SWAT 4: The Stetchkov Syndicate

SWAT 4 expands like bullets in so many tangos.

15_1There’s not much new content in SWAT 4: The Stetchkov Syndicate, but at least it’s pretty good. Here’s how it breaks down – seven maps, a handful of so-so toys, and some new multiplayer features. The name of the expansion pack refers to a gang of indeterminate Eastern Europeans or Russians or something. This particular gang is providing firearms to hapless stooges, like farmers protesting genetically altered crops and Christians against rock music, many of whom end up getting shot by you. It’s a thin attempt to connect the missions with a narrative.

The maps begin with a whimper, offering a variation on the amusement warehouse from the original game. Next up is a tenement similar to the tenement in the original game. But the developer also had some fun making the later levels, and it shows. They’re every bit as playful as the serial killer’s house in the original was creepy. The middle mission is oddly the hardest, since it’s timed (ugh) and tries to force you into using the ungainly night vision goggles, which are useful exactly nowhere else. The Stetchkov Syndicate concludes with a few uncharacteristically open maps.

The new hardware includes a few useful guns, like the scoped M4, which is ideal for covering your team as they advance down subway platforms or through a large warehouse, and the grenade launcher that gives your stingers, flashbangs, and CS gas more reach. There’s a souped-up, double-barreled taser that also works as a stun baton. This and the new fist with its infinite ammo make it easier to subdue the unruly. The punching animation is a bit silly, but then again, so is a SWAT team smacking around a freaked-out hostage. The best single-player addition is a convenient queuing option that lets you coordinate actions when you split your team into two elements. There’s a powerful bit of that old Rainbow Six planning payoff when you perfectly storm a room from two separate entrances.

Finally, you can use the Quick Mission Maker for multiplayer games. Using this to set up dynamic missions gave SWAT 4 unlimited replayability, and it also gives you access to each of the expansion and original missions from the get-go. This feature now extends into multiplayer cooperative games, although it’s disappointing that you still can’t bring AI teammates with you.

System Requirements: Pentium III 1 Ghz, 512 MB RAM, WinXP

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