Working together, killin’ some bugs. Steampowered.com
This reviewer couldn’t sleep last night. It’s hot in Boston. Luckily he was blessed with a game from Valve that helped him through the night, a free-to-play, complete gem of a game from Valve called Alien Swarm. For this reason and many more, gamers owe Valve a “thank you.” Alien Swarm is simply wonderful and a true testament to why Valve is one of the leading game designers of our times.
Alien Swarm is just all around solid. You team up with 3 other space marines and work your way through a series of chapters (levels) in one of several campaigns in a top-down, 3rd person shooter style. The main goal of your team is to complete objectives while facing off against deadly xenomorphs level by level through cooperation and knowing your role within the team. This is Alien Swarms main draw. Much like the Left For Dead games, the swarm hits you fast and hard with more than a few ways to kill you. There are regular grunt aliens, small facehuggers reminiscent of the Alien movies which infect you with a disease that kills you in seconds, bigger plodding mothers that can only be killed from the back, quick little flying pests, and a few more surprises. Want to be a tough guy and strike out away from the pack? You’re toast. The squad must work together, plodding through each level with a fine-tuned synchronicity in order to survive. This is where Alien Swarm shines the brightest.
Like many online games today, getting along is a must in order to complete the mission. This is so deeply ingrained in Alien Swarm that if your squad can’t decide on a good balance of the 4 classes the game offers before the match begins, you’re done for. There’s the officer, a typical soldier with a good variety of weapons. The special weapons dude, more or less your heavy. The tech, a more sneaky blend of medium-grade weapons and cool gadgets, and the medic, the weakest member weapons wise, but the only one who can offer the very important group heals. Every class also has either specific secondary tools or skills they can use (for example the tech can hack doors/computers for easy access to parts of a level) or a certain weapon that is only available to them (falling back on the classic heavy using the mini-gun here). However, all these ideals are interchangeable and your load out can be swapped in a healthy variety of ways. The game even has two sections of the basic 4 classes, each being different in terms of bonuses stats. A standard upgrade system is in place. The more you play, the higher your level gets and the more weapons and gadgets you unlock like shotguns, sniper rifles, a missile barrage, turrets, freeze grenades and a few more neat items. By completing class specific achievements this all goes faster, but overall, leveling is pretty much a breeze.
A lot about Alien Swarm is fairly standard, its just done very well. After a few levels you’ll begin to see what each squad member brings to the group and more importantly, appreciate the wonderful team work this inspires. This is Alien Swarm’s strongest suit. By working together everybody wins. Get a bunch of people who want to just do it by themselves, you’ll lose every time. The feeling you get when your squad runs smoothly and works as a well-oiled machine of bug killing awesomeness is truly satisfying. Although, its online, so creating this engine can be difficult. Oh, and friendly fire is always on so check your shots.
One of the best aspects of Alien Swarm is the fact that the swarm never stops coming in any part of any given level. The little buggers just don’t give up. Stay in one place too long and not work towards the objectives in a timely manner, you’ll have more bugs on you than a tic infested collie. Enemies hit relatively hard as well – a few whacks from a grunt, or a couple blasts from the green-goo explosions of the mortar based enemies and peace.
Control is good all around, a simple interface that you’ll quickly get familiar with reminiscent of Smash TV with a few tweaks and upgrades. Graphics aren’t wonderful, but surprisingly detailed at parts and the space marines and aliens look gnarly. Level designs are strong with many ever changing corridors and pathways to explore, neat details like ships, bridges, elevators and the like help flesh out the designs. The ability to weld and forcefully open doors is another interesting aspect of the game – often meaning life or death if you need to be on one side and the swarm on another.
This reviewer would be satisfied with Alien Swarm if he had payed for it. It isn’t exactly the same quality of what we have come to expect from a next-gen game in terms of overall polish, but the design is amazing, the gameplay is a complete joy and its just a freakin’ blast to play. The fact that it is free makes Alien Swarm a true gift from Valve. A lot of time and love was put into Alien Swarm. Some games that sell at retail don’t have as much spark and entertainment value as this simple, yet addicting top-down shooter. There’s nothing left to say besides, thank you Valve, thank you very much for this free-to-play, sweet nugget of a game this reviewer hopes to see more of in the future.
Click here for the free download through Steam.
– Jonathan Pickering