Title: Alien Swarm
System(s): Windows PC
Release Date: July, 19, 2010
Publisher (Developer): Valve (Black Cat Games)
ESRB Rating: N/A but it’s good for ages 13 and up due to the violence of the game
Pros: It’s pretty simple and fun. It’s great if you have friends on Steam to play with though you could practice on your own in single player. The Software Development Kit (SDK) is available to all Steam users.
Cons: Occasional graphics slowdown, sometimes controls can make things difficult, far too linear.
Overall Score: Two thumbs up, 94, A, **** out of five.
It’s rare when you can actually apply the “you get what you pay for” thought to something cheap and have it mean something. It usually means that you went for the lowest price or bidder and the workmanship will likely be pretty shoddy. Still, sometimes you find something that is cheap or, in this case, free and it’s actually a pretty strong product.
That is what Alien Swarm is. It’s a lot of software that works pretty well for the price of nothing. Hurray! Time to delve deeper.
Keeping it simple
Right from the start Alien Swarm is uncomplicated. The storyline is almost the same as the movie Aliens. Aliens have taken over a colony world. You’re playing as a squad of marines that’s sent in to save any colonists still alive and crush the alien menace. That’s not even oversimplifying the plot. It’s exactly that. That’s not a bad thing though. It’s keeping it familiar to make it more engaging.
It’s fun because of the gameplay’s simplicity. Yes, Alien Swarm is a squad-based tactical shooter. Despite that, it’s presented and plays like a run-and-gun shooter, which works well. If it were a truly tactical shooter, it would work better doing an over-the-shoulder third person view or a first person view. The style is what it is though and it works. What helps is, much like Killing Floor or the Left4Dead games, the experience is enhanced if you have friends who have the game. You can play it on your own as practice as well, but part of this game is the social experience.
The campaign is short and only has seven levels. However, each level is pretty extensive so regardless of how linear they are, it still takes a while to complete. There’s also the fact that Software Development Kit (SDK) needed to come up with your own levels or mods is included in the installation. So, there is a lot of potential replay value.
Alien Swarm is slow and straight-forward
Sometimes there can be a bit of a graphics slowdown in Alien Swarm. This is even true in the single player practice sessions if you create a full four person team (you+four bots). When action picks up, a lot is happening and you’re dealing with entire swarms of aliens. It isn’t a major problem, it can just be a little bit irritating on occasion. When the slowdowns happen they usually only last a couple of seconds so don’t worry.
Some people may find the controls need getting used to. It’s mostly because a considerable amount of PC games like this out there opt for an Asteroids‘ style control scheme for the directional scheme. However, the control scheme for Alien Swarm is reminiscent of first person shooters. This means that if you use the default controls, but haven’t played many first person shooters, you’ll have to get used to the fact that the key that you’d think would turn a character left or right causes strafing. It makes the game seem like it would work much better as a first person shooter title.
There is also the problem of Alien Swarm‘s linearity. Yes, you do get the SDK with everything, which does offset the problem of linearity. Still, levels are essentially running from point A to point B with at most two ways to end up at the same point. Normally, those two ways are the main path and a branch that eventually reconnects to the main path, usually on the other end of an obstacle. Again, because you can build your own levels, this isn’t so much an issue.
Overall Alien Swarm is a very solid game. It’s also a lot of fun, whether you’re practicing on your own or playing with friends. It’s also free.
Just get it. It’s a high quality game and you really can’t argue with the price of free. Probably the only reason you wouldn’t be able to get much enjoyment out of the game is if you don’t like what seems to be its direct inspiration.