There are some moments in SWAT 4 that cut a little too close to the bone, in light of what's played out in the very-real news in the years between release and revival. There are scenes of pepper-spraying hostages who won't assume a position, and the bleak routine of seeing a squad-mate shouting at a corpse to surrender. And for some, it won't be a comfortable game to play, for all of its mechanical triumphs.Real-world concerns have shifted its depictions of elite police officers operating at their peak to parallels with incidents where people in those very positions have reacted wrongly, with tragic results—and they go beyond the names that make the international nightly news. Jason Westcott, 2014. Donnell Thompson, 2016. These fatal shootings of innocent people almost feel countless, and it's natural that many will be resistant to playing a game in which you are the person making the call: to shout out demands, to step back and reconsider, or to go in with guns raised and eager trigger fingers.
There are some moments in SWAT 4 that cut a little too close to the bone, and for some, it won't be a comfortable game to play.
SWAT 4 was produced by Irrational Games, and the Boston-based team managed to tap into what made Sierra Northwest's SWAT 3 of 1999 tick before adding their own touches over the top. What the preceding game achieved, so rarely for shooters of the late-1990s, was real, meaningful weight in its violence. Unloading a weapon felt like a last resort, as its impact on the situation was irreversible.SWAT 3 was a high-pressure mix of tense periods of waiting and brief explosions of no-options-left combat, its focus on the busywork of being an officer in such a position. But it never felt boring, or by the numbers. Its sequel took that atmosphere, that itchy drama, and the moment-to-moment mystery, and improved the immersion as befitted better technology. And it set the stakes higher, with memorably intense scenarios playing out, taking some truly dark turns along the way.
Shooting people here really feels like failure.
Opening fire on people here really feels like failure. In many tactical shooters of both then and now, the tension ratchets up as you creep around, and the combat acts as a release valve. But in SWAT 4, the pressure doesn't ease off—every time you fire a gun, you've just escalated the situation, quite possibly making it worse.Killing a suspect, in the "best-case" scenario, will award you zero points at the mission's end. Shoot a suspect who is surrendering, fleeing or doing anything that isn't pointing a gun at someone else aggressively, and it counts as an unauthorized use of lethal force. Do this even once on the harder difficulties, and you'll fail the mission.Which means your "best" course of action is also the one of greatest risk. You need to convince a suspect to surrender, which can involve shouting at them, or even hitting them with a mouthful of CS gas. But these actions can be difficult to execute when said perp is pointing a shotgun at your face—and one blast from it will instantly kill you.
Your "best" course of action is also the one of greatest risk.