Review by Traikan
A dream come true for the target audience.
Some people don't like top-down isometric shooters. Some people don't like cooperative games that require a coordinated effort to succeed. If you're one of those people, you should try Alien Swarm anyway because it's free.
On the other hand, if you're like me, and you enjoy top-down coop action like the original Alien Swarm offered then you are in for a treat. This is a sequel in every sense of the word, new equipment, new aliens, new missions, and it's free! There's only one campaign bundled in, but the map-making tools are extensive and intuitive, which is a rare combination these days, so expect to see a substantial custom maps community develop soon. I've never touched a map-making program since Warcraft 2 and I'm already making playable (if ugly) maps with just a few hours of work and some nifty tutorials. Give it a go!
A subjective category to be sure. Alien Swarm isn't going to impress anyone with its pixel count, and if you don't like the art style you won't find a lot to love here. I happen to like the practical approach to power armor and the visual style of the aliens, so it gets a 9/10 from me. The aliens and marines are both vibrant and distinct, it's easy to tell who is who and plan accordingly. The lighting effects are top notch, firing an assault rifle at a horde of drones in a dark corridor looks amazing.
Also subjective, but less so than graphics, the sounds in Alien Swarm are excellent. Aliens have distinctive noises that let you identify them from a distance, the weapons all sound appropriate and the marine chatter is atmospheric and entertaining. The built in music is great, but if you don't like it you can very easily add in your own combat music and have it play at appropriate moments.
This is where Alien Swarm shines. It's the most fun I've had with a group of 4 since the original Alien Swarm. Covering each other, advancing as a squad, accidentally remodeling your best friend's face with a stray shotgun blast, it's all great. The scaling difficulty levels provide a challenge for even hardened veterans of the original while letting casual players have a good time. The four classes each play distinctly and promote teamwork through their specialization. The interface is crisp, the levels are well designed and the controls are smooth yet precise. Good times all around.
In addition to replaying the official campaign on the various difficulty levels there's a Promotion Mode (like Prestige Mode in Modern Warfare), tons of achievements (speedruns, full campaign with no deaths, etc.) and the massively usable level creator to add to the fun. If you like the gameplay, you will not be disappointed in the content.
Play this game with friends. If you don't have a good group of friends to play Alien Swarm with you won't enjoy it nearly as much. It's free, so grab your cheapskate buddies and get a four player game going. You just might find the new main attraction at your weekly LAN parties.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Alien Swarm (US, 07/19/10)
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