The SWAT series has reemerged on the PC in the past year or so as one of the industry's top tactical shooters. It's not surprising then that VU Games has decided to extend the franchise onto mobile phones, in the form of SWAT Force. The experience has been translated into a 2D side-scroller, but the team-based tactical theme holds up surprisingly well on the small screen, making for a fun experience that looks as great as it plays.
In SWAT Force, you'll control a two-man SWAT team, consisting of an artilleryman and an expert. Each team member has unique skills, but you'll control only one at a time as you make your way through the game's campaign. The team member you don't control follows right behind you, and switching between them is as simple as pressing the 1 key. The game does a good job of forcing you to switch between the two team members to take advantage of their skills, while never putting you in situations where the need to swap feels overly stressful or cumbersome.
The artilleryman carries a submachine gun and has the ability to force suspects to surrender when he's facing them. You can do this by repeatedly pressing the 3 key. Once suspects have dropped their weapons, you can switch to the expert, who has the ability to cuff and arrest suspects. The artilleryman can also throw flashbang grenades into doors, which can knock out any suspects in the room. In general, you want to keep the artilleryman in front of your expert if there's any possibility of running into a suspect, because he carries a larger gun and can force suspects to surrender. The expert is very useful though, as only he can defuse bombs, hack into computers to shut off cameras, and pick locks. Anytime you run into a closed door, you'll want to take control of the expert to make sure the door isn't booby-trapped and even use his fiber-optic camera to peek into the next room for threats. If you find air conditioning vents, you can also use the expert to toss in sleeping gas, which can knock out suspects standing near vents elsewhere in the building.
SWAT Force is split up into seven missions that have you doing a variety of tasks, like exploring buildings to defuse bombs, rescuing hostages, and arresting terrorists. You're scored on how many objectives you complete and are rewarded for taking suspects alive instead of dead. While the missions are generally well designed and pretty fun, it's a fairly linear affair that doesn't take long at all. You can blow through all the missions in about an hour, depending on how many times you restart. The trickiest parts of the game come in the later missions when you can accidentally trigger mines or bombs that are obscured by other parts of the environment, like potted plants.
The graphics look great for a mobile phone game--characters move around well, and gun effects and smoke grenades are animated nicely. The environments are also modeled with a good amount of detail, with junk lying around warehouses and with furniture in office buildings. The only disappointing thing about the presentation is the sound, which lacked sound effects of any kind on our Nokia 6620 test phone, other than some low-key beeping to indicate when you have executed an action.
SWAT Force is a pretty good translation of the SWAT experience into mobile format. The game has some nice tactical elements to complement the action, and you'll need to make use of both of your team members' unique skills to get through the missions, which are pretty fun. The game could have been much better had there been more scenarios and some sound effects, but that doesn't take away too much from the overall package.