SWAT 4 is one of my all time favorite games. I know every map off by heart, and my own certain way of doing things. I know the quirks the AI has and how I should approach just about every situation. Generally, unless I get complacent, I tend to find the game easy.
The Elite Force modification adds new weapons and equipment, whilst changing some core mechanics and AI. Although only one map has been added, some changes have made old missions much more dynamic.
How equipment is managed has changed a lot. Now the player has to worry about weight and bulk. Carrying heavy armor, an M4A1 carbine with ten magazines and a grenade launcher with 25 tear gas grenades will slow you down to a crawl. If I’m being honest, this isn’t too big of a deal. Taking heavy protection is a no-brainer, as it allows you to survive more damage, and there’s rarely a need to rush. I’d also argue 3-4 magazines for most primary weapons is going to be more than enough for just about any mission in the game, as most enemies don’t need to be turned into Swiss cheese before dying.
There are some new weapons that have been added. None of the weapons really change the game that much, but there are some nice additions such as the high capacity P226, or the five shot ARWEN grenade launcher. All the weapons have much better models than the vanilla game, and I hope those in the base game are replaced with similar, high quality skins.
Some old weapons have also been modified, most gaining additional fire modes. There’s also new ammunition, including jacketed soft point, armour piercing and numerous buckshot loads for shotguns. On top of this, some less lethal tools, such as the TASER can cause certain people to become incapacitated due to their drug use or old age, so the player has to take more care with what less lethal tools they bring.
Finally in single player you must worry about wearing gas masks to prevent tear gas taking an effect on your team. The disadvantage of this is losing head protection and poorer vision due to the gas mask. As tear gas is the most effective grenade in vanilla SWAT 4, this is a good addition.
When starting a new campaign, the player can now play through both SWAT 4 and it’s expansion The Stetchkov Syndicate without having to close one down to play the other. The player can also chose to play a perma-death campaign where if they die, they must start again which adds tons of tension to every choice made. You can also turn on perma-death for your team members, but I’d recommend against this as if they die early in the campaign, you will be left short handed in later missions.
Gameplay wise, the player is now forced to report every suspect that is downed, less they want to suffer a score penalty. This can be frustrating as in the heat of the moment, you can miss reporting a suspect. The player must also report civilians who were injured before the mission began to prevent them from bleeding out, forcing the player to act fast.
AI suspects now seem to have improved hearing. This gives merit to silenced weapons, whilst also forcing the player to be aware of their flanks. Failing to have officers cover various doors can quickly lead to the player’s team being ambushed. Sometimes this can also lead to suspects killing hostages before you even know they are threatening one, leading to a failed mission.
Another problem with the AI is when threats do arise, every AI member of your team will focus on the threat. Although the officers acted in a similar way in the base game, in that you didn’t have to worry so much about being flanked. The one fix I’d want is that the order ‘Cover’ (ordering officers to watch a specific area) was unbreakable unless an officer was directly engaged.
Officers also seem to be a bit clumsier when it comes to room clearing. Occasionally they’ll get stuck on each other before entering a room. I also find the theatrics they put on when they are engaged to be a bit over the top, and sometimes not all that helpful. Rather than just engage a threat, officers will now attempt to seek cover, which is not always practical. I’ve even had moments when an officer moved into my line of sight and I accidentally shot them. Finally, officers can miss a lot when trying to deploy a taser which can be both frustrating and hilarious.
That being said, officers are much better when engaging at point blank. Sometimes in the base game they’d just freeze up, causing you to potentially lose two or three officers at once. In Elite Force, officers are now able to engage at bad breath distances, and have a fighting chance. With that mentioned, I’d recommend you equip officers with weapons that have burst fire modes, as officers will either fire single or bursts, never on full auto.
Another change made is that now snipers must also fire within the same rules of engagement the player has. In vanilla SWAT 4, the player could take control of snipers in many levels and kill any suspect without consequence. This feature did allow you to take out a few suspects with the only penalty being that you lose the chance to arrest every suspect. Although this change limits the use of snipers, they are still useful for scouting rooms, and can shoot the weapons out of a suspect’s hand.
Some missions have had small changes, including booby traps that can either set off an alarm or explosives. I wish these traps were more common, as they only appear in 4 of the 21 missions in the game. I also dislike how that setting off traps induces a score penalty, as I feel the punishment for setting off a trap should be a consequence of what the trap does.
One mission that’s been changed that I dislike is the Funtime Amusements Arcade. In the base game, the player had to prevent suspects from dumping drugs in the toilets. This has been removed from the Elite Force mod. It’s a shame as I felt that having to prevent the loss of evidence added an extra consideration on top of taking out the bad guys. There’s also two levels which have drug evidence the player has to collect which to me feels unnecessary as the evidence isn’t being actively destroyed.
Other gameplay improvements include being notified when you complete objectives and are issued penalties for shooting too early. These are both welcomed additions, although the former can remove tension if you’ve dealt with all suspects (granted it also allows you to finish up a mission quicker, and in the base game you could always check objectives via the pause menu).
Elite Force is still under development, with Version 6 in beta testing right now. As a SWAT 4 veteran I’d say that Elite Force builds upon what is already a great game. If you own SWAT 4 already you owe it to yourself to check it out.