Written by  :  Kyle Levesque (935)
Written on  :  Jul 26, 2010
Rating  :  4.83 Stars4.83 Stars4.83 Stars4.83 Stars4.83 Stars

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You're in my way, sir.

The Good

  • The most brilliant thing done is the randomization of enemies and hostages every time you restart a mission. Their numbers, weaponry, morale levels, skill, everything.

  • The ambiance differs from mission to mission, despite the fact that the work is the same. More than just a change of scenery, the actual feeling of anxiety changes flavour. The difference between stalking the home of a serial killer or reclaiming a bank invaded by robbers.

  • Great variety of tools - The effects of being hit with a flash bang or stinger feel spot-on. The weapon selection is also appropriate - instead of bogging you down with minor superficial differences you are only presented with fundamentally different options that will change how you play.

  • Finally a game that understands how clips work. You carry four 30 round clips for the 9mm SMG. If you half-empty a clip and reload you switch clips and still retain the half-empty clip from previously and will switch to it as soon as it becomes your 'fullest' clip. This is realistic ammo management and I love it.

  • Your AI team will actually save your life on occasion.

  • The interface is BRILLIANT. These guys should have done Windows 7 instead of Microsoft. Assigning complex tasks to team members is as easy as doing it yourself, and saves time.
  • Not since pre-rendered backgrounds fell out of favour have I seen such good staging of props. The recycle rate of items is extremely low, many things such as televisions, pinball machines, tables and sofas are used only once. Nor are these simple static items - most are destructible.

  • Visible inventory for yourself and your entire squad - you can check how many flash bangs the team has left simply by looking at their belts. Items do not magically pop into hands or existence, everything feels fluid and real-to-life.

  • Good texture resolution vs. frame rate - this game can look great and fun fast at the same time.
  • After playing "Alone in the Dark" (Wii) proper sounding guns and vehicles are a blessing. From the 'pucka-pucka' of the paintball gun to the metal shearing sound of the breaching shotgun tearing a door a new one - it's all very clean audio for the sound effects.

  • The voice acting for the squad members is solid. The audio prompts, quips, and responses to a situation feel for the most part spot-on. Your squad members will tell you about threats and obstacles, which feels great.

  • The music is ambient until the action picks up, and then it is a suitably tense blend that at times sounds like someone jangling their keys rhythmically. Yeah, it puts you on edge, but when it does that you need to be on edge like a kitten on caffeine.
  • From mission one to the end the scenario's build in mostly chronological order the reliance you have on your weapons, reflexes, and team-mates. Every mission feels compelling and different, you want to get in there and be the good guy. And that's really the appeal here for me : This game is not morally ambiguous, you are a police officer. Your primary job is not to enforce or dispense justice a la Judge Dread, your job is to serve and protect - to capture suspects alive, so that they may face trial as is their right - innocent until proven guilty. Every time you take one down instead of in you are penalized for it.

The Bad

  • There are no checkpoints or saves in the missions. This is my own failing, but it's something I don't like. I understand that each time I restart the mission is reloaded differently, but it is very frustrating to fail a mission 10+ times. Fallout Tactics and Police Quest allowed me this luxury, why not here?

  • The game wants you to follow Police procedure, this I like. The game wants you to know things about SWAT procedure that it does not teach you - this I do not like. "You're in my way, Sir." "You're on my mark." "Move please." - No where in the training mission or otherwise is it stated WHERE you are required to stand, what order in the entry line is yours, etc.

  • The friendly AI fluctuates in quality to a vast degree. In SOCOM you knew that Boomer was a liability and the proper way to start the mission was to put him down. In SWAT 4 it's 50/50. Sometimes capable of high-precision shots that save your life, sometimes dropping a flash bang at your feet - there's no accounting for what the AI will do the next time you give it an order.
  • The number of NPC skins could have been higher. I don't feel that I am being unfair with this statement because of the sheer number of one-time-only object textures in the game. There are likely as many different pin-ball and slot-machines in one level of the game as their are distinct persons in the entire game.

  • The absence of lasting blood decals in an otherwise realistic game is apparent. Syphon Filter 1 had a simple 'staining' feature that would have been sufficient here. There is blood in the game even unrealistically large amounts in some instances.
  • For all of the realism apparent in "Police! Get on the ground!", some of the off-hand quips the squad makes feel out of place. The dark humour is appreciated, but the tone is often disconnected to the point of where I don't believe the voice actor thought about the line in context to the situation.

  • Where are my Yugo's? One mission involves busting a Yugoslavian ring of gun-runners. Not one person has an accent.

    • Edit: Actually one guy did, but you usually have to shoot him so he doesn't say much, I nailed him with a flash-bang and shot the gun out of his hand (+5 Awesome) on my fourth play-through.
  • I bought Swat 4 off of Direct2Drive . I have reason to believe that the release I have swaps the order of the first two levels. The logical escalation should be:

    • The scenario of the serial killer: 1-2 suspects, 2 hostages, 1 civilian.

    • The scenario of the gun-smith: 2-4 suspects, 2-4 civilians.

      This order was reversed in my version.

    The Bottom Line

    With the continuing trend of 'sandbox' games, along comes a game with very tight discipline. Not for the sake of being asinine, but because the intent is to simulate police procedure. The ideal of 'winning' in this game is a noble one, taking them all alive if possible and preventing bloodshed. The shared objective of all missions is worded thusly : "Bring order to chaos."

    Bringing order to chaos here requires focus, patience, diligence, and luck. There is always a way to clear a room without someone getting shot, but you never have enough of the right tool to clear every room the perfect way. You also never know if a suspect is going to comply out of fear, or decide to kill or be killed. If he decides the later I usually shoot him in a sensitive area with my bean-bag shotgun, which does wonders to change the mind.

    The procedure for clearing and locking down involves cuffing everyone on scene - civilians, hostages, suspects alike. The sheer amount of complaining from the bystanders and hostages will increase your sympathy with what officers have to put up with. I'm not an American, but I like to think it's at least a little exaggerated. Non-compliant persons need to be intimidated into submission. Pepper spray, a bean-bag to a squishy area, or as a last resort the taser will usually get them to submit.

    The ambiance in some places is just nailed so well that it impresses the hell out of me. The designers might not have had the best code resources, textures, etc. - but they had honest to goodness creativity and it shows in moments like this:

    - A dark hallway in a run-down tenement (apartment building), night outside with driving rain, and a path of those 'stick to ceiling' glow in the dark stars planted to the wall leading down the stairs to the bizarre cults basement. Behind the door they've dug up the concrete foundation to create a cemetery for dead members, including several small graves for children. -

    That is creepy on par with Silent Hill, and more-so because it is realistic and entirely possible.

    This game is certainly worth a look, if you're not sure whether it's worth the cost I encourage you to peruse this humourous play-through, this series inspired me to pick it up and I've been very happy.