SWAT: Target Liberty PSP
Published by: Sierra
Developed by: 3G Studios
Release Date: Out Now
The SWAT series has gone through some changes over the years. The series was originally an offshoot of the Police Quest series and at times, has been a first person shooter and at others, a strategy game. SWAT: Target Liberty is effectively a tactical RTS that puts you in the shoes of Kurt Wolfe, a SWAT officer. You’ll have to tackle a multitude of missions accompanied by two fellow SWAT officers who are AI controlled (that you can give orders to). The game had the potential to be something special but it doesn’t quite turn out that way.
You’ll begin by taking four tutorials that introduce you to the controls and other game-play basics. The topics covered are Player Control, Team Control, Weapons & Targeting and Entry Tactics. The tutorials are well designed and introduce you to the game basics in a comfortable and easy to follow fashion. Once you’re done with the tutorials you’ll head off for your first mission in a Manhattan Subway to sort out some trouble that’s broken out between two Korean gangs, the Jopoks and Gangpehs. As you might expect, the trouble escalates and it’s up to you and your two AI controlled fellow officers to sort out the mess.
If you’ve played any of the previous SWAT games you’ll have a pretty good idea of what needs to be done in each mission. Essentially you’ll enter an area and slowly take control of the situation by handcuffing criminals and victims alike. The criminals will resist of course and encounters with them are fraught with difficulties and require the use of special methods (such as door breaching) and orders for your companions. Once you’ve handcuffed the criminals you’ll interrogate them and then proceed to find others. The game gives you access to flashbangs, lethal weapons, LTL (less than lethal) weapons and such like. Prior to a mission you’ll get to choose which two officers to take with you and each officer has their own special abilities.
SWAT: Target Liberty certainly had the potential to be something special but there are quite a few areas of the game that just aren’t that good. To begin with the game just doesn’t have much of a storyline. You just seem to go from one mission to the next with no real incentive for doing so. The missions are very slow paced and, it has to be said, very repetitive. You can make Wolfe run but his run isn’t much quicker than his walk and his walking pace is rather on the slow side. When you issue orders to your fellow officers by holding down the R button, moving the reticule and pressing the relevant buttons, the game doesn’t pause and this can cause problems as you’re basically leaving Wolfe standing there to be shot at whilst he’s ordering his fellow officers to carry out certain actions. It all feels rather clumsy and could have easily been resolved simply by pausing the game whenever orders are given out. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the AI controlled officers would use their initiative and attempt to find cover at all times.
Graphically, SWAT: Target Liberty looks quite good. The game is played from a raised, isometric viewpoint which affords a decent view of the action. The camera movement is automatic and it rarely causes a problem. Your AI companions can occasionally be off-screen but their position is indicated with the use of icons. The character models and various environments all look good. The frame rate remains fairly constant too. If there’s one disappointing element of the game’s presentation it would have to be the load times, which are lengthy at times and patience-testing at others.
Target Liberty is a bit of a mixed bag for deaf gamers. The game’s tutorials are in text. Mission briefings are in text. The games cutscenes are subtitled and the name of the character who is speaking is placed in front of the dialogue so you know who is saying what. Communications you receive are shown in text and can be read at your own pace. The game makes good use of icons to keep you informed. Objectives are shown in text and can be recalled at any time via the pause menu (that’s activated by pressing the start button). You’re also notified when objectives have been completed. Comments that are shouted out by your character are not shown in text however. Comments such as “In position,” and “Police put your hands up” are not subtitled. It would have been good to have had these comments subtitled as you should have some kind of feedback that compliance orders have been issued. Some of the comments from your team members are shown in text. These comments are displayed in white text and are placed at the bottom of the screen. On occasion they can be a little tricky to read and could have done with being placed on a dark-coloured overlay. For actions that require you to hold a button for a length of time, a meter is displayed to show you how long the button must be held down for. A countdown timer will appear when explosives are placed so you know that you have to move away before the timer runs out. Comments made by the person you’re restraining are shown in text and any interrogation comments are shown in text. There are quite a few context sensitive controls in the game and these are displayed in text on the bottom left of the screen. You’re also notified in text when a checkpoint has been reached.
SWAT: Target Liberty is in many ways quite surprising. I would have thought that a tactical RTS game wouldn’t have really felt at home on the PSP but the game not only looks good but feels at home on the PSP. It’s rather unfortunate then that the game isn’t more enjoyable. The game really needs a proper storyline and the missions ought not to feel so repetitive. Issuing orders during a shootout is a needlessly frustrating process and the game really should pause whilst you’re issuing orders to your AI controlled companions, especially as they don’t seem to use their initiative when it comes to finding adequate cover. SWAT: Target Liberty has its moments but you can’t help but feel that the game could have been so much better.