Sierra stopped by our offices yesterday with the newest version of SWAT: Global Strike Team for the Xbox, and we got a chance to see how the game is shaping up. The SWAT series has been a mainstay on the PC for years, and in bringing it to consoles, Sierra is attempting to create a faster-paced, more action-oriented experience that retains the strategic qualities of the original. From what we saw during a brief demo, Global Strike Team is shaping up to be a solid tactical action game in the vein of Counter-Strike and Rainbow Six, with some unique features of its own.
SWAT: Global Strike Team's main gameplay component is a linear sequence of 21 single-player missions, and we got to take a look at excerpts from a couple of these. Each mission will present you with an objective based on a developing scenario--you'll have to rescue hostages from a terrorist situation or apprehend suspects during an ongoing robbery, for instance. At the beginning of each mission you can select your weapons loadout based on three categories: lethal weapon, nonlethal weapon, and grenade. Among available lethal weapons are a rifle, a shotgun, and an Uzi-like submachine gun. Nonlethal weapons, such as a tranquilizer dart gun, will be used for incapacitating uncooperative foes that you need to bring back alive. Finally, an assortment of grenades--including concussion, smoke, and EMP--will be available for selection.
The coolest and most unique feature of SWAT: Global Strike Team that we saw is the way you can interact with members of your squad using voice recognition. You'll lead one, two, or three teammates (depending on the mission) into combat, and you can use the Xbox Live headset to actually bark orders at them and communicate with other nonplayer characters using preset words and phrases. For instance, when you enter a room, you can yell "SWAT! Get down!" and nearby hostiles will surrender their weapons, assuming they're cooperative. As police officers, you'll need to avoid any unnecessary casualties, so you'll be restraining suspects with handcuffs whenever possible. While you're covering a room, you can order "Restrain" to your teammate, and he or she will listen to you and secure the enemy. After watching a bit of the gameplay, it seems that you'll be able to use voice commands to perform quite a few functions in the game. There are multiple words or phrases for the same action so you can choose the one that you feel comfortable with--the game will pop these up around your crosshair at the appropriate moments. If the voice recognition feature works as well as it seemed to during the demo, it should add quite a bit to the immersive quality of the game.
Graphically, SWAT on the Xbox looks very nice. The characters are solid and animate well, and the environments are suitably gritty. Of special note is the lighting--Argonaut has implemented an impressive lighting effect that does a remarkably good job of simulating sunlight and giving the game a generally realistic look. Alas, much of the audio in the game is still placeholder, so we can't comment on what its final quality will be like. Your teammates will have a wealth of recorded dialogue, fortunately, and even with the placeholder voice acting, it was pretty cool during the demo to have the AI allies responding out loud to voiced commands.
SWAT: Global Strike Team seems to be coming along nicely on the Xbox so far. The game is slated to ship in October, and we'll bring you more coverage soon.