 and the M1911 or regular or less than lethal for the M4A1), and that's all. Even if when a game offers dozens of weapons to choose from, chances are most players will only use three of them, more variety would be welcome. The same affects game modes. There simply aren't enough to keep a player interested after the main mode is completed.
A final note goes to officer AI. While for most of the time they will behave in proper SWAT fashion (not firing when behind other SWAT agent, they completely disregard their safety when it comes to open doors or crossings.
The Bottom LineSWAT3, out of the box, is already a solid but short game, and after completing the history mode there is virtually nothing else to do. And that's when you install the Elite and TGOTY editions and extra map and guns freely available from Sierra. And then, the riot begins. Paintball. Multiplayer. Insane shootouts against computer bots with a 50 respawn limit in the construction site. And after a few hours, you start wondering where that game that was about to be sent to the shelf went. Worthy of a mention, the game being capable of running on a P166MMX with a 4Mb card without looking bad, only slowing down in some more complex areas such as the airport lobby.
In brief, SWAT3 is a solid game that is vastly enhanced with the freely available expansions. Far more accessible than Rainbow Six but without being a frag fest, it features good graphics for its time and interesting gameplay features. Considering the game as it is, the score should be a lot lower, but there's really no reason why you shouldn't get the upgrades, so it's rated to include some bonus points from the patches