Review by ArcticVanguard
Can't beat the price!
Alien Swarm is a 3rd Person Shooter created by Valve the PC. It features a rather unique bird's-eye view camera, from where you see your character and the characters your partners are playing as. Four people can play at a time, and that's really what this game is made for. Not only will you not survive with any fewer than four people, it just won't be as fun. If anyone ever reviews this for merely the offline portion, then they're missing out on what the game is really about. The controls are two-dimensional, although the map itself is three-dimensional.
You play a space marine (jeez, we've never heard that one before) in a 4 man squad, trying to accomplish various goals. Put simply, get from point A to point B while blowing up a lot aliens. Fun. The four classes available are the officer, the special weapons, the medic, and the tech. Most of the time, one tech is required to complete every level. The officer is like The Mario of the group, a well rounded character who is the jack of all trades, master of none. About the only thing he can't do is heal or perform tech puzzles. The special weapons is pretty much every other HWG (heavy weapons guy) you see in every other game, minigun and all. Here's your powerhouse character. Your medic is also pretty self-explanatory. You heal people. The skill of the medic can make or break a team, but a medic is almost always required, or else you'll die. The medic's fully capable of combat, but is best in a support role. The tech is the interesting class. Most levels, there are some puzzles that have to be solved in order to progress, and that's what he does. For each class, there are two characters with different bonuses in different stats, which adds for more variety and allows for more preferences.
I love the leveling system in this game. Your leveling up doesn't make your characters any more powerful. In fact, it just gives you more options. Think the weapon drops from TF2, except these are (somewhat) balanced. It really is all about playstyle. Some weapons are restricted to certain classes, but that's not surprising. I confess that I'm disappointed by how difficult the rifle is to use. It's very difficult to use when you're not in a corridor. There are also rank ups, which reset you back at level 1, but as far as I can tell, they really don't provide any benefit.
I can't play the game on anything but low settings due to my bad computer, so I can't talk much about the graphical quality on ultra-high settings. I must say that on low, it looks very good. The frame rate is rather variable though. Grenades kill my frame-rate, as does the elevator part of the second level of the campaign. Pretty much any explosions cause severe frame-rate drops. On the plus side, it doesn't stutter. It's very smooth, compared to frame-rate drops in other games, such as TF2 or L4D.
The game-play is very enjoyable and requires a lot of strategy and coordination between your team. It's unfortunate that a certain amount of knowledge is required of a level before-hand, especially if you're playing as a tech. The game isn't easy as a whole, and it's impossible if you're in a team where everyone charges forward. In my mind, that's a good thing, but that is a personal preference of mine.
Alien Swarm comes with a tile-based level editor. The level editor is very easy to use, and you can create your own level based around an example mission given in roughly 10 minutes or so. Compiling the map requires a pretty quick CPU; compiling the (large) map that I made took about 5 minutes or so on a core i3 at 2.33 ghz.
As a whole, I like the game a lot. I'd gladly pay 30 dollars for this, as it really does have the content of a full game. The SDK is well done, the graphics are beautiful, and the game-play is fun, fast paced, and exciting. Explosions cause some serious frame-rate drops and the levels seem too dark, but that's likely part of the art style of the game. A flashlight would've been a welcome addition. The mouse sensitivity is too high, and there's no real way to adjust it that I could find. Besides, you can't beat the price. The story is non-existent, but that depends on the campaign. I bet we'll be seeing some custom campaigns soon with tons of story to them. The sound is entirely forgettable, and I ended up just ignoring it. On the plus side, you can add on custom tracks that will play during intense fights. I haven't messed with that feature at all, though, and I'll update this when I've had the chance to. I wish they'd added support for more formats than MP3, however.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Alien Swarm (US, 07/19/10)
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