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When it comes to tactical shooters, I think the SWAT games are the most accessible. They’re more forgiving than games like the early Rainbow Six titles and the original Ghost Recon. There’s no planning and no permadeath. You just need to be careful. Both SWAT 3 and 4 were exclusive to PC but it looks like Sierra didn’t forget about console owners. Developed by Argonaut Games and published by Sierra Entertainment, SWAT: Global Strike Team was released in October, 2003 for PlayStation 2 and Xbox which is the version we played for this review. SWAT: Global Strike Team is a more arcade-like experience with less focus on tactics and careful execution. You still command squad members, restrain suspects, and rescue hostages, but this is a much faster paced experience.
There’s two main single player modes, Campaign and Time Attack. Campaign is the basic story mode and in Time Attack you play through the campaign missions and try to achieve the best time. The timer begins running down from the start of the mission and you’re awarded more time for restraining and killing suspects. Any use of unauthorized force subtracts from your overall time. Unlike the SWAT PC titles, Global Strike Team attempts to make you give a shit about the story but, unfortunately, it’s uninteresting and accompanied by some downright awful voice acting. You play as Mathias Kincaid, leader of the TAC-3 team. Your teammates consist of Tony Jackson, a tech expert, and Kana Lee, a sniper. There’s twenty one missions in the campaign and each mission takes you to various locations around the world including Los Angeles, London, and Russia. A terrorist group known as the Omega Cartel are causing all kinds of problems and are involved with the drug trade, something like that. I would have been more interested in the story if the voice acting wasn’t so atrocious. All of the voice work sounds like it was phoned in and it’s just laughably bad. There’s also the cooperative mode. Two players can play through ten missions and they are different from the single player campaign missions. Many of these missions require both players to perform specific actions to proceed. For example one player may need to activate door controls for the other player or both players need to press buttons at the same time.
Before each mission begins you’ll receive an overview of the situation and then you’re brought to the equipment screen. From here you can choose your primary weapon – an assault rifle, machine gun, or shotgun. Your secondary weapon is always a tranquilizer which is non-lethal. You can also bring different types of grenades like concussion grenades, gas, EMP, or flashbangs which always seem to be the best option. You cannot equip your teammates. Most of the time you play as Kincaid but a few missions consist of a sequence where you play as Lee and need to snipe enemies to clear the way. Several missions force you to play as Lee which sucks because she can only bring a sniper rifle. Who fuck infiltrates a building with a sniper rifle? The sniper rifle can fire bullets or tranquilizers so Lee does not bring the tranquilizer gun. It really sucks that you get no other options when it comes to non-lethal and even other secondary weapons like pistols and for some reason all guns have infinite ammo. The amount of prime suspects scattered throughout the mission depend on the difficulty – Rookie, Veteran, and Elite. You must restrain them to be rewarded with Weapon Upgrade Points. You can customize every weapon minus the sniper rifle and tranquilizer gun. You can customize the weapons with different ammo types, magazine capacities, scopes, and recoil compensators. It’s not much but it does give you an incentive to not be trigger happy.
The missions contain a variety of objectives. Many just require you to get from point A to B but others include things like rescuing hostages and defusing bombs. Some objectives are timed so you need to be quick. If you or a teammate dies, you’ll fail the mission, and can use a continue to restart form the latest checkpoint or restart the mission entirely. You’re scored at the end of each mission based on your performance like time, accuracy, civilians killed and rescued, suspects restrained and escaped, suspects killed, and unauthorized force. Unauthorized force means you shot or killed a civilian or even a suspect before trying to get that suspect to comply. By mashing the “X” button, you’ll shout at NPC’s to try and get them to comply and surrender. Once the meter under your crosshair is full, a suspect will surrender but if the meter drains before you can restrain them, they’ll attack you again. You are authorized to shoot suspects if they fire at you first. Yelling at suspects not facing you normally always results in them surrendering immediately. Shooting at suspects will raise the meter faster unless you kill them. Sometimes you may just wound them, meaning you can still restrain them. In the campaign you can earn medals for missions based on specific achievements like completing a mission without using a continue, completing a mission without getting hit, getting a specific amount of headshots, things like that. You don’t earn medals in Time Attack. Now I’m not sure if it’s by completing a specific amount of missions, the letter rankings you’ve earned, but somehow you can unlock Extras which are just short videos for each character. The game calls them “action” movies and I don’t really understand the point of these. You watch criminals navigate areas, eventually getting taken down by one of the TAC-3 members.
During most missions, you’ll be accompanied by both Jackson and Lee. Sometimes it’s just one or the other. The command system in Global Strike Team is basic but familiar if you’ve played tactical shooters. You can issue your teammates to follow you, secure an area, open or breach doors, move to locations, and restrain NPC’s. If you have a headset you can even issue voice commands. Your teammates perform well enough and always follow orders. Whenever something needs to be hacked or if bombs need to be defused, Jackson will do it. Lee will do anything else. You and your teammates have health bars and when you lose all of your health, you die. There’s no health pickups or regenerating health so you need to be somewhat careful. When you approach doors you have two options – open it or tap it to throw a grenade in the room. This is one of the reasons why bringing flashbangs all the time is the best option. You can probably get away with bringing gas grenades, too. You don’t want to kill prime suspects or injure civilians, especially if you can’t see inside the room. If you switch to the tranquilizer so will your teammates and you’re always equipped with a gas mask and night vision. The gas mask lets you avoid the affects of gas grenades and night vision lets you see in dark areas. The beginning of the game consists of basic thugs and goons but as you progress you’ll encounter tougher enemies with better weapons and armor. You can blast through the first few missions using the tranquilizer exclusively but using guns later on will make things much easier.
Now the AI is alright. Enemies will shoot at you if they spot you, run to cover, throw grenades, and even kill civilians if you’re not quick in taking them down. But every now and then they show some stupidity as do your teammates. Sometimes you can kill an enemy and another nearby won’t react as if they don’t hear anything. I’ve seen several enemies just run past me to shoot one of my teammates. The teammates themselves will often remain in the open if they’re under fire unless you command them to move. You can run, crouch, and lean when standing still. Every now and then the mission briefings will indicate you should use stealth and I don’t really know what that means. I’m assuming it means you should use the tranquilizer but I wouldn’t say there’s an emphasis on stealth nor do you really need to employ any stealth tactics be successful. As long as you’re careful with your shots and stay out of harm’s way, you’ll do fine. You need to be more careful in Time Attack because there are no checkpoints. If you fail, you must restart the mission. Unfortunately, the environments can be confusing, both in single player and especially in the cooperative missions. All missions seem to consist of similar looking hallways and rooms, making it very easy to get lost. This becomes annoying when you receive a timed objective. Most missions seem to consist of very dark areas requiring you to use night vision which makes it even harder to differentiate areas. You get no waypoints or map to reference so you basically just need to figure out where to go. Granted, the environments are linear, but a little more visual variety would have been nice. I also don’t like the fact that missions need to be unlocked in both the Campaign and Time Attack. In the Campaign it makes sense, you unlock the next mission by completing the current one. However, that also applies to the Time Attack mode. I just wish that for any campaign missions unlocked, they would be unlocked in Time Attack.
I wouldn’t say SWAT: Global Strike Team is a looker. The visuals are okay at best and the besides most areas looking too similar, the environments just look and feel kind of bland. Nothing really pops out. There are some nice little touches like chalk outlines of dead bodies and I thought the muzzle flashes from your guns looked pretty cool. When it comes to the audio department, this game really shines. The weapons sound incredibly powerful and feel satisfying to use. Firefights can be intense, especially later in the game, and it’s the sound design that really drives the intensity. Whether it’s the sound of glass shattering or even just the sound of footsteps in water, this game manages to really excel in the audio department. It’s just a shame the music is forgettable. As for the performance, the game runs relatively smooth in any single player modes but the frame rate drops are noticeable and are even worse when playing the cooperative missions. I didn’t notice any game breaking bugs or glitches which is always good so I would say this game performs rather well.
SWAT: Global Strike Team is nothing like the PC titles. The story sucks, the voice acting is horrendous, and there’s not much in the way of tactics. However, I would recommend this only because it is fun. Thanks to the multiple difficulty modes, medals, and weapon upgrades, this game offers a decent amount of replay value. You can even play through co-op specific missions with a buddy and there’s even a deathmatch mode which we didn’t try. I’m going to assume this is just a very underrated title. I never heard of it until I discovered it a few years back and it’s not actually not that bad of a game. Some may compare this to Urban Chaos: Riot Response, another shooter revolving around police taking down criminals, and I do think that’s the better game but SWAT: Global Strike Team is still a good time for any fan of action games and shooters. Definitely check it out if you haven’t already.