Police Quest: SWAT might actually be one of the worst video games ever made. Like Phantasmagoria and The Beast Within, it uses copious full motion video with digitized actors, but instead of keeping in the adventure game elements, it’s turned into some kind of sub-game, with only the barest minimal interactions. Daryl Gates, once again championed on the cover, is credited as the father of the Special Weapons Assault Team, hence the change in direction.
On the first of four CDs, you begin the game as a rookie in the SWAT squadron. Your first goal is to complete firearms training. You accomplish this by going to the firing range, taking out a gun, clicking on a target, and then repeat this for maybe thirty minutes or so. It’s hard to say exactly how long you’re supposed to do this – it just seems to go on forever until your commander lets you leave. Then you go to another firing range and do approximately the same thing, except against moving targets. Finally, if you elect to become a sniper, there’s another set of training you have to go through, although this is thankfully optional, because it’s much more confusing. Instead of just pointing and clicking, you need to fiddle with your gun’s sights to make it work, sort of like a similar thing back in Police Quest 2, but more annoying. Also, make sure not to skip any of the videos of your commanders talking to you, because they’ll yell at you if you do!
Once you’re done with that bit of drudgery, you can start the game proper. There are three different hostage scenarios, one each on the remaining three discs. There’s one with a deranged gun-wielding grandmother in a suburban neighborhood, one in a warehouse and one in an office building. Ironically, the training segments have absolutely nothing to do with the actual meat of the game. Neither do any of the video interviews with various officers regarding SWAT tactics. All you do is watch videos take place, and, at certain moments, make decisions by clicking on various parts of the screen. Click on the wrong place, or too early, or too late, and you’ll either get kicked off the team or killed. It’s roughly the equivalent to a slower paced Dragon’s Lair-style FMV game. To be fair, you can be assigned different parts of the team (you can only be a sniper in one of them, if you’ve completed the training), and since these are randomized, they won’t necessarily play out the same way every time.
The acting is on the level of a bad police television drama. Your commander tries to be a hardass, and your teammates will try acting friendly with you in order to give them some kind of personality. They’re paper thin, though, and the game is not at all about story or characters or action or much of anything, really. It’s mostly about watching videos of dudes in full combat gear with guns slowly walking forward, and every once in awhile, hitting a button and hope you don’t get shot. In other words, it’s a monumental waste of time.