E3 '07: SWAT: Target Liberty Updated Impressions

We get a close look at the PSP translation of the popular series.

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The vaunted SWAT series has offered PC gamers excellent tactical shooting gameplay for years. It is now making its way onto the PSP in the form of Target Liberty. It will feature the same characters and voice actors as the PC games, but that is the exception to the rule: SWAT on the PSP is being built from the ground up. We sat down at E3 2007 with Sierra to see how it's been shaping up since our last glimpse.

While the previous games in the series have been first-person shooters, Target Liberty takes a top-down perspective. Before each mission you will have up to four officers from which to choose, though you can only take two with you into battle. Those computer-controlled officers are a big key to your success. Developer 3G wants to balance depth of gameplay with simplicity of controls, so while you can assign specific behaviors and weapons to them, they will generally do what you do. If you crouch and sneak into a room, they will do the same. If you equip a particular weapon, they will follow suit. If you do decide to issue commands manually, though, it's as easy as holding the right shoulder button.

There's more to playing SWAT than just fighting, of course. Each officer has a particular skill, such as intimidation, accuracy, or observation. At the end of each mission, you will earn a number of points depending on how well you did. These points can then be used to upgrade your officers' skills. For example, an officer skilled in observation will be quick to spot other NPCs at first, but once you upgrade him, he will be able to identify which is friend and which is foe.

In Target Liberty you'll get to explore a variety of locations in the Big Apple, such as Central Park and Grand Central Station. Sierra is quick to point out that many of these areas had to be scaled down to work for the PSP, but the maps we saw were still crisp and detailed, and it didn't seem as though any corners had to be cut to make SWAT look as good as it does at this prerelease stage. Actually, this version features at least one marked improvement over the PC games. In the PC titles, the stand-alone missions aren't held together by a strong story arch. On the PSP, producer Scott Rosenbaum of FX's television series The Shield is developing the narrative, which should provide a more cohesive experience for SWAT fans.

There's a multiplayer component as well. Up to four players can join each other via Ad Hoc play, and there are about 10 pre-designed maps to choose from. However, there will also be a random map generator that should provide some multiplayer longevity to tactical shooter enthusiasts.

Target Liberty seems to be a successful translation of the well-loved SWAT series. We won't need to wait long to see how it fares, however: The game is due to be released in October. We'll bring you a full review around that time.

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