Thursday, August 12, 2010

Alien Swarm

Alien Swarm is the remake/sequel to the 2004 Unreal Tournament 2004 mod of the same name make by Black Cats Games. During the development of Alien Swarm the Black Cats Team was hired by Valve, and between working on other more high profile games they managed to finish Alien Swarm. The game is completely FOSS, and can be downloaded off Steam completely free.

Both games are top down, four person coop, tactical shooters. You play as a single squad mate in a team of at most four. Each squad mate can choose one of the four classes. Every class has two variants with slightly different stats, meaning only 2 people can be any single class in one mission.

  • Officer
    • Main Advantages: Grants a passive bonus to damage and defence to all nearby squad mates.
    • Class Weapons: Vindicator Shotgun (only good shotgun in the game, and a great weapon).
    • Other Advantages: Can use more explosives then other classes.
  • Special Weapons
    • Main Advantages: Raw Damage.
    • Class Weapons:
      • Autogun, high rate of fire and ammo.
      • Minigun, higher rate of fire, but more spread and the need to spin up the chamber before firing.
  • Medic
    • Main Advantages: Ability to heal others.
    • Class Weapons:
      • Heal Beacons: temporary, deploy able, non movable, beacons that heal squad mates in a small radius around themselves.
      • Healing Gun: selectively heal team mates on the go.
  • Tech
    • Main Advantages: Able to hack panels, allowing squad to finish mission in missions that need panels hacked.
    • Class Weapons: Prototype Assault Rifle: auto aim and fires stun grenades.
    • Other Advantages:  carries a motion sensor, faster sentry gun setup and welding.

IAF Tesla Cannon (bottom) and
M868 Flamer Unit (top) in action.
Their are over 40 weapons/items in Alien Swarm, and 3 different elemental damage types over and above normal direct damage. The elemental damage types are electric, fire, and ice. Electric stuns foes, ignoring allies and passing threw shields, causing all hit to stop in their tracks and then walk slowly for little while; Fire initially stuns enemies and then causes damage over time until extinguished; Ice instantly freezes enemies, frozen enemies cannot move and suffer more damage from attacks until the status effect wears off. Some of the more useful items include: Adrenaline, gives team temporary slow motion, useful for performing hacks; Electric Armour, stuns all surrounding enemies with electricity and stops infestation;  Assorted sentry turrets.

The leveling system is a little strange and it is worth explaining it. As you level up you gain the ability to use new weapons and items. The levels span from 1 to 27; and the tiers (promotions) from none to 3rd. After every 27 level you are given the ability to go back to level 1 but go up a tier; The tiers are only visual and do not effect gameplay at all. The game seems like they have a good leveling system in place, as a players skill is pretty much guessable by their level (but a player with a high level does not have a very big advantage over someone just starting out).

Their are two main ways to play the game, rushing and slow and steady. In rushing the player(s) must never stop running and are pretty much forced to use a flamethrower and the adrenaline for hacks. The rushing strategy is to dodge and weave through enemies while setting them on fire and then to outrun the enemies. With a skilled team this method is easier in many situations then going it slow, but the dead wood tend to die off really quickly; Luckily, you should never need more then two people to pull this off correctly. This method is especially useful in the harder difficulties as their are some areas enemies continually stream out, so the sooner you leave the less monsters you have to fight. The second strategy, slow and steady, is best for less skilled players. This strategy requires a lot of ammo, and makes use of a lot more diverse items and weapons. The team must be work together; While some members pick up ammo get healed, other must cover them; While a squad mate set up a sentry or welds a door, others must make sure no enemies attack them; While one or two members push ahead, the rest must cover the back and sides.

Warning: It is a hard game until you get skilled at it, normally I play on the maximum difficulty for all games right from the start, I would recommend Normal to start off with for everyone who does not want to start on easy.

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