Review by SmoboHash
"Alien Swarm -"
Alien Swarm is a free game made by a small team within Valve, and available through steam. It was developed originally as an Unreal mod several years ago, but has been released as a standalone game now. It is a third-person shooter from a top-down perspective where you fight swarms of aliens (who knew?) with three other marines. While it is true that many players only came for the Team Fortress 2 hat, many of these people stayed for the wonderful co-op gameplay.
Gameplay Alien Swarm is a game that is very similar to Left 4 Dead 2, in which four survivors fight hordes of zombies, er, infected. In Alien Swarm, however, the four marines fight aliens in a more active way. In other games, the goal is simply survival. In this game, you need to kill the aliens while achieving objectives. The main difference is that rather than defending an area, you're cutting your way through it to secure the objective. My main problem with the game is its length, it doesn't take long to play through the campaign, as it is about the length of two Left 4 Dead 2 campagins, but there is only one. However, the ability to select a campaign makes it probable that we will receive more later.
The game's controls are simple, you use WASD to move in all four directions, while your character aims toward the mouse. They work quite well, in that you'll have them mastered in five minutes if you're used to controlling with a keyboard. It has four difficulty options, easy, normal, hard, and insane. Normal in this game is harder than it is in most games, and insane is just about suicide. Easy mode is forgiving enough, however, that anyone could play it.
When you start a game, you pick one of eight characters, each having one out of four classes. There are two characters per class, with slightly different bonuses. For example, one Officer has a high bonus to your team's damage and defense, while the other has a high bonus to his own Shotgun damage. Generally, you need one person to play each class, or you won't make it very far. After choosing a character, you choose two weapons, which can be anything from an assault rifle to a satchel of ammo. After picking two weapons, you select a sidearm, which includes things like flashlights, grenades, and adrenaline. As you play games online, you earn experience based on how well you did. These experience points go toward leveling up. On each level up, you earn a new item that you can equip. I like this system, in that it provides an RPG element to the frantic shooter combat.
Gameplay - 8/10
Story The game takes place many years in the future. The basic story is that the Alien Swarm attacked the human race across its many planetary colonies, and you, the marines, must fight back. There is currently only one campaign, but it is expected that either Valve or modders will come out with new ones that expand on the plot. There really isn't much of a backstory, and you get the feeling that you're playing a sequel without playing the original. The story isn't compelling, but it isn't a big enough factor to really detract from the game.
Graphics Beautiful. This game has very nice graphics. My only gripe is the inability to turn off or down the film grain effect. The gunfire really looks good, and the laser sights allow you to easily stay out of the line of fire. When things die, you see a satisfying squirt of green alien blood, and they quite obviously die. One of my favorite effects is the adrenaline item, which slows the game down to a crawl. It stays smooth and pretty even while participating in a finale event. The Tesla Cannon, a gun that shoots lightning, also looks incredible. When you fire this things, you really light up the room, and enemies who have been shocked tremble and spark quite a lot. The fire effect looks exactly like fire, and even projects light on its surroundings. They aren't the best or most realistic graphics that I've seen, but they are perfectly suited to the game and enhance the stellar gameplay.
Sound The sound is pretty well done in the form of sound effects, but the voice acting is less than perfect. The voices are hard to understand, and don't sound as impressive as you would imagine from seeing the characters. One neat feature of the sound system is to add your own music to play during intense combat scenes. Everyone has their preference, but a few of your favorite non-vocal songs into the playlist can really add a lot of fun to the game. Shooting lightning at aliens while the song Ride the Lightning by Metallica is playing is always a hoot. Overall, the sound effects and music are good, but the voice acting is not very good at all, making it tough to know exactly what your teammates are screaming.
Play Time/Replayability The campaign only takes an hour or two, but if you are a fan of cooperative games, you'll know what I mean when I say that it doesn't matter. The game hasn't been out long enough for me to be bored of it, and I can see additional campaigns in its future. Every time you play with new people, it feels like a new game. I can understand if other people would feel differently, though.
Play Time/Replayability 8/10
Final Recommendation This game is free, and is better than games that I've paid $60 for. If you have a steam account and a good computer, grab this immediately. Even if you don't like it, there's literally nothing to lose.
Final Recommendation Download It Today!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/22/10
Game Release: Alien Swarm (US, 07/19/10)
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