To this day i am yet to find a game so well constructed, so well balanced, so filled with choices and interesting planning that you can do as SWAT 4. Many games after it have tried, and many have failed to replicate what SWAT 4 achieved (Hell, even Splinter Cell, it's main competitor at the time, fell off into the abyss). To me, SWAT 4 is the perfect tactical FPS, a culumination of multiple years of development and learnt experience over 3 games that led to this magnum opus so to speak. There's a reason that there's no SWAT 5, because you couldn't do better than 4 even if you tried. Everything in this game just clicks and i am yet to see a tactical FPS be even remotely as well designed as SWAT 4 (Arma comes close but that's a different genre of tactical FPS). And there are 2 main reasons that i think make SWAT 4, even to this day, a cut above the rest
1: The level design is top notch
SWAT 4 in my opinion has the perfect level design for what the game is trying to achieve. It's a SWAT simulator so that means that the levels are gonna be houses, stores, drug dens, warehouses etc. Pure urban warfare. And SWAT 4 excells in this. From the simple but tightly packed first mission of the Food Wall Restaurant to the sprawling but consistent A – Bomb nightclub to the creepy, drenched in enviromental storytelling of the Fairfax residence, every level takes you on a journey, and each one is tailored to fit with that think on your feet, check around every corner gameplay that people play these kinds of games for. Level design is something you absolutely have to NAIL when it comes to games like these and SWAT 4 does that and then some
2: Revise, improvise, compromise
SWAT 4 thrives itself on quick thinking from the player. In this game, you can't just shoot people willy nilly, you're the SWAT after all. In the game there's a command where if you press the f key (or whichever designated button you have put for yourself) you can yell for people to get down. This is absolutely essential for you to do as you walk into every single rooms, for both civilians and the enemies in the level since if an enemy surrenders and you kill them, you will fail the mission. The game helps you with this with it's generous arsenal of non lethal weapons to subdue non surrendering foes and civilians like peper spray, peper ball shotgun, tasers, gas grenade, tear gas etc.
However, sometimes, the enemy might just not surrender. Sometimes the enemy might surrener and then change it's mind and attack you again when you least expect it. This is where the quick thinking comes into play. 2 seconds of decision making can be the difference between life and death for you and your whole squad in this game, and it's that that makes SWAT 4 beyond intense. You need to do everything in your power to not kill anyone, even if that means getting yourself badly hurt in the process and walking through the rest of the level with a limp in both legs. (Ps. you can kill people in this game, you just need to make sure they don't surrender and start shooting first which also adds that extra tense risk)
These two things, coupled with the fact that the game still holds up graphically even till this day and you have a true masterpiece of the tactical FPS genre that i don't hear mentioned that often even though it absolutely deserves it
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