I vividly remember the first time I played SWAT 4 at a friends house. I’d played plenty of first-person shooters before then. I was at least decent, although not amazing at them. I remember selecting my kit, an M4A1 because I’d used it in plenty of other games. It’ll surely be great in this one too. I also took a TASER because of hell, it is a police-themed game.
The mission start. I begin my approach to the Food Wall Restaurant. After throwing down the door, I see a suspect with a .357 Magnum, holding it to a hostage’s head. What do I do? I thought. I froze up. Unfortunately for the hostage, this meant they got shot in the head before the officer who was supposed to save them (me) received the same treatment. That’s when I realized I was playing something special (and I really needed to play the tutorial…)
SWAT 4 is a tactical shooter released in 2005. You play as a commander of a five-man SWAT team who is tasked with resolving various crisis such as hostage situations and arrest warrants. How you approach a level and what equipment you and your men use is on you.
Unlike many of its peers, SWAT 4 emphasizes the fact that you’re meant to be saving lives, even the bad guys if possible. You’re penalized if you shoot too soon, and missions are outright failed if a civilian dies. This means you need to make decisions quickly and adapt to the situation on the fly.
As you are playing as a police officer, you’ll have a variety of tools to deal with suspects in both lethal and non-lethal manners. Weapons such as the M4A1 and MP5 can offer decisive and effective firepower, whereas the pepperball gun and beanbag shotgun can allow for the capture of suspects. Some weapons also have different ammo types, making them more effective against armoured or unarmoured targets. Various less-lethal grenades allow for you to distract suspects from your entry. There are also door wedges which can block off doors and Optiwand, which can be used to look under doors and around corners.
The officers you command are probably some of the smartest AI teammates I’ve ever worked with. They are extremely effective at storming rooms and making split-second decisions. Not only that, but they are extremely easy to command, with a drop-down menu activated by the right mouse button. That said, you can also play this game co-op, although now you’ll need a program like Tunngle to run it multiplayer.
Suspect AI is also dynamic. Sometimes they’ll engage you, or shoot a hostage. Other times They’ll flee, either to set up an ambush or just out of pure fear. They may even just surrender on sight, although they are more likely to give up under the effects of one of the less lethal weapons.
The missions start off simple enough, starting with arrest warrants for a few suspects, before escalating to gang-related shootouts involving multiple armed suspects and eventually high-profile incidents with well-trained terrorists packing assault rifles and body armour.
Every operation takes about ten-fifteen minutes. There are no checkpoints, so any injury you sustain will last the mission and if you are incapacitated you need to restart. This can admittedly be frustrating, but at the same time makes it so much more tense. Higher difficulties also require that you get a higher score, by arresting suspects, collecting every piece of evidence and reporting in when appropriate, like when you kill a suspect or encounter a wounded civilian.
Missions randomize every time you play them. Suspects and civilians are placed in different rooms, and they react differently. You’re never going to have the same experience twice when playing through a level. This adds a ton of replay value and also keeps you on your toes.
Once you’re done with the campaign, there is also a quick mission maker, which allows you to put a certain number of civilians and suspects into a map, with different parameters. It’s very easy to use although it is also quite basic.
Of course, that’s not to say this game is without its flaws. For one this game looks pretty bad graphically. I don’t say that because it’s an old game either. This game is post-Half Life 2, and even compared to its competitor Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield (which came out two years before) it’s arguably inferior. I still feel the general atmosphere is carried successfully but it’s worth noting.
Due to the fact that you do have to worry about rules of engagement, it can be unclear when to or not to shoot at times. Sometimes you may be unsure if a suspect is pointing a weapon at you or just holding it up for no apparent reason. The difference can be a score penalty that may cost you mission success.
Also on scoring, you also have to make sure you report EVERY time you restrain, injure or kill someone, plus civilians who may have already been wounded before you got there. It can be easy to miss something, especially when dealing with multiple people at once.
SWAT 4 is a perfect blend of quick action and tactical gameplay. The gold edition, which comes with The Sketchkov Syndicate expansion pack is on Good Old Games for about $10 US, which is great value considering the content on hand.