Watching the evolution of a video game series over a period of years can be pretty fascinating. SWAT: Global Strike Team, for instance, is very much a sign of the times. Global Strike Team is a new offshoot of the original SWAT series, a long-running line of police strategy games for the PC that was itself an offshoot of the original Police Quest adventure game series that started in the late 1980s. While the original games were of a plodding tactical nature, this newest SWAT game takes its cues from recent action-oriented fare like Rainbow Six and Counter-Strike. Global Strike Team features solid squad-based gameplay, and it introduces a pretty interesting new mechanic that fits into the game's context of law enforcement. Though some of the attempts at realism are a little baffling, the game should be quite entertaining and a good play for fans of tactical, real-world first-person shooters.
The year is 2008 and you're charged with protecting the law-abiding citizen from the forces of evil.
In the game's near-future setup, terrorism and threats to law-abiding civilians have escalated to the point that an international peacekeeping police force has been formed. This is, of course, the Global Strike Team, and the game places you in command of three of its members: Kincaid, the trio's leader and all-around tough-as-nails combat grunt; Jackson, the tech specialist who will defuse bombs and hack computers in addition to providing combat support; and Lee, the sharpshooter who's handy with the business end of a sniper rifle. You'll spend the majority of your time playing as Kincaid, leading missions and commanding the other teammates, but occasionally the game will change up the action. For instance, you'll occasionally switch from Kincaid to Lee, who's in a different part of a level providing cover fire, and you'll have to dispatch a few bad guys from afar before you can switch back to playing Kincaid again.
The main single-player campaign in SWAT: Global Strike Team is pretty straightforward. You play through a linear progression of more than 20 missions that take place in a variety of hostile locales around the world. You'll go everywhere from a besieged bank in Los Angeles to an old industrial complex in the former Soviet Union, and your mission objectives will have you tracking down key suspects, saving trapped civilians, and disarming bombs--basically everything you'd expect a crack team of international police to do. The game does a good job of spreading the locations and objectives around so you don't feel like you're doing the same thing over and over.
The Global Strike Team has to obey standard operating procedure, even when apprehending dangerous criminals.
In a tactical shooter, the linchpin of the game experience is in fact the shooting part, and in this area Global Strike Team does a good job. Before each mission you're allowed to select three weapons: lethal, nonlethal, and grenade. Unlike some realistic shooters, SWAT: GST doesn't bombard you with more weapon choices than you can handle. In the lethal category, you've got a handy assault rifle, a machine gun, a shotgun, and occasionally a sniper rifle to pick from, while a tranquilizer pistol is your standard nonlethal sidearm. Available grenades include concussion, flashbang, and EMP. GST makes up for the limited selection of main weapons by allowing you to upgrade these weapons as you progress through the game. You'll earn upgrade points based on your performance in the single-player missions, and these points can purchase larger magazines, recoil dampeners, more-powerful ammunition, and better targeting apparatuses for your existing weapons.
Once you're in a mission, the gameplay is of a pretty straightforward run-and-gun nature. You proceed through a map with one or both of your teammates at your side and attempt to complete the objectives while making no more mess than you have to. Thankfully, you won't be alone in your struggle, as the game's teammate AI is usually quite good at keeping up with you and will sometimes actually beat you to the punch in neutralizing hostiles. Furthering the realism, Global Strike Team has a feature that's quickly becoming de rigueur for tactical first-person shooters: voice command recognition. You can use the Xbox Live headset on the Xbox, or a SOCOM-compatible USB headset on the PS2 to verbalize commands to your teammates. This is by no means required, as you can issue the same commands with the D pad, but actually speaking to your teammates and having them do what you say certainly adds to the immersion factor. The game is generally pretty good at understanding what you say, and you can try out a number of keywords for each command to see which one works best for you.