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SWAT 4 is a tactical police shooter that focuses on careful planning and execution. It is not for a combat junkie who is looking for a fight. It's for a careful planner looking for a chance to take an enemy by surprise.
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The main feature is the tactical police combat. You will have a full arsenal of tactical devices as well as standard firearms. This is important, because you aren't trying to kill the suspects. The game rewards you for successfully arresting the suspects, which is usually only possible after demoralizing them with tazers, beanbag guns, or pepperball guns. Flashbangs and stinger grenades are also effective.
The best way to describe the game is with a snippet of gameplay. You move into a gas station that is being robbed with your four team members behind you. You use the optiwand to check a bathroom outside and find a civilian, so you order them to get on the ground and restrain them for later evacuation. You then look to the warehouse side and use the optiwand. There are two armed suspects and a hostage. You press the spacebar to order your men to breach the door, throw in a flashbang, and storm the room. You follow them in and start demanding that the subjects drop their weapons. One does, the other doesn't. You hit him with a beanbag gun to change his mind. You then apply zipcuffs to all of them and collect the weapons.
The principal of the game is the tactics. Gunplay is limited and you will usually come out on the worse side. You will be penalized for shooting a suspect without following procedure and you need to arrest them all to attain the highest score possible.
The damage is done on a realistic scale. You can only take a few hits before you die and any wounds will hurt your aim and decrease your speed. This is a tough difficulty scale and you can expect to repeat missions a few times.
This is a fault of the missions though. They are basically just skirmishes. The enemies and hostages are randomly generated and they aren't connected at all. It makes the game feel a little disjointed.
Finally, the AI is strange. The enemies are generally intelligent and unpredictable. Your squad is just unpredictable. They are just great at clearing some rooms, but fail utterly on others. They are also a little too strict in their firing discipline and are often shot as a result. This gets really frustrating in the later levels.
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The graphics aren't too bad. The levels are a little too dark though. It works well for atmosphere but it makes the levels look boring. The models aren't bad, but they aren't great either. It's probably best described as mediocre.
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The multiplayer wasn't too bad when it started. It was really just a basic deathmatch though with options for protect the VIP. The only cool aspect was the ability to arrest other players through the use of non-lethal weapons to stun them. The visual effects from the weapon damage were well done and truly disorientating. The games are basically done though, since SWAT 4 is just too old to have much of an active community.
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It's not too intensive. I played this well with an ATI X700 graphics card and 1 GB of RAM. It requires 256 MB of RAM and a 64 MB graphics card. You should probably check first, but if you can handle most other shooters, then you shouldn't have a problem.
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I personally like the game, but it is definitely a niche game. If you just want to shoot things, then it's not the right game for you. You'll have to use careful planning and non-lethal weapons if you want to maintain control and complete the level. If this sounds cool to you, then get it.