Not to be confused with this past summerís Hollywood (not so) blockbuster, SWAT: Global Strike Team is a pretty solid mix of FPS and tactical squad-based action. Itís also a hell of a lot better than the movie, if you have to ask. If youíre familiar with Sierraís popular PC series, prepare for a bit of a surprise. The gameplay here is streamlined into a fast-paced 21 level single player experience. While thereís a great co-op mode, an arcade-like time attack mode, and some fun 1-4 player games added, the main game is what Argonaut clearly spent good time developing. The game isnít, nor doesnít pretend to be a SOCOM, Ghost Recon, or Rainbow Six 3 killer. Itís simply a damn good shooter with a great team control feature, should you own a USB or Xbox Live headset.
Everything here is pared down in order to get you into the game as quickly as possible, from the intuitive controls to the weapons selection screen, itís all clean and simple to navigate. In the single player campaign, you play as Mathias Kincaid, a GST element leader. Along with Jackson, your tech guy, and Lee your sniper, youíll travel to a number of international hotspots and take on the bad guys in a variety of missions. Commanding your squad is as simple as barking simple commands into your headset of choice, or if you donít own one, the D-pad works just as effectively. The game recognizes a number of commands and your team responds immediately to your orders, breaching doors or securing suspects and the like.
Like a real SWAT team, youíre relying on your voice as an element of surprise even more than your quick trigger finger. When you encounter enemies, a meter appears and youíll want to yell something like ďSWAT! DROP YOUR WEAPONS!Ē into your mike, or tap the Square button on the PS2 controller if youíre not wired for sound. Some enemies will indeed lay down their arms, whereupon you need to have one of your team handcuff them promptly. Some baddies wonít give up and have to be dispatched as soon as possible. Often, youíll have to deal with hostage situations in close quarters or have Jackson defuse bombs while you watch his back. Itís definitely not the same visceral thrill as SOCOM or Counter-Strike, but thereís still quite a bit of suspense as you play through the game. Besides, SWAT: GST is more about defusing situations with a minimum of violence, while those other games have you dealing out violence to get through the challenges presented. Those of you who just want to just want to shoot stuff up mindlessly will find few opportunities to do so, although the sniping missions where you take control of Lee may satisfy you somewhat.
Clearing each stage gets you medals based on your performance. Youíll get a medal for not getting hit, another for not killing any enemies (use the dart gun), another for close combat skills (whacking bad guys upside the head with your gun of choice), and a few more. Bumping up the difficulty level gives you more opportunities to get more medals. You also receive points in each stage that can be redeemed for weapon upgrades like extra ammo clips, better range, and more accuracy. Itís not as complex as loading out weapons in SOCOM or other more simulation style games, so some of you hardcore gun head game players will no doubt be miffed a bit. Get over it- itís only a game.
SWAT: GSTís graphics are very well done, with a proprietary engine that shows of detailed environments that feature an excellent lighting system. The game uses a new technique called PFF (Photo-realistic Film Filter) that gives the levels a lifelike quality with hard-edged shadows and lifelike colors. The PFF technique also allows for a great ďIris effectĒ that simulates quite nicely how the human eye adjusts from light to dark areas and vice versa. Night vision goggles are also excellently represented here as the game features levels where darkness absolutely prevents any sort of sensible progress without them. Even cooler is if you toss a flash-bang while equipped with the goggles, you and any team members in the vicinity will remove them automatically so youíre not blinded when the grenade detonates.
While the game looks better on the Xbox than the PS2, up close, some of the textures are a tiny bit blurry, and some of the character animation can be a bit awkward. You may not notice the latter at first, but after seeing the same 5 or 6 canned animation routines for enemies falling down or giving up over and over, you may raise an eyebrow or roll your eyes a bit. At least the enemies are far from predictable on the different difficulty settings. The overall AI could be a bit better, though. At times the game feels more like a fast-paced police simulator where your interaction with the characters and the realistic environments is more important than the overall acting on display.
Back to the voice feature for a minute- Even with the headset, SWAT: GST isnít a chatty affair. Youíre locked into using the basic commands, and even in the co-op mode, thereís no other form of communication possible. In a 4-player Deathmatch, donít expect any trash talkiní either, as there are only 2 USB ports on the PS2. My short list of improvements for the sequel definitely includes some form of Online play. That freedom wouldnít work way this game is set up with its linear level design and sometimes simple objectives. Perhaps larger downloadable maps and I-Link support for the PS2 and Xbox Live enhancements will be added in the next installment. Still, if youíre into single player action and donít want to deal with noobs getting lost or shooting you in the ass all day, SWAT: GST definitely comes highly recommended.
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