SWAT 4 fans are currently looking forward to the upcoming expansion pack to last year's realistic first-person tactical shooter. Due out at the end of the month, SWAT 4: The Stetchkov Syndicate promises even more of the gritty, authentic gameplay of the original game. You'll suit up in combat gear and lead an elite police SWAT team into action to serve and protect the public. For final thoughts on the expansion, we caught up with VU Games producer Paul Pawlicki.
GameSpot: We've had the chance to play with the expansion, and we must admit that many of the new levels are tough. What was the thinking behind some of them, besides, "Let's make things really brutal this time"?
Paul Pawlicki: I agree that the new levels in The Stetchkov Syndicate are very challenging, but this is an expansion, after all. They should be par for anyone that played the original SWAT 4, especially with the new weapons and gear we give you. We basically tried to determine the difficulty in the last mission of SWAT 4 and dialed it back a few notches to come up with the beginning skill level needed for the expansion.
Tactics are a must. If you don't take your time and think about your next move, you're bound to get yourself killed. You should make sure to bring door wedges with you to control the exit points, use your optiwand to get a look at what you are up against in the next room, and outfit your team with plenty of gas grenades, stingers, and flashbang grenades. Following these kinds of procedures will help you to succeed. Another thing we've added to make things easier in the expansion pack is the ability to give hold commands. You can now issue orders to both your red and blue teams and have them initiate the action on your command. This allows for the simultaneous entry of a room from two points.
GS: The new melee attack is incredibly useful in subduing stubborn civilians--we find it to be a great relief after having had to resort to shooting out kneecaps. Tell us about this new addition--how did it come about?
PP: The melee attack came about exactly as you described it. It was our answer to get stubborn people to comply.
In SWAT 4, you can yell for compliance, but that isn't always enough. Sometimes you have to fire into the air, use less-lethal force, or (my favorite) shoot them in the arm or leg. The problem is that sometimes the suspect's or civilian's health would already be low, and a shot in the leg would be enough to kill them. While it's not exactly SWAT protocol to beat people into submission, we find nothing wrong with using a little force to get people to comply if it saves lives.
GS: Do you have a favorite new weapon or equipment item, such as new nonlethal weapons or light sticks? How does it make a difference in how you play the game?
PP: The light sticks are a great addition to the game. I find they are most useful in cooperative mode when you are playing with two separate teams. Deploy a light stick before you leave the room, and the other team will know you've already been there.
For sure firepower, the 5.7x28mm submachine gun packs a wallop, and it carries 200 rounds. But for me, the grenade launcher that fires less-than-lethal rounds is my favorite new weapon. You can plant a flashbang into an opening from 30 feet away and secure all of the bad guys in a room before they ever see you coming.
GS: In our time with an earlier version of the game, we found it difficult to get through a level without losing at least one SWAT member to enemy fire. Are there any tactics or tricks in particular that you can tell us about? How does the Irrational team do it?
PP: I agree, it is difficult to get through the level without losing part or all of your squad--especially in the later levels--but not impossible. Our testers can get through the entire game with perfect scores. They have to in order to make sure everything works like it should. They do it by using the tactics I mentioned above; put down door wedges, optiwand everyplace you can't see, and use grenades. When you know you are going into a dangerous situation, take the lead. Don't rely on your team. Take as many bad guys out as you can yourself and help clear the way for your squad.
GS: How does voice over IP (VoIP) work in the expansion? Will you be able to chat with everyone in a co-op game if there are two teams of five players each or just members of your specific team? What about in a free-for-all match or a team-versus-team match? Can you smack-talk the other team verbally by pressing a certain key, or will you just be limited to communicating with your teammates by voice?
PP: I should first explain that the maximum number of players in a co-op game has gone up from 5 to 10. It can be one team of 10 or two teams (red and blue) of any size, as long as it's not more than 10 total.
The VoIP feature is designed to allow these teams to more easily coordinate their movements and help to quickly convey messages to team members when the situation changes in a multiplayer game. Whether in co-op or team-based multiplayer, you can only ever talk to your team.
To enable VoIP, players hold down a hotkey to speak to their team. In a co-op game with two elements, players using VoIP will be able to hear and speak to players in their element only (which is also true for the helmet-cam feature). If players wish to be able to view the match through the helmet cams, as well as speak to and hear all players in a co-op server, they have the option of joining one element (up to 10) before the start of a co-op mission.
GS: Now that the expansion is pretty much done, what's next in terms of SWAT? Any more expansion packs or sequels in the works, or just long vacations in the future? We understand that Irrational (the developer of SWAT 4) was recently acquired by publisher Take-Two Interactive--how will this affect the SWAT franchise and any future updates (sequels, expansion packs, and so on)?
PP: I can't say enough good things about Irrational. They are a very talented and creative group and still remain some of the nicest people in the biz that I've had the pleasure to work with. Unfortunately, that does mean that they won't be available for any future versions of SWAT.
However, that doesn't necessarily mean the end of SWAT. SWAT is a franchise with a distinguished past and a history of quality, and we don't want to see that end anytime soon.
GS: Finally, any closing thoughts on the expansion?
PP: I really believe that The Stetchkov Syndicate is a worthy expansion to a truly great game. We hope that you'll agree. It will be on the shelves on February 28. And if you guys playing pirated copies really like our games (you know who you are), then go out and buy a boxed copy to help support us!
GS: Thanks, Paul.