Alien Swarm is a F2P game on Steam (available for PC and possibly Mac as well, to the observant people who spotted the caption) produced by Valve where you and up to three friends jump into a colony-warehouse-disaster zone. But before I get started: same as ever, my patented mini-browsable tl;dr system is in action. For a crappy tl;dr, just read the bits in bold.
Alien Swarm is an online-with-friends setup, where up to four of you can take on a mishmash of roles from Officer, Special Weapons (read Heavy), Medic, and Tech to squash some very overgrown bugs. Each class has two ‘subclasses’, if you will – two characters with different stats: Crash and Vegas, the two Tech characters, have varying health, damage and whatnot.
The aim of the bug-squishing game is to complete every mission – get to the end of the level, and carry on without everyone dying. On the offline practice mode (where you play through the first third of the missions or so) all the missions blend together, but in multiplayer they are split into well-sized chunks where you can swap out roles and weapons.
It has a unique mechanic I’ve never seen anywhere else in online play; in the single player campaign you bring along three AI players to support you in alien-crunching madness, but in MP it’s only the online team, all alone. Sadly, the game also provides the Tech as a compulsory character needed for hacking though doors and activating lifts, so if you’re in with a single buddy you’d better get used to swapping between Tech and Medic I’m afraid! As the Tech character is compulsory, the game also has the irritating habit of auto-losing the level if the Tech dies with uncompleted tasks – understandable, if you follow the storyline – but makes playing anything other than Tech/Medic as the first two characters a sluggish game indeed.
Speaking of sluggish gameplay, there are a few technical birthing issues – Alt-Tabbing out of the game (using Alt-Tab to switch out of game, and then switch back in – checking Facebook during the outrageous load times, for example) creates a tantrum worthy of a Big Brother contestant, and the game doesn’t handle very well under anything but superb internet connection speeds; the Lag Demon is ferocious when provoked. A awkward key reloading mechanic is the final issue worthy of mention – you lose all extra bullets in your clip when you reload (understandable, when you think about it), but have the opportunity to do a ‘speed reload’ if you time a thing well on a scrolly bar, but the lack of any real tutorial left a giant question mark over my head for some time on that one.
All that said the actual gameplay is very entertaining, but only really if taken as a toy game from my experiences of playing. The heavily stereotyped characters and ridiculously overpowered attacks make serious gameplay a tricky goal – we (Montes Rook, cottonlips and myself – links below) tried playing a ‘realistic’ game, but when one punch is enough to turn the basic enemy unit into ET-jam the mission will often times degenerate into a dicking-about fest. That is by no means a bad thing, just not a very serious one.
The picture at top tells the rest of this messy, Salvador Dali warping of a game review; very nice graphics and animation, sound and HUD is a tick VG, but as a game from Valve this is kinda bread and butter stuff. We won’t miss it until it’s gone.
Overall verdict? If you and three friends have good internet and a few hours to kill? Go for it – it’s free and entertaining for a while. Want to play for more than 6 hours, ever? You might be pressing your luck there, I’m afraid. Want to be strategic? I give it 30 seconds.
30 good seconds, though.
Youtube links (as promised):
Dotwo – It’s in the sidebar! C’mon guys! – http://www.youtube.com/DotwoLP
Montes Rook – www.youtube.com/MontesRooky
Cottonlips (part of the PeaPals duo) – www.youtube.com/PeaPals
notwesleycrusher, signing off.
With ET-jam-sandwiches in hand.