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Police Quest: SWAT 2 Preview

The thin blue line in real-time from Sierra On-Line


There's a very, very fine line between cool and spooky; Police Quest: SWAT 2 promises to crab-walk and shuffle all over that line like a battle-suited government agent sneaking up on a Branch Davidian compound. SWAT 2 fuses the true-to-regulations mindset of earlier Police Quest titles with the real-time, strategic (or, more precisely, tactical), action mechanics of games like Command & Conquer and Warcraft. As the commander of a Los Angeles Special Weapons and Tactics team, the player will be called upon to conduct 15 missions - locating, surrounding, and confronting (and in some cases, just flat eliminating) a host of urban terrorists, would-be gangstas, and full-on psychopaths taking shots at commercial aircraft on the runway of LAX. And before you start having too much fun, bear in mind that the game scenarios herein are based on actual LAPD SWAT call-ins. Spooky.

In real-time, tactical-level situations, the player must manage individual SWAT team members and pieces of equipment in a select-and-order fashion familiar to anyone who has played Command & Conquer. Among the special forces at your disposal are police snipers, K-9 units, the ever-popular LAPD helicopters, and SWAT tanks - but only if you're playing the good guys, and nobody says you need to. The bad guys have their own 15 special missions in SWAT 2 as well, ranging from straight-up fights to special-agenda terrorist scenarios where their only job is to make sure the bomb goes off (and to not be around when it does). Along the way, former Los Angeles Police Department Chief and SWAT founder Daryl F. Gates provides in-game hints and insights (for the SWAT side, not the terrorists), helping guide the player through an effective course without smothering his tactical flexibility. SWAT 2's new multiplayer engine permits up to eight people to go head-to-head or group together as teams via modem, network, or the Internet (holding the promise of some truly spectacular same-side communication failures worthy of the six o'clock news), and a resizable playing field features smooth scrolling, zooming, and task prioritizing. At present some 120 fully rendered 3-D characters populate the game, each with his own particular artificial intelligence routines.

Last but not at all least: Performance evaluations, proper police procedure, conduct and even The Media play a part in the SWAT side's affairs, and poor performance or unacceptable conduct (recklessly endangering civilians, for instance, or taking unacceptable officer losses) will affect department funding and officer training for future missions. The SWAT player will need to reign in some of his more ridiculous or outrageous inclinations (presumably, you never know when some sprite wielding a tiny camcorder will run onto the scene); the terrorist player, on the other hand, can be... well, a terrorist. Some players may be slightly disappointed to learn that, due to the endorsed nature of the subject matter, there are no plans to have SWAT teams confronting renegade, loose-cannon police officers whose jobs have gotten too stressful; sure it would be fun, but it looks lousy to the LAPD media relations bureau - and anyway there's always the six o'clock news.

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