SWAT 3: Close Quarters Battle
In the world of work there are jobs you'd love to do managing director of a 24-hour sex and drugs factory, that kind of thing - and jobs you wouldn't undertake in a million years, like wiping bottoms in a mortuary. With your forearm.
And then there are the jobs which hang awkwardly between these two extremes, the jobs that'd be completely skill if it wasn't for one or two niggling details that louse the whole thing up. Being a member of the LAPD Special Weapons and Tactics division is a prime example.
Whereas most jobs are an endless journey through a featureless valley of boredom, as part of a SWAT team you can bank on experiencing several hours of gut-gargling excitement and dickwrinkling tension each and every month. Getting sent in to sort out bank robbers, flushing out armed hostage-takers, machine-gunning cats out of trees... the SWAT operative's career is hardly dull.
Pity about the ever-present threat of'violent death, then. Because that's the flipside: one little cock-up and the next thing you know, you've been gunned in the face by a stereotypical 'street punk' straight out of RoboCop. Bad day at the office dear? Bad day? My head's off! Still, wouldn't it be fantastic if someone could come up with a way of letting you experience all the thrills and spills of modern armed policing tactics without putting you in any danger? Mmm? Mmmm?
Well, stop going mmm, because it looks like they have. SWAT 3 from Sierra is shaping up to be the kind of game that makes grown men kiss their monitors with joy. If looks, company statements and pre-release whisperings are to be believed, this is going to turn heads like a motorised screwdriver.
C-C-C-All The C-C-Ops!
SWAT3 is the latest entry in Sierra's popular canon of pig 'em ups, which began with Police Quest many years ago. The Police Quest games (and the original SWAT, now I we come to think of it) were point-and-click adventures whose main selling point was their authenticity (although, of course, they weren't that authentic - you couldn't chomp donuts, harass attractive female motorists or lob suspects down the stairs on the way to the cells, to name but three popular stormtrooper pastimes).
SWAT3 is a different kettle of Uzi clips altogether. It's an action game, or, more accurately, it's a first-person perspective action-strategy game in which your tactics, combat skills, and the orders you give your CPU-operated gun-buddies are of the utmost importance. Y'know - Quake for cleverclogs; more Hidden & Dangerous than Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.
Set in a super-realistic environment (Los Angeles, although they've cheated a little by saying it's the year 2005). the game casts you as a SWAT team leader presented with a series of sticky situations. They're as varied and unpredictable as genuine police encounters tend to be - one minute there's a siege in a luxury penthouse, the next you're tracking a lone suspect hiding in the city sewer - and you're in charge of sorting each one out, Sunshine.
Having selected your team of four from the roll-call of uniformed psychopaths available (each of whom has individual stats), you then have to get them tooled up (which means choosing carefully from the pick 'n' mix arsenal back at base) and suitably equipped for the task at hand (wire-cutters, bulletproof jackets, balaclavas, torches... the list goes on), before planning your strategy for the level. Then you enter the game proper.
America's Scariest Police Shoot-Outs
Ultra-realistic visuals are what you're looking at here, although you don't need us to tell you that. You're not stupid. You know what reality looks like, and you know how much fun it'd be to play a game like this set within a world like your own - so you're probably already itching to crawl all over SWAT 3's office carpets, corridors and stairwells. Just like us.
The ultra-realism extends to all aspects of the game. Sierra are claiming - well, sort of claiming - that the AJ is so ludicrously advanced, you may as well not bother meeting real people after playing this because they'll seem downright stupid by comparison. Giving orders to your team members is a simple process of hitting their appropriate 'number' (button 1 for Joe Bloggs, button 2 for Jim Ploggs, etc), at spooky. They even lean round comers to avoid getting shot in the bollocks. And, of course, the enemy is equally cunning.
That's not all. The commitment to realism also means - wahey! -breakable scenery, and the introduction of the kind of unpredictable phenomena you don't often see in computer games, such as bullets that can ricochet and kill you. Making it out alive is going to feel like a genuine achievement.
They Know What Swat
Finally, as if it needs saying, this is coming from Sierra, who published Half-Life - so they know a good game when they see it. The only dark cloud at the moment is the question of multiplayer support. We've been told it will be single-player only, with a multiplayer version arriving a couple of months later (boo).
Whatever happens, SWAT 3 is going to be worth investigating. Read our verdict in a forthcoming issue or we'll lob tear gas canisters through your window, kick down the front door and machine-gun you in the face. Ha ha! Not really.
It's not often that the computer games world is rocked by the addition of a new type of game, a new genre that sets a completely original precedent and introduces players to a whole different approach and style. We're seeing more and more games that try to cross over, with varying degrees of success, and defy all categorisation, but they don't usually set a trend of their own -a path for others to imitate and improve on. The last real innovation was probably the socially responsible shooter or tactical combat game, pioneered by Spec Ops and brought to mass attention by Rainbow Six. If Spec Ops was the Wolfenstein 3D of the genre, the Tom Clancy tie-in was its Doom. Then came along the gem that was Hidden & Dangerous, which, despite being bugged to hell, won a place in our hearts with the sheer beauty and intensity of its gameplay. Now setting a standard all of its own is SWAT 3, as authentic a recreation of urban combat as you could hope for, and sufficiently different to H&D to push aside such pointless questions of which is better.
Bring Order To Chaos
SWAT3's closest relative is, without doubt, Rainbow Six. But where Rogue Spear-just added a few improvements and offered more of the same, this takes the concept to a whole, new level.
You take on the role of an element leader with the Special Weapons and Tactics division of the LAPD, complete with the chance to pick your race, name, nickname and the squad you'll be commanding for the rest of your career. There is also an option to play one of the 16 missions independently, but you lose the sense of progression you get from playing them in the right order.
The game's main focus is total realism and the creation of very believable situations. It might seem a bit strange, then, that it's set in the Los Angeles of 2005.
But the date is just a clever way of manufacturing political situations and including unheard-of names of presidents and terrorist organisations without setting it in a stupid alternate universe.
As a member of this elite squad of peacekeepers, you are on constant stand-by for critical cases that require a highly trained team to deal with extraordinary circumstances, whether they involve street-snipers, kidnappers or terrorists.
You can forget about the number '3' that is tagged on to the end of the title. This game is generations ahead of its predecessors. Gone is the Police Quest name, the poor isometric graphics and the boring gameplay that only appealed to American hardcore police aficionados. Instead, you've got some of the best 3D graphics we've seen in any game and the kind of compulsive gameplay Rogue Spear can only dream of.
The amount of graphical detail is really quite astounding. Characters in the game look like real, well-rounded people with distinguishing traits, eyes that blink and pupils that follow you around. Their posture, the way they move and react to their environment are all completely realistic. And so are the settings of banks, houses, offices and building sites, all of them recreated in such detail that you have no problem believing that you are actually there. The attention to detail doesn't stop there, however. Every member of your team (including yourself) has an elaborate history file, giving you an idea of their personality and how this will reflect on their performance. The mission briefings are a work of art in themselves, knitted as they are with such intricate minutiae that the world you are about to enter and the people in it are completely believable before you've even set foot in it. You're given background information on the events, witness accounts, the expected state of the hostages (if there'are any), the motivation of the suspects (political, personal, religious, etc) and the possible consequences should you fail. It gets to the point where you really understand exactly why you're doing what you're doing and how important it is that you do it well.
Although the perspective is strictly first-person, the emphasis is very much on stealth and tactics, rather than mindless Ouake-mg. You go into each mission leading four other officers and, while you can't directly control any of them, you soon find that they are absolutely essential to your success. There is a great temptation, especially in the first simple missions, to go in gung-ho, without paying any attention to safety protocols or the fact that you've got very reliable men waiting to obey your every order. Then you open a door, and within a quarter of a second see the hooded figure of a terrorist followed by a flash of gunfire and a red line cutting the screen telling you you're dead. To get anywhere in the game, you need to move around with extreme caution and learn how to use the extremely intuitive command system, through which you can tell your men to cover you, search in a certain direction, breach a door, throw a gas canister and all the other things swatters do for fun. Every comer, doorway and corridor is filled with danger. If you don't see the enemy before they see you, you're quite probably dead. As a result, the missions are so intense you'll need to lie down between gos to recover. We promise that your heart will skip a beat with alarming regularity, and you'll understand why somehmes people get shot when they could have been easily arrested. Things can get so tense that when all hell breaks loose you might be shooting hostages or your own men before you realise it.
Luckily, not only can you send people ahead to investigate, you also have a nitty device at your disposal to peek round corners undetected. It consists of a long tube with a tiny camera attached to the end which you can use as a hi-tech version of a mirror, the image appearing in the top right-hand comer of your screen. You can also view the action from the point of view of any of your men, thanks to the cameras attached to their helmets. And sometimes it really does help to have eyes in the back of your head.
"Lets Slow It Down"
The make or break feature for these kind of games is the Al, and we can tell you it's nothing short of superb, and completely bug free for that matter (after all, occasional erratic behaviour can be attributed to people losing their cool). Your own men always do what you tell them to and you'll notice that, if you keep them informed of events out of their field of vision, they'll be much more effective. In return, they'll repay the compliment with constant updates on their position and situation.
As for the terrorists, they range from highly trained soldiers with a similar knowledge of tactics to your team, to completely unpredictable nutters, and they all behave in a highly realistic manner. Even the hostages have unique personalities and let you know exactly how they feel and what they think straight away.
Later missions are all about subtlety - one wrong move and you've blown the whole goddamn thing. But playing the same mission twice (or 15 times, as you sometimes need to) doesn't mean you know where critical elements are or where people are going to be. It changes every time. Sometimes missions are over in a flash, other times they take ages. Sometimes all the terrorists will be waiting for you in the deepest part of the level, others they'll be hanging around the start of it, patrolling with a deadly eye and a quick trigger. Every experience is a fresh one and keeps you wanting to go back for more. It's addictive in the furious way that only things you really care about can be.
There are some slight letdowns, such as the lack ot sniping mode (although, admittedly, the game works beautifully without it and has been designed in a way that would make it superfluous) or the inability to play as the terrorists (an option available in SWAT 2). It's a shame your officers don't gather experience and improve their stats, thus becoming more essential while at the same time gaining in individuality (as in X-COM, where you really care about the life of each character). And the fact that there's no multiplayer option as yet - if will be introduced in a forthcoming add-on pack - will obviously piss off a great number of people.
"We Re Good To Go"
But all this pales into insignificance once you're actually living through it. The whole thing has been put together with incredible professionalism, and just how professionally you act directly affects not only the success of your mission, but your life, the life of your team members and the life of every hostage involved in the mission. And the beauty of it all is that it actually does feel important once you've immersed yourself in it.
Yet, in spite the mathematical precision of it all, the sense of fun is never pushed fully into the background. Apparently, the Rogue Spear add-on pack will feature urban settings, but we can tell you now that it's not going to be anywhere near as good as this. And it's unlikely that anything in the foreseeable future will be.
Thinking On Your Feet
Get used to it - you're going to be flying this one by the seat of your pants
Unlike Rainbow Six, there's no pre-mission planning stage where you can carefully plan your strategy on a detailed map. That would be silly. The whole point is that you're called urgently Into an extreme situation that you have to deal with immediately. Sometimes, when the missions take place in public buildings, you can take a look at the floor plans, but the strategy is developed on the go as you assess the ever-changing situation. Since every time you play a mission things are different, you have to approach it from a different angle. Luckily, the command system is a joy to use, with a very simple interface you can issue orders through even in the heat of battle and the two modes available (stealth and dynamic) open up your options considerably. And guess what? Your men actually do what you tell them!
Respect My Authority!
SWAT 3 is nothing if not the epitome of the socially responsible shooter. The emphasis is on using deadly force only when strictly necessary and ensuring hostage survival at all costs. You even have a score percentage to judge this as you progress, as well as a respect percentage that tells you what your men think of you. There are certain rules and procedures you must go through in every mission. For example, you have to shout at hostages, get them on their knees and handcuff them before notifying HQ that they're ready for transport. This is done to ensure that they don't become hysterical, run into enemy fire and mess up a situation you've got under control, but not everybody is quite so understanding. You get insults and cries of disbelief that you would do such a thing and one high dignitary informs you that he golfs with your superior and "he's gonna hear about this." You can also evacuate downed team members if they're only injured, but until you've got the hang of It you're bound to give HQ the wrong message a few times. You'll soon be corrected by your own men and told by the mission supervisor that you're getting confused. Not good for your respect score.
Thanks to its random mission structure, SWAT 3 is no walkover, there's no definitive walkthrough either. All we can do is give you some pointers as to how you should handle your men and plan each mission...
1 - Suspected Sniper
On the first mission you have to dig out one suspect and deal with his girlfriend, both of whom can be almost anywhere in the house. Stack the element at the front door and pick the lock. Use the mirror to look around, especially up the stairs. Now get one team to cover the stairs while the other searches and clears the ground floor rooms. Don't forget the cupboard under the stairs - have a team cover you if you decide to open it, just in case he's in there.
The girl is either downstairs, on the stairs or in the bathroom. Restrain and evacuate. The suspect could be under the sink in the kitchen, on the stairs, in an upstairs room, or in the attic. If he fires at you from hiding, fire warning shots and shout for compliance. You should be able to subdue him without bloodshed.
2 - Arresting The Getts
The main problem here is the long hallway. Stack the element, pick the door lock, switch to dynamic mode and clear the living room. Have one team cover the hallway and the other team cover the door to the left while you search.
Clear the house using one team up front, the other covering the rear. Search every room for weapons - don't forget to look under TVs and inside the garage basement (to enter, give one team the clear command when pointing at the entrance). Can't see very well? Try the light switches...
Young Getts usually has a weapon, but he doesn't really intend to use it, so give him half a chance. Getts' senior officer has a blinking device, which triggers a booby trap. C4 or your toolkit will sort it out, but keep well back.
3 - Hostage Rescue - River Tigris Store
There are between three and seven well-armed suspects in the River Tigris store, but the hostage is wearing a hood, so is easily recognised. One or two bad guys might be in the shop, so go in quickly in dynamic mode, and make sure you shoot to kill. Totally clear the store and take the exit on the left behind the screen.
Cover each doorway before entry, using your mirror where possible. Move through the rooms one at a time and down the steps into the basement. Move with the entire element to provide extra cover. Use one team to restrain people and the other to cover, particularly when you rescue the hostage as there are likely to be more suspects nearby.
4 - Hostage Rescue-The Foreman's Home
This is the ficst mission you might have to replay more than once. The terrorists are well-armed and mean business. Take the default entry, get one team to cover the pool area and send the other up the steps and through the French windows (breach and clear).
You go with them, then cover the other team as they climb the steps to join you.
There are three levels plus outside areas to clear and you can't afford to relax for a minute. The hostages are randomly placed and one or two extra suspects will often appear, particularly outside. Just make sure you do a thorough search and use the time-honoured proper SWAT tactics (breach and clear rooms, use your mirror, cover exits and doors, etc).
And be warned, terrorists outside the house will shoot at you inside through curtains and blinds - and vice versa.
5 - Hostage Rescue-St Dimitri's Church
Switch straight to dynamic mode and breach and clear the main entrance. It's best to clear the building from the top down, so order the element to clear the stairwell and then follow the lead officer upwards to the second floor. From the lounge other stairs lead up. Cover the other exits with one team while you ascend and clear the top floor with the other.
Ignore the hidden door leading down and instead return to the entry point. Make sure you cover the next internal door yourself, otherwise there can be several targets for one officer. This door opens into a worship area. It's big and holds several suspects plus a hidden door behind the pulpit.
Don't let your men separate, especially when restraining. Some of the hostages need repeated compliance attempts and the security men can be troublesome. Try to force compliance verbally or by firing a single warning shot. If they don't drop the weapon - or they fire at you - then you have no choice...
6 - Rapid Deployment-Construction Site
Not a hard mission, but it's against the clock. Equip yourself with long- range weapons, such as the M4 or unsilenced H&K. Take default entrance and hit dynamic mode straight away. Point at the gate and order the full element to breach and clear. Head straight down the track to the first door on the left. Assign one team to cover, the other to breach and clear. Disarm the launcher.
Leave by the same door, move to the next entrance on the left. Have a team cover the right, take the other along the fence and down the ramp. Disarm the second launcher when clear. Regroup and search the ditch, looking for a hidden tunnel to the third launcher. Use stealth mode and the mirror as you exit, but be prepared to take on more than one suspect.
Now you've saved the plane, search the rest of the site for any remaining suspects. Keep out of the open and use your flashlight in dark areas.
7 - Hostage Rescue-Bank
Open the door by picking the lock and then fall-in your element. Turn on your flashlight, turn sharp right, second-last left, immediate left and then right to the door in the wall.
Don't expect many prisoners, as the suspects are aggressive and well-armed, but they come in dribs and drabs, so keep your element together for maximum firepower. If suspects appear behind the hostages, it'll be tough, as a dead hostage means a failed mission. If necessary have both teams cover the corridors and doorways and restrain the suspects and hostages yourself.
Switch to stealth mode, take it slowly and use your mirror, especially along corridors. You will occasionally get the chance to shout 'hands up' at suspects, but keep your cross hairs on them. Clear each room one at a time in dynamic mode, using the whole element to boost firepower.
The front office may be empty, but there is usually someone outside who'll fire through the supposedly bulletproof screen. At least two men in the element should have penetrative weapons or ammo. The safety deposit vault has two cubicles - check for occupants by crouching down and looking for tell-tale signs, such as feet.
8 - Hostage Rescue-Tv Studio
Tough one this, with up to ten suspects, even more hostages and lots of ambushes. The M4A1 is an advantage. Take the default entrance, pick the lock and then turn left. Cover the doors before opening as you'll take fire straight away from the open area on the left. Cover the door at the end of the walkway with one team and clear the left with the other, but don't let them get too far from the walkway or they could get trapped and out-gunned.
Once you've reported in, breach the ON AIR door. Keep the element close together just inside. Once clear, head through the wooden panels to the TV studio. There are several hostages here plus suspects, so make sure you enter with the full element. Watch out for suspects at the back.
Having cleared the stage -and reported everyone in -breach and clear the three rooms back in the corridor. Crouch down to look under the cubicle doors. Finally, take the stairs up and search the control room carefully, just in case there are any suspects left.
9 - Arrest-Phoenix Nightclub
An unrealistic mission where four or five bad guys fire handguns at you - despite having up to 13 rifles and sub-machine guns lying around. The hardest part is finding them all.
Pick the front door entry point, which opens directly into the public bar, switch to dynamic mode and give the breach and clear command. Most of the suspects will make themselves known here, so make sure you back your element up yourself. Some cover is available, but watch out for cross-fire, especially from the DJ's position above the dance floor. When quiet, breach and clear the toilets (left) and check each cubicle, but have one team cover the right side of the public area while you do so. Now head to the right through the door marked PRIVATE, using move and clear. Keep your element together and search for suspects thoroughly. Once you've cleared all the rooms and dealt with the suspects, you can start sweeping for weapons.
10 - Infiltration-Lax Control Tower
Enter stealth mode and pick lock on alarm box and door to avoid the alarm. In the corridors use your mirror and keep the element together. Clear out the ground floor rooms before heading for the stairs marked HIGH. Plenty of confrontations occur on the stairs, so watch your element carefully and look out for activity between the stair boards. Point to the stairs and give the search command. If an element spreads out too much, give the fall-in command and repeat. As you find doors off the stairs, position one team to cover up the stairs and have the other clear that level with you. If you come across hostages, get up really close and order compliance. At the top of the stairs is the OPERATIONS area leading to the air traffic control room. On the balcony is the missile launcher, which has to be disarmed with your toolkit.
Now return to the stairs and descend to the KITTIHAWK level. Cross the walkway and search the offices until you have completed the mission. Hostages and suspects can appear here, all mixed up. Because it's such a large building, make sure you report on suspects and hostages as you come across them. Backtracking can be frustrating.
11 - Infiltration-City Hall
With only the top three floors and roof to worry about, this one's a piece of cake... if you remember your training. The suspects tend to move around while the hostages remain put, so it's fairly easy to know who to shoot. Use your mirror at every turn and your flashlight when there are shadows.
As usual, split into two teams, one covering the corridor, the other clearing the rooms. Just be prepared to reinforce either of them yourself. To get to the top floor, enter the law library and take the stairs up, but watch for suspects coming down. Continue clearing each room and securing the hostages until you get to the top floor. Go up to the roof yourself and then get the element to follow. Order them to move and clear and then locate the bomb. Defuse it with your toolkit for another good day's work...
12 - Infiltration-Storm Drains
This can be one of the hardest missions as the three levels look very similar. The only way to complete the mission is to search and clear each tunnel or room thoroughly. Don't worry about the time limit though, as it always seems long enough.
Use a flashlight in the dark areas, watching for bombs, hidden entrances and ambush positions. The bombs look like old-fashioned portable radios and emit a beeping noise when you're close. Disarm all seven with your toolkit.
Watch out for the shoulder-height walls on the lowest (third) level and crouch if necessary. Steer your way around the blockages, but listen for grunting noises from nearby suspects. They're dressed in orange fluorescent suits, so don't shoot the homeless civilian. The last room on the third level has a truck, inside which the suspects are making bombs. The mission will end here if you have been thorough.
13 - Infiltration-Convention Centre
The final mission in the 'career' game is a massive blast-fest where you're swamped by suspects and hostages running at you from all directions. It takes place in a two-storey convention centre with a basement. Enter in dynamic mode from the car park via the unlocked double doors. Order the element to move and clear up the escalators to the second floor.
The important thing is not to be distracted by noise and running hostages. Work methodically, prioritising tasks.
Point your men at the suspects and restrain the hostages yourself - they're safer on their knees. There are at least three suspects dressed as waiters. Others are dressed in civilian clothes or in combat gear and they can approach from any direction, especially the stairs and escalators.
Search the meeting rooms using one team and yourself, the other team should remain covering. Each room may have several hostages and two or three gunmen. Remember, you're trying to locate and defuse a bomb in a suitcase as well as rescue important hostages. It can be anywhere in the building and while there are many red herrings, only the real bomb bleeps. Make sure every room is cleared and searched - mark them with green sticks while your element covers. Next, search the first floor and then the basement, but stay wary of attacks from unexpected directions and dark areas.
The suspects have a habit of ganging up in this mission so keep your element together for maximum firepower.
- Keeo your command 'tree' open constantly, at 800 x 600 and above. It's no real hindrance to vision and will minimise key presses during missions.
- Listen to HQ's messages - police observers can often pinpoint the baddies for you. Memorise the layout and side number of each building you enter. O Stealth mode isn't always best as some criminals are more frightened when surprised.
- Recover dropped or discovered weapons by moving close, pointing reticule and pressing 'use/open'.
- Treat all civilians as unarmed unless they're clearly a threat. Press '7' to demand compliance, then with your mouse pointing directly at them, press '1' (or '2' or '3' if you want a specific team to do It) followed by '8' to restrain or cuff them, and then '4' followed by '2' to evacuate.
- Warning shots will often persuade panicked hostages to submit. Moving in real close will persuade others. As a last resort, just throw gas at them. Cuff all hostages - even pregnant mums or whatever - they're much safer kneeling than running around like headless chickens...
- When you find armed suspects, don't forget to give the compromise alert (press '6') to your squad. They'll help out and be on their guard.
- Tty to hit suspects in non-vital areas (legs and arms) to drop them rather than kill them.
- Don't worry too much about weapon choice. None of the missions require the silenced H&K and most will be fine with the default weapon unless you need extra range or penetration, at this point you should go for the M4A1.
- If you score less than 75 for leadership, or have lost more than one man in a mission, reload that mission and play it again.
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode
SWAT 3: Close Quarters Battle Screenshots
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