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SWAT 4 is one of the last great tactical shooters. I still don’t think it’s as good as SWAT 3, but it’s still an amazing game and it seems to be the more popular of the two. In our SWAT 4 review I covered the SWAT 4: Gold Edition along with some mods including the H.S.M.E. Mod, SAS Mod, and the SWAT Remake mod. Apparently, we missed one of the most popular mods ever released for SWAT 4 – the SWAT: Elite Force mod. To play this mod, you will need the SWAT 4: Gold Edition, meaning you need the base game and it’s expansion The Stetchkov Syndicate. Shortly after we released our SWAT 4 review, the game was released on GOG so it’s now it’s much easier to obtain. If you’ve played SWAT 4, you probably know the game is very buggy. It almost feels like it was rushed out the door. Apparently, there were several cut features and one of the goals of SWAT: Elite Force is to restore these features. But it also attempts to make the gameplay more realistic and tactical.
First of all, installing Elite Force is extremely easy. You just place a folder in the SWAT 4 root directory and done. Nothing is overwritten and it basically acts like an expansion. So after installing it I fired it up and immediately noticed several improvements. The intro sequence is skipped and it throws you right into the main menu. In the vanilla game, you normally have to set the widescreen resolution in the game’s configuration file but this mod allows you to set it in-game. There’s now more resolutions available and you can also change the field of view. Other new options include the ability to use speech recognition which I didn’t try and you can even disable mission dispatches. Needless to say, I was already impressed and I hadn’t even played the game yet.
When starting a career, you now have three options. You can decide to play through just the SWAT 4 and the expansion missions combined, extra missions, or all missions. Of course I chose all missions because one of the coolest things about it is that it will pull all custom missions you have installed and combine them with the standard missions into one campaign. There’s even career stat tracking and while it’s a small thing, I love that it was included. You can decide if you want permadeath turned on for you or your squad members. Basically if you turn on permadeath and you die, you’ll have to start a new career. If you have permadeath turned on for your squad members, and they die, they’re out for the rest of the campaign. You’ll notice even more changes when you get to the equipment menu. Now there’s all kinds of new weapons and gear. There’s new assault rifles, marksman rifles, submachine guns, light machine guns, machine pistols, new ammo types, and even new protection gear including new helmets and armor. The new weapon models look fantastic and fit in great with the rest of the arsenal. You can now wear no armor, light armor, or heavy armor, and they do affect how much damage you can take. You need to be careful of what exactly your equipping your team with because too much shit and the game will warn you that one of your guys is encumbered. On the equipment screen is two new meters representing weight and bulk. Your movement speed depends on your weight and the more bulk you carry, the slower you’ll interact with things. If one of your guys is carrying a ton of heavy shit, you won’t be able to start until you reduce their load. I found that you can mix and match most weapons and gear without having to worry about weight or bulk but you still need to be aware if you’re equipping your guys with a heavy load. You can also decide how many magazines each squad member will bring with them. The only issue I noticed with the equipment screen is that sometimes the new gun models wouldn’t display but they do appear during the mission which is the most important thing. This didn’t happen all the time and all of these new equipment options are definitely a welcome addition.
The gameplay is where you’ll see the most changes. Sadly, this is one of those mods that includes the whole “headgear view” thing, but luckily, it only applies to the gas mask. Just like in the other SWAT 4 mods I reviewed, this view is just distracting and there’s no way to disable it which would have been nice. Your AI squad members carry more lightsticks, flashbangs are more powerful, you need to watch out for traps on doors like bombs and alarms, and now you can collect drug evidence as a secondary objective. You’ll also need to collect any drugs you find if you want to secure all evidence. This mod adds little touches of realism that you may not even notice unless you’ve read the “readme” file that comes with the mod. All shotguns can be used to breach doors and some of the less lethal weaponry, like tasers, can incapacitate or kill certain NPC’s like the elderly if you’re not careful. Although I have yet to see that happen. There’s also harsher penalties. For example if incapacitated NPC’s are not reported back to TOC in time, they can die. If one of your squad members breaches a door using C2, they can trigger the “unauthorized use of deadly force” penalty if somebody gets injured from the explosion. Snipers can also trigger the same penalty so you really need to be careful before shooting. You’ll always want to try to get NPC’s to comply, and you’ll always want to be super careful.
SWAT: Elite Force adds two big improvements that make it hard to go back to the vanilla game. The command interface received a complete overhaul. You can now get your guys to check if a door is locked, you can breach locked doors, move and open commands have been combined, and it just amazes me that the actual developers didn’t include some of these in the base game. You can have your team open a door and wait for you to make entry and it’s pretty cool to see in action. They open the door and they’ll be right behind you once your through. The new commands really change the way you play and give you all kinds of new options and ways to approach situations. If you enabled speech recognition in the audio options you can actually issue commands using your voice and apparently it functions just like the Speech Recognition Improvement mod, which I’ve never tried. The second big improvement is a small thing, yet helpful in so many ways. Whenever you receive a penalty, or if a suspect escapes, or basically if anything important happens during a mission, you’ll see an alert on-screen which is fantastic. No longer do you have to wait until debrief to know if you triggered “unauthorized use of deadly force” or not.
There are several changes made to the AI. Suspects will act more realistically. For example, some of the crazy suspects will shoot without hesitation, and suspects will even shoot at you as they’re fleeing, although sometimes it’s a bit buggy and you can see them clearly aiming in the wrong direction. The creator also implemented “random patrols” for suspects. They will no longer patrol the same routes over and over again, helping to make them less predictable. When one of your squad members restrains an NPC they’ll actually report it to TOC and that put a giant smile on my face. Although, they still need to be told what to do in regards to almost everything else. Another nice change is that your squad members no longer form “death funnels” in door ways. Now there are some issues with the AI that may be just with the base game and not necessarily the mod. For example, officers and suspects can still group together and form a clusterfuck. On several occasions I saw one of the officers refuse to get close enough to an NPC before using the taser, and he would miss every shot. At one point, one officer was standing in the way of an NPC and he would keep getting tased by another officer. Neither of the officers made any attempt to move. Like I said, these may just be issues with the vanilla game, although I never saw some of this stuff happen before the mod.
SWAT: Elite Force adds all kinds of little things that make a big difference. However, there are some new issues I noticed and I recently learned that some of these are “known” bugs. For example, sometimes the officers will ignore your orders which can be annoying. During one mission one of the officers got stuck and he just wouldn’t move. Officers will shoot through civilians, killing them, if a suspect is in sight. At one point a mission took forever to load and then after the dispatch, I was just kind of stuck and had to restart the game. Ragdolls and animations will still freak out occasionally and if you don’t install the v5.2 patch you may see additional issues with animations. Now I’m not a multiplayer person and I’ve never played the multiplayer in the original game nor did I play it with the mod. But apparently, the mod improves several aspects of the multiplayer which may be an awesome thing for some players. You can also play campaign missions cooperatively in multiplayer.
Now I’m just going to say it. This is the best SWAT 4 mod I’ve ever played. It restores cut content, adds new features, and overhauls several existing mechanics. The command improvements alone would have been enough to recommend Elite Force but the creator went above and beyond, and for that, I am truly grateful. Even with the mod installed, I still say SWAT 3 is the better game just because I prefer the setting and atmosphere. Although, that’s really more of a personal preference. Not to mention, the AI is still superior in SWAT 3 and it’s just less buggy in general. But I would say SWAT: Elite Force is a must for veterans of SWAT 4 and even newcomers. It improves so many things that I really can’t see myself ever going back to the vanilla game. SWAT: Elite Force is the way SWAT 4 should have been and then some. The best part is, we can expect future versions of the mod to release over time and I can’t wait to see what improvements are added in future releases.