SWAT 4 storms PCs

VU Games sends out its squad-based shooter; tactical police simulation lets gamers command up to five officers.

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After the turmoil of the Watts riots and the increasing racial tension in late-1960s Southern California that began to look like it would consume the southland, the Los Angeles Police Department became the first law enforcement agency to institute a highly specialized unit of highly trained officers. Named Special Weapons and Tactics, more commonly known as SWAT, the well-organized unit became one of the most respected squads in the world.

VU Games is bringing the organized tactics and high-tech gadgetry of the SWAT squads to the PC with SWAT 4, available in retail stores today. The game was developed by Irrational Games, who worked on Tribes: Vengeance and Freedom Force. This is the first SWAT game since 1999's SWAT 3: Close Quarters Battle and the second since the franchise shifted from strategy to first-person shooter.

The single-player campaign sees gamers strapped in the Kevlar vest of a SWAT squad sergeant, leading a group of four other officers through 14 missions, which include rescuing hostages and taking out targets.

The multiplayer modes support team-based games featuring up to 16 online players and five-person cooperative play. Players can battle each other in a VIP escort mode, a team deathmatch, and a bomb-defusing challenge mode or run through any of the 14 campaign missions or a custom-built mission in the cooperative mode.

Unlike other shooters, SWAT 4 asks that gamers follow real-life rules of engagement; that is, don't run into dark rooms spraying bullets. Rather, SWAT teams are asked to use nonlethal methods whenever possible. Reckless gamers will have to answer to the police chief if they off a civilian or leave a trail of blood in their wake.

Thankfully, the game offers several nonlethal weapons in its arsenal to avoid an earful from the chief, such as flashbang grenades, taser guns, and pepper spray. Of course some criminals won't go quietly, so there are also submachine guns, shotguns, and assault rifles. Accompanying the guns are a gaggle of gadgets, among them fiber-optic cameras and the simple-yet-effective door wedge.

Swat 4 is rated M for Mature and has an SRP of $49.99. For a full debriefing on the game, read GameSpot's full review.

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