RPS Verdict: Alien Swarm

By RPS on July 20th, 2010 at 5:40 pm.

It's important to keep your aliens warm.

Alien Swarm is out! And free! A four-player co-op alien-shooting game. What better choice for a four-person blogging team to Verdict? Except that Kieron’s on a plane, and Alec’s locked in a cell deep underground. So it fell to Jim and John to dispense the only correct thoughts and opinions anyone should have. Thanks to Phill and John G. for making up our numbers. Read our thoughts on the game below.

Jim:: Okay, so. Alien Swarm was a game I played at a LAN about five years ago. It was amazing fun because it was so intense. Really tooth-and-nail co-op experience. And now it seems it’s back, with the same name, and all shiny and beautiful. A phoenix-like work of developmental magic. I can’t really explain that. CAN YOU?
John:: I think it has something to do with the death of the Sun. I never played the mod, because mods aren’t good enough for me. I only play proper games. But I’ve played an awful lot of Shadowgrounds.
Jim:: Yes, it’s very much in that school of Oh-This-Is-Aliens-From-A-Top-Down-Perspective
John:: But unlike Shadowgrounds and others, this is four-player co-op. And without four, it’s not really worth trying.
Jim:: And, sadly for Team 17, it makes Alien Breed Evolution look a bit stiff and uninspired. Which is a shame, because that’s a fairly entertaining game.
John:: Yes. Valve making a free game in your genre must be a bit like entering a county fair chilli cooking contest, and finding out Anthony Bourdain is participating.
Jim:: So, we have some describing to do. Firstly, this game is free, so there’s no reason not to try it. Secondly, it’s co-opy. There’s no real single player, but you can play it offline, taking control of all four soldiers independently. Playing it offline is missing the point, a bit, because this is meant to be the kind of game where you are hollering across voice-comms to panicking chums.
John:: You’re meant to be screaming and shouting and laughing.
Jim:: Not that we panicked, because we are stone-cold logic-bots.
John:: Well, WE were. But Phill Cameron was there, gibbering like a new-born baby. And Hexapodium was like, “I can’t carry on – there’s too much wee wee in my pants.”
Jim:: That’s true. Our brothers in arms were blubbers in… fnnarmes.
John:: Qualms.

John:: So how does it compare to the original? It’s still top-down four-player shooting of swarms of enemies.
Jim:: Yeah, pretty much, it’s just polished up. There’s a slight angle in the camera, there’s more weapons, lashings if lighting effects, new enemies, the ability to dive and roll, clever equipment, physics puzzles. There’s quite a lot of stuff. Including a decent front end that’s roughly based on Left 4 Dead, for co-op ease.
John:: It’s so much fun chatting in the lobby, working out who should bring what equipment. If you bring the welding torch, I’ll bring spare ammo. And your flame thrower should compliment my minigun splendidly.
Jim:: Yeah, it’s one of those games where the loadout is one of the most entertaining aspects. How your four men are equipped really matters. And we should mention they have four classes, even though you don’t need to take all four. Officer, Special Weapons, Medic, Tech, and those equate to some specific bits of equipment. (I think you always need a tech.)
John:: And there’s levelling up, getting you access to more weapons and items.
Jim:: Ah, the levelling up. I was almost surprised to see it, but I guess I shouldn’t have been.
John:: There’s no levelling trees, just new items unlocked. And it doesn’t make you better at the game. So a level 11 playing with a level 1 matters not a jot.
Jim:: Yeah, that’s my favourite kind of levelling. Horizontal, not vertical. More stuff, not better at stuff.
John:: And this is a small thing, but it makes such a massive difference that it loads the level before the lobby, so you go straight into it.

John:: So we should describe our experiences. Tell a story from today’s play, James Xavier Rossignol.
Jim:: Hmm, kind of a tough one, because it’s generally: shout, burn aliens, and then either die, or complete the level. But it’s worth noting that many of the levels are open ended. It’s not always a linear path, and you can often choose to tackle different objectives, and take different routes.
Jim:: As we did on the Mall level, quite a bit.
John:: Heh. Yes. One moment that stands out was Phill’s desperate run to reach the end of a level, the rest of us dead, waiting for the elevator to arrive. All of us screaming support from our corpses. As the waves of enemies became utterly ludicrous, and he ran out of ammo. It’s that L4D vibe, of seeing the ending, but not quite being able to reach it.
Jim:: Yeah, absolutely. It’s those moments that make these kinds of games sing.

Jim:: So it’s worth pointing out that this is free, but it’s also a single campaign. Hopefully the community with seize on it and make lots more campaigns, now that the tools are available.
John:: About two hours to get through it?
Jim:: Yeah, I reckon.
John:: That sounds short, but there’s lots of reasons to play it again. And you can see why they’ve released the level building kit at the same time. I reckon in a week there will be a list of recommended campaigns.
Jim:: Yeah, and I hope those guys find ways to create interesting, open-ended levels, too. There’s so much scope.
John:: It’s remarkably polished. But we did encounter one incident of characters getting stuck in a wall.
Jim:: Yes. However, in conclusion, we can only take this game as evidence of showing off.
John:: Absolutely.
Jim:: Valve are no longer a game development company, but a showing off company.
John:: “We thought we’d make the best example of this genre in our spare time.” It’s utterly beautiful too. The water effects, the displacement of the laser beams in the water, the lighting, and especially the shadows. The way aliens can leap from the foreground, almost blocking your view as they descend into the level.
Jim:: Yes, it’s got depth, and DEPTH. Both kinds. And that has to be a recommendation from us.
John:: It’s free Jim! Free!
Jim:: Hooray!

SWISS!

John:: Okay, I have one issue with it.
Jim:: Yeah?
John:: A few levels did rather rely on knowing what was going to happen. And while that makes for awesome opportunities to work on tactics, it does also mean there’s that thing where someone who’s done it before has to talk everyone else through it. “Okay guys, watch out, they spring from behind that door.” I’d REALLY like to see the Director get involved in this game. Mix it up, move the eggs, change the flow of swarms.
Jim:: Yeah, it’s true it can fall back on psychic pre-knowledge
John:: But that’s my only complaint.
John:: How many high-fives out of a chest-bump do you give it?
Jim:: Seventy-eighty-nine!

H5!

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186 Comments »

  1. gerafin says:

    It comes out on the day I’m away from my PC, of course, and- oh! I start my new job tomorrow. All this anticipation had better be worth it (although it really does seem like it will be).

  2. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    It is a fantastic game. I cant wait to see the community levels, and possibly game modes.
    L4D survival would work wonders in this game, with you equiping how much spare ammo? How many medics? How many SGs?

    And yes, the director would make this game unbelieveable, but what are the chances of that happening?

    • Dominic White says:

      The console command ‘asw_horde 1′ turns on the director. It’s disabled by default, because it can really screw things up for the players sometimes.

      Also, there’s a random level generator, and easy tile-based level creation. More info here:
      http://developer.valvesoftware.com/wiki/Swarm_TileGen

      I’m not exaggerating when I say it took me three minutes to generate a whole new level from scratch.

    • Dominic White says:

      To be precise, there’s a variety of commands under the asw_horde setting – you can change what sizes of groups it spawns, and with what regularity, etc.

    • R3D says:

      For all that just wait for Alien Swarm 2 in a year and wait for all the internets to bich about how they dont want to pay for it because the first one was free.

      allso i havent played it as i have no nets atm =(

    • El_MUERkO says:

      The game is awesome fun!

    • Dominic White says:

      @Jim – Blimey indeed. Valve have dropped a quiet little bomb here. Half the really cool stuff about this game hasn’t even been seen in action yet.

      Give it two months, I reckon, and there’ll likely be a lot more missions in active circulation. The tilegen editor is notable in several ways. First, you can make generic room-pieces in Hammer, then just bolt them into any level in Tilegen, but you can also compile a completed level made out of prefab segments in Tilegen and export it to Hammer to add polish and detail.

      If you’re just playing quick-generated levels, you can even invite friends straight into playing with you, and it’ll compile a copy of the level for each of them as they join, rather than trying to distribute the pre-baked version to everyone.

    • John Walker says:

      asw_horde is an unknown command.

    • Dominic White says:

      Sorry – forgot to clarify. It’s not asw_horde by itself, but there’s a whole variety of asw_horde variables that should appear in the console when you’ve typed that, including what enemies are spawned, how many, etc.

    • Dominic White says:

      To be EXACTLY PRECISE, the key command is “asw_horde_override 1″ to activate it, and then tweak with the variables until you’re not being horribly murdered all the time.

    • Stabby says:

      I foresee awesome base defence maps in our near future, with hundreds of aliens attacking at once, and four guys desperately trying to hold them off. Fantastic.

      Also, Starship Troopers scenario remakes? I think so.

  3. Rich says:

    No voice chat at my end. I’ll have to play the strong, silent, frantically miming that there’s an alien behind you, type.

  4. ChaK_ says:

    I like it.

    It just needs a little time for the modders to make campains and such

  5. RvL says:

    Unfortunately, Source still loses at Voice. You can either struggle to hear game audio over voice, or vice versa. There’s no option to use a headset for voice and your speakers for game audio.

    For a game that relies on positional audio to give you an idea of where your next attack will come from, this is a huge loss.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Actually, it wants you to rely on the radar and your eyes, and secondly my headphones HAVE positional audio.

      Stop being a cheapass and go buy a better pair. I know they exist because I have a pair.

    • Starky says:

      Stereo headphones are ALL positional audio, don’t believe that 5.1 surround headphone crap, ears have no ability to judge position except for “left and right” and by the brains ability to differentiate volume in the left and right ears and calculate direction based on that difference (basically the same way it judges depth with the eyes).

      Which can be perfectly accurately simulated with 2.0 headphones.

      Sadly what cannot be simulated, by any system available – is the ability to tell up from down by tilting the head slightly (putting the ears on a diagonal).

      Now a gaming headset with a gyroscope in it that could measure the angle of the head and then calculate proper sound locational values… THAT i would buy.

      Proper 3D sound…

    • Curvespace says:

      It’s a bit more complex then just change in volume between the ears (though it is the most obvious and strong effect). There’s also minute delays from sound entering one ear to the other as well as the loss of high frequency sounds from one direction as the head causes a natural buffer from one ear to the other. Then there’s the shape of the ears (they are scooped to focus on sounds from the front – if it were simply based on the volume of each ear then we’d be unable to differentiate between a sound directly in front of us and one directly behind us as they’d both provide the listener with a balanced sound). Then there’s the disparity of the acoustic space depending on which ear gets the first pass of audio vs the other ear which might pick up more reflections if it is facing away from the sound source. Blah blah blah blah, complicated as hell and I’ve never heard a convincing implementation of it. Just get some decent headphones that are comfortable and don’t fatigue your ears.

    • Curvespace says:

      Sorry, should have said that the implementation of any of this stuff will be happening in the soundcard (EAX usually) and has nothing to do with the headphones themselves, so yeah, Starky is definitely right in that respect :)

    • Farewell says:

      I think you’re all missing his point: the games don’t support letting you have voice sent to your headphones while ingame sounds and music is sent to your speakers.

    • luckystriker says:

      This is why i love RPS. One moment we’re bitching about headphone/speaker separation, the next I get to learn about how the human brain perceives sound!

    • Curvespace says:

      @Farewall: Ahh, yeah, you’re right. That’s a bit easier to solve :)

    • Vagabond says:

      Manhunt on the PS2 did that if you had a USB headphone thigno (IIRC). It was pretty neat.

      I tend to use ventrilo for chat in Valve’s games, since the in game chat stuff has never worked as well for my friends and I as we’d like (we also tend not to play with random people so everyone in the game is on the vent server). I suspect you could probably pipe vent through headphones and leave the game’s audio to your speaker system in a suitably advanced O/S*.

      * suitably advanced O/S may not exist yet.

  6. Vinraith says:

    Now see, this is the problem with the games press and multiplayer games. It’s lovely that you guys can drum up a full party of other people to play with, even in the absence of Kieron and Alec, but quite a lot of us don’t have that luxury. It’s quite relevant, in the case of any game that doesn’t scale to the number of humans present, to know how it plays with less than the optimal number. Taking as gospel that it’s useless in SP, 99% of my MP time is spent with one or two friends at most. How does it play under those circumstances? Can the bots handle it?

    • Rich says:

      Maybe the RPS group on Steam might help in getting a game going.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Get on the forums, use the Steam group. The RPS community is heaving with decent people to play with.

    • Wilson says:

      @Vinraith – I’m not sure that there are any bots unless you’re in completely offline mode. There are difficulty settings, which might allow you to compensate if you only have 3 people (or two skilled people maybe). But it would be nice if they’d put some serious work in on the bots. I don’t see that happening though, since if they didn’t bother for L4D it would surprise me if they did it for Alien Swarm.

      People might make some campaigns designed for less than four players though.

    • Wilson says:

      @Rich and Jim – Yeah, I was thinking about checking out RPS for people to play with. I’ve got my brother here on a LAN, but that’s only half-way there :)

    • Vinraith says:

      Playing with internet pick up groups (even very nice internet pick up groups, like those formed here) is a fundamentally different experience than playing with friends. It can be fun on its own merits, but it’s got absolutely nothing to do with the question I asked.

    • Pesforozo says:

      I was playing in a pair, and providing you load out with self heals, you can bring a sentry gun, ammo and a couple of weapons between you to feasibly get through it.

      We beat the first two levels, got our hats and had fun. Others may disagree, but I’d recommend giving it a go. People said the same thing about L4D, and yet I enjoyed it in generally silent public servers. YMMV, as always.

    • The Innocent says:

      @Vinraith

      The bots aren’t very useful. They really either just follow or stay, so they’re like mobile gun platforms. There might be a way to jump between your marines in online mode (there is in offline practice mode, and there was a way to do it in the original, in which two players with two marines each would just micro their squad), but I’m not certain. Though from what I’ve seen in online mode, they mostly just follow you and shoot (think of the bots in L4D).

      I played last night with someone from RPS, and we had a good time. I have enough friends to fill up a game with cooperative players so long as we can get one or two RPSers in there. The real deal here is to get people who will go slow and coordinate, rather than the random masses who like to run and shoot and die and then draw penises on the planning map for all to see.

    • The Pink Ninja says:

      I have yet failed to make a full tea within one minute of creating a game.

    • Pmeie says:

      Really? I made a full tea in a minute… but my kettle was already boiled.

  7. Monkeybreadman says:

    I think i speak for everyone here. If someone was to say to me, ‘someone has got to bum or you die’. I would say ‘Valve’

    • Rich says:

      I think I speak for everyone when I say; ‘what the hell are you talking about?’

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      We can’t *all* speak for everyone. Also: what?

    • Quasar says:

      I think Jim speaks for me when he says: What?

    • Fumarole says:

      It doesn’t help my confusion any that I read that as bum or die.

    • gerafin says:

      I’m glad to see you’re so supportive of Valve’s bums. We just might have to make a Steam group together, or possibly children.

    • gerafin says:

      @ Fumarole: Yeah, that IS an M. Try copy-pasting 0.o

    • Quasar says:

      Congratulations, Monkeybreadman. You have successfully weirded out most of RPS.

    • Flimgoblin says:

      But also entertained, it’s not so bad when it’s entertaining.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Sorry, breadman, most of us don’t speak Fribblydy-zip-wip-gumble-dumt.

    • Harlander says:

      A leading cultural anthropologist writes:

      He’s referring to the popular playground verbal challenge favoured by young boys,

      “If you had to bum Hitler or Saddam Hussein or die, who would you bum?”

      Apparently his take is somewhat more open-ended, and.. less necrophiliac.

    • Shih Tzu says:

      Thank you leading cultural anthropologist! You were a wise grant money investment after all.

      Also, is “bum” the transitive verb of choice for ass-sex among British sixth-graders? That’s adorable.

    • Earl_of_Josh says:

      I think everyone speaks for me, as I have no idea what is going on with this statement. But I enjoy it nonetheless.

    • Monkeybreadman says:

      Thankyou thankyou * takes a bow and leaves *

    • Jimbo says:

      I think Monkey means if he had to allow someone “access” to his bum or die, he’d choose Valve. Knowing what he means does not help the weird-out factor.

    • The Pink Ninja says:

      Can “Bum or die” please be the subtitle to a game pleeeeeeeease?

      “Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines: Bum or Die”

    • Chizu says:

      I think I speak for everyone when speaking for myself, that everyone speaks for me speaking what was spoken.

    • FRIENDLYUNIT says:

      I read “bum” as “burn” which didn’t help either.

      Also, penguins!

    • Chester says:

      Pologies mates, but could I bum a fag?

      Cheers.

    • Nallen says:

      Has anyone really been far as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

    • Czechton says:

      But has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

  8. Berious says:

    They seriously need to seperate out public games that have started from games awaiting players. So far my entire online experience has been watching people in spectator mode.

    • rxtx says:

      Yeah, I’ve found that a bit. Its not too bad though since the levels are short and link to one another, but I definitely expect to see this feature soon. The lobby is generally pretty poor, and doesn’t give you any info on who is an a given game and what classes/loadout they have. If I’m wanting/not wanting to play medic for example, it would be handy to see what classes are already assigned in the game you’re joining

    • battles_atlas says:

      It does frustrate somewhat that whenever someone releases a co-op/multiplayer game they seem to have to re-learn how to build a lobby browser from stratch every time (looking at you DICE). Why didn’t Valva just stick the L4D browser onto this? Works perfectly well. This is adequate, but omissions like being able to chose games which are still in the lobby rather than started is pretty basic.

      Unfortunately my righteous anger is rather hamstrung by the whole ace-game-for-free thing.

  9. Berious says:

    They seriously need to separate out online games in progress and games awaiting players. So far my entire co op experience has been watching matches as a spectator. Thrilling stuff.

  10. MartinNr5 says:

    As soon as I get my Compy486 in order I’m giving this a try!

  11. Tedinator says:

    For some reason I was under the Impression that there was going to be a mac version. Darn.

    • Quasar says:

      It is quite strange that there isn’t. I doubt it’ll take long.

    • Shih Tzu says:

      There probably will, eventually, maybe. My understanding is that the Portal 2 codebase is built for simultaneous Mac builds, but everything outside of that (including this game) requires some effort to port. From user “Poodle” on the Steam forums:

      “I don’t think [mocking Valve's earlier announcement of OSX as a "Tier 1" platform is] entirely fair. What they mean is that anything built with the Portal 2 codebase and beyond will have simultaneous releases on the Mac because the framework is built with the Mac in mind and so produces both Mac/PC versions of the game every time they recompile. Games built from a different codebase (GoldSrc; older Source Engine frameworks; SDK) will need to be ported to include Mac support, at which point all future updates for games that use them will be released for both Mac/PC simultaneously.

      As disappointed as I am that Alien Swarm won’t be available for the Mac at release, I can also see that it’s unfair to hold Valve to supporting a simultaneous release for a game that was coded by some of its developers in their free time, using a framework (SDK) that was not planned to have Mac support until much later on (if at all?). Indeed, its entirely possible that the Alien Swarm developers didn’t even know that Mac support was a future goal for Valve when they were readying Alien Swarm for release. As it stands, we would actually be asking for Valve to hold back the game from the PC until the (large?) effort of porting the SDK was done for the Mac. Instead, look on the brighter side: the PC folks will be stress-testing the game so that when/if Alien Swarm arrives on the Mac all the annoying gameplay bugs will have been addressed and you’ll have a much more fun initial experience with the game!”

  12. PleasingFungus says:

    Played through the full campaign (on Hard) with a few friends. It seems really, really fun, and I’ve already had more than a few story-worthy moments. (Playing as the Tech, trying to figure out the computer-hacking minigame as my friends fight desperately behind me – hearing them scream and watching them die – finally solving the puzzle just as the last of them dies, leaving me to be torn apart by an angry horde; and later, laughing as our Medic (and only our medic) dies in the first two missions, then watching him play the sole survivor on the third; much later, watching our Medic get hit by a Parasite, and seeing a squad-mate, desperate to help, blast him with the flamethrower…; finally (on our sixth try) figuring out the correct loadout for the last mission; the only thing better than a P-Gun, it turns out, is two P-Guns…)

    I just wish there were more places to use the welding torch and sentry gun – they seemed largely useless on the later levels.

  13. T-B0N3 says:

    I played it today with 1 friend for a while and later on with 2 friends. And it works fine. You don’t get any bots added, you simply have less players. Playing the offline part alone is abit boring though

    • Vinraith says:

      What kind of idiotic game has bots in single player but doesn’t fill out a party with them in multi? I mean, the bots have already been programmed, what possible reason is there not to use them as as a spot filler?

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      You know if you spent less time whining on these threads and making friends, this would be a non issue, Vinraith.

      Seriously. Hop into the RPS steam group, loudly announce “HEY I WANT PLAY ALEIM SWURM” and I’m sure you can find three other people.

      You don’t have to talk if you’re secretly a celebrity. Just try to find someone who tells everyone else what to do so you don’t have to delegate.

    • Vinraith says:

      Bad design is always an issue. A multiplayer game with bots already programmed that doesn’t make use of them makes no sense. Even if you’ve got a full group, you’re going to get occasional drops.

    • SamuraiPie says:

      Holy misanthropes Vinraith, do you have to find something to whine about on every single Valve related article ever posted on RPS?

      Dude. THIS TITLE IS COMPLETELY FREE! Like, they are giving away a moddable co-operative game with a new revision of the Source engine, the full code base and editors – a significant labour of their employee’s time and their expense – without asking for any kind of compensation from you, the potential player, in return. You don’t even have to play it if you don’t want to!

      To say it’s idiotic because you can’t find 3 other people who will willingly play this game with you is much more damning of your own flaws than it is of this freebie. Even any complaints you have specifically with the actual game are pretty much null and void by the fact you aren’t paying for a single penny of their hard work, so are entitled to absolutely nothing from them in return. They don’t owe you squat.

      Look – I love RPS; it’s my favourite site in the interwebs, but the consistent and ridiculously negative comments from people like yourself on so many posts that simple don’t warrant it are a stain on this community… The elitism, pessimism and over-inflated sense of entitlement on display are absolutely astounding at times.

      My apologies to the rest of RPS for tone of this post. I’ve just read too much of this kind of commentary here and had to say something. I’ll shut up now.

    • The Innocent says:

      Actually, that’s when bots appear in online mode: when you have random drops. So you have four people playing and one disappears, and voila, a bot takes over. Then your friend can hopefully get back in. It happened a couple times last night in the group I was playing with.

      I do agree it’s obtuse that you can’t just put bots in while playing online (or at least, easily — I imagine there’s *some* way to do it). Still, the game’s been out less than a day. Negating the whole “it’s free” argument, your complaints have been voiced (and with less indignation) on the forums that Valve actually looks at. I wouldn’t be surprised if adding bots in online mode is patched in fairly soon.

    • Vinraith says:

      Free games can have bad design too. I’m not suggesting Valve owes me anything, I’m not suggesting I have to play the game (though I’m sure I’ll give it a shot, bots or no), but I fail to see how pointing out what I see as a poor design decision warrants the kind of hate filled diatribe you just scrawled out. I love this site too, and I don’t think baseless personal attacks do anything to contribute to the atmosphere around here.

    • Vinraith says:

      @The Innocent

      Ah, all that’s good to hear, consider the matter dropped. This is a sore spot with me, not because of this game but rather because of having had this exact experience with the GRAW games. Bots in SP but no bots in multi, so having spent a fair bit of money to get a good co-op game we ended up with something we couldn’t play. It’s a bafflingly obtuse design decision and I think it’s important that people say so when it comes up, though you’re entirely right that railing about it here is undoubtedly pointless.

    • The Innocent says:

      @Vinraith

      I agree, and I do hope that bots in multi gets patched in (I suspect it will, but there’s always the possibility of it getting overlooked eternally). I think the default right now is no bots because online mode can be played with two people, and they don’t want you to be forced to play with two humans and two bots — just my theory. But an easy option would be nice. I loved in the first game when I played with just one friend and we’d each control two marines. It was tricky, but it worked perfectly fine.

    • Vinraith says:

      @The Innocent

      Indeed. The nice thing about Source, as well, is that I suppose with the bots already having been programmed they might be modded into multi by some enterprising individuals. Valve’s commitment to modding is a great thing, as of course is their having released an excellent free game to the community (one bad design decision or no) in the first place.

    • megalomania says:

      I for one am astounded that Vinraith finds it hard to find people to play with.

    • jaheira says:

      “I for one am astounded that Vinraith finds it hard to find people to play with.” – that’s not necessarily the problem. Some people eg. me , just don’t like playing co-op games with strangers. Full stop. Valve’s total conversion to co-op – TF2, L4D, L4D2, Portal 2 and now Alien Swarm is irritating. Valve perches on the windswept pinnacle of game design, and I can’t play their stuff.

    • bleeters says:

      I am sort of agreeing that having bots automatically fill up empty slots would probably be useful. Apart from anything else, it’d be nice if one of you wasn’t forced into the, say, Squad Bitch/tech marine role every time. Having a bot take over that would be welcome.

      Still, I’m finding it hardly worth complaining about in the grand scheme of things.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      It can be somewhat annoying to have to consult all your friends before you buy a game. I had to give L4D a miss because none of my friends played PC games at the time. Luckily by the time L4D2 came out people had upgraded or I’d found new people and have had a lot of fun with that one.

      For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s as crucial as people are saying to have four people in Alien Swarm. Me and my friend jumped in and got through the first two missions on normal. We had a bit of trouble on the third mission, but then we got a third friend in on it, and had no real problems for the rest of the campaign. I imagine if we had four people throughout we would have set it to Hard or higher; the difficulty works well as a scaler for lack of people.

    • Saul says:

      But we’re not strangers, we’re RPS!

      And in that spirit: even though Vinraith’s whinging can be annoying on occasion– he’s RPS too. Like my father, his constant complaining is comforting, in a way. I’d miss it if it was gone.

    • jaheira says:

      @Saul
      “But we’re not strangers, we’re RPS!” – I think you might be over-estimating the element of familiarity in an online community here. I’ve got no idea who any of you are, and that’s fine.

      I like Vinraith’s grumpiness too. He’s like his curmudgeonly avatar.

  14. Sigma Draconis says:

    Alien Swarm is great. Since this is one of my only two real Online Co-Op experiences (the other being Killing Floor from the recent Steam Summer Sale), I’m starting to understand the enjoyment people get from such gameplay. It’s this particular brand of teammwork (preferably with friends, but some unknowns are fine too) that feels more somewhat more intimate than standard team-based games.

    One campaign currently being available is a downside, but a very temporary one. With the SDK immediately available, we’ll see user-created maps/campaigns released in at least a week, among other things.

    If Aliens: Colonial Marines somehow never gets to see the light of day, I might take this as collateral.

    • Dominic White says:

      “With the SDK immediately available, we’ll see user-created maps/campaigns released in at least a week”

      I was playing with friends on a user-created map within *three hours* of launch. Expect to see full campaigns pretty soon.

    • gerafin says:

      @ Dominic White: Is that Hold Your Colour I see there? The thumbnail is too small to be able to tell.

    • Dominic White says:

      Yes, Yes it is. It’s like a musical good-luck-charm that I bring everywhere with me online to calm raging tempers and mellow out grumpy sorts.

    • matte_k says:

      @ Dominic White: The title track of that album always puts me in a fine mood, i must admit- as does “M4 Part II” by Faunts

    • Dominic White says:

      Personally, I think Girl In The Fire is the best track on that album, but it’s pretty much all good.

      Not too sure about their latest album. Teaming up with screamo bands seems like a rather questionable move. Some of it is nice, though.

    • gerafin says:

      Through the Loop feels like a (refreshing) punch to the face, perfect for when you’re falling asleep driving or something :) But I’ll have to agree that Girl in the Fire was the strongest song on that album. It had nice psychedelic bits that reminded me of some of my favorite prog rock bits, and some pretty funky rhythms to boot. Phenomenal, it always amazes me how they combine different genres into such pulse-pounding songs.

    • gerafin says:

      And I meant to say that it reminded me of my favorite prog rock BANDS, but my edit button is broken *cough*

    • HybridHalo says:

      Heh, despite owning that album I assumed Dom’s avatar was part of the Flashback (Amiga) Box Art…

  15. Quasar says:

    I just finished a three-hour epic journey through the whole thing with a bunch of randoms. It’s a pretty damn intense experience, thoroughly worth the £0.00 I paid for it.

    It’s a bit Left 4 Dead, but with a bit more tactical complexity.

  16. Radiant says:

    This game is ridiculous amounts of fun.

    Allow me to cut and paste my rules from the previous release article:

    #1 People who pick the heavy weapons specialist ARE FUCKING CRAZED MURDERERS.

    #2 When you, as a medic, throw down a heal you’re basically throwing down a ’shoot me’ beacon as all your team will run towards you guns blazing.

    #3 The techie needs to be renamed RAMIREZ.
    Stay alive, seal the door, open the door, crack the computer, start the generator, STAY ALIVE.

    #4 You really should have at least one person who knows what to do.

    #5 Seriously… one person on your team needs to have the game manual open at page 1.

    Great game. although a couple of bugs [heh] including a random terminator alien that never dies even vs fire and the level spinning around as if to check it is not dreaming.

  17. Choca says:

    The only thing wrong I’ve found in this game is the “find a public game” lobby, which is pretty horrible.

    Aside from that, it’s pure gold.

  18. DarkFenix says:

    I really want to like this game, but it’s literally the least functioning game I’ve ever seen. It’s in the habit of crashing, and in so doing resetting my level to 1. First time this happened a full reinstall fixed the problem, second time no such luck.

    I know it was free, but for Valve to release such an unbelievably broken product is not on.

    • Spectre-7 says:

      @DarkFenix

      That really sucks. Personally, I’ve had exactly one lock-up and an otherwise flawless experience through 20+ level-ups. I always hate to ask this, but do you think it might possibly be something with your particular system? From my own experience, I’m just not seeing the level of broken you’re reporting.

      Cheers, and good luck!

    • Skinlo says:

      Yes, because you crash suddenly make the game broken.

      I’m lvl 17, haven’t crashed once yet. The only glitch I have seen is where someone fell though the floor and died, but thats hardly game breaking.

  19. Bozzley says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzNk8FiNKy8 – a video of a frig that gets voice through your headset and game audio through your speakers with Steam, by what sounds like a 10 year old.

  20. Tei says:

    I have not played yet, but what you guys describe about a tile editor is interesting.

    Maybe will that editor work for other games created with Steam? like that Might and Magic game (or whatever was called) and the L4D one (that don’t really need it, but he!.. give power to teh people!)

  21. Bozzley says:

    That was to RvL, btw.

  22. Malibu Stacey says:

    You could always try making friends with more than one or two people. A good place to find people interested in playing multiplayer internet games with you and possibly being your friend too is on the internet I’m told.

    Try it sometime Vinraith, you might actually find it fun if you leave all your preconceptions behind for once (not holding my breath).

    • Earl_of_Josh says:

      Seems a bit harsh, especially when you are trying to convince someone they are going to find friendlies on the ‘net.

    • Fumarole says:

      It’s certainly not impossible to someone with patience. For the last several years I’ve added Steam friends with whom I play many multiplayer games other than the one we were playing when we first met. Hell, it’s not limited to online gaming, we chat about all sorts of things online and some of us have even met up in meatspace for the first time this year at the GDC. Sure there are lots of annoying people online, but for every one of them there are many more who want the same experience as you. Starting out with an open mind (and a mic) is the first step.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Earl_of_Josh

      Shhh, I was kind of enjoying the irony. :)

      The whole conversation’s kind of inadvertently hilarious, really, especially since I already said in one of my first posts that it can be a lot of fun to play with internet pick up groups. For some reason the mere notion that playing with internet folks and playing with real life friends are two different, non-comparable experiences seems to send some folks into a rage. I don’t understand it, but there’s probably a social psych thesis in there somewhere.

    • Devenger says:

      For me, it was the jumping to the description of ‘idiotic game’. Alien Swarm isn’t a kind of idiotic game because of one missing feature.. Yes, I think it should be there (click empty slots to toggle bots and select their equipment would be perfect). But, damnit, it’s not an IDIOTIC GAME.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Devenger

      The lack of that feature is idiotic, the game is not idiotic. I never meant to imply the game itself was idiotic. “What kind of idiotic game” was a poor choice of words, but was meant solely to convey frustration with regard to a specific absent element of game design (which has burned me before, as mentioned, in non-free games and thus provokes a strong response). Suffice it to say I lament the absence of the edit button.

    • Torgen says:

      The problem people have, Vinraith, is that you do nothing but whine and declare things crap because they may have a multiplayer component emphasized over single player. You’ve frankly become like a broken Bieber record everyone’s sick of hearing yet again. It has become your total identity on this site, and from the comments, there are more than a few that are tired of it.

      Perhaps you’d have friends to play multiplayer games with if your tried to be likeable for once. Could you go for a week without grousing, whinging or haranguing? That would be a fantastic start.

    • Vinraith says:

      The problem people have, Vinraith, is that you do nothing but whine and declare things crap because they may have a multiplayer component emphasized over single player.

      Odd, I can’t recall ever having done that.

    • bleeters says:

      I don’t particularly see “it’d be useful if you could add bots to fillup empty slots, the fact you can’t is a bit of a daft oversight” as some unfounded, crippling accusation. It would be nice if empty slots would be auto filled.

    • Vinraith says:

      @bleeters

      In fairness, that’s exactly how I should have put it. That is, as a calm constructive request, rather than something that apparently read to a lot of people as though I were trashing the game. Folks like Torgen seem to be misreading me on a pretty regular basis, I’ll have to be more careful about how I state things in the future.

    • Clovis says:

      I don’t get all the vitriol. Vinraith almost always adds to, not detracts from, the discussion, even if I don’t agree with him.

  23. Yargh says:

    I still don’t see anyone asking the important question: Is John a terrible medic?

  24. DarkNoghri says:

    I counted last night. Off of my Steam friends list, about 23 people were playing games. Roughly 16 of them were playing Alien Swarm. This is somewhat unusual.

    Me, on the other hand, after switching servers settings to Africa so I could download the darn thing, I got invited to play L4D2, which paused the download. Thus, I have not played this yet.

    Question, as I don’t recall seeing it answered above: Was John the medic?

  25. Al3xand3r says:

    I’m a bit disappointed to see the in-between-levels upgrading is gone, I think they could have fit both that and the permanent COD style unlocks well. Say, you unlock a new pistol, but to use two akimbo style you need to upgrade your character during the duration of a campaign, much like the first Alien Swarm.

    The same for the L4D style campaign/level selection. Going out to the map screen and then choosing your next level with potential for branching paths and what not was a good feature in the mod version, they could have kept that yet still let people play any level any time as in L4D for those into that.

    And yes, a L4D style AI director would be good for replayability, but the way this game is set up it would also be harder to make good levels for, what with running out of ammo being a possibility, unlike in L4D where you can always find an ammo stash so there’s really not much tension there in that regard. It would be workable in lower difficulties here but not on the harder modes. Unless of course Valve comes up with something creative and I love them even more for that in the future.

    • The Innocent says:

      I’m a bit relieved that between-level upgrading is gone. In the original it was a lot harder to just jump into later levels without playing the earlier ones, because then your marines didn’t have the benefit of the extra upgrade points. Although Valve’s base campaign in the new Alien Swarm still starts easy and builds up, no upgrades between levels also makes it possible for levels in future campaigns to start hard without the obligatory beginning-easy-so-you-can-get-some-experience-points missions.

      I’m on the same page as you with the director though. On normal mode it would be awesome to be constantly swarmed, but on hard or insane it would be impossible. I’d sort of like to see just a different difficulty (“Swarm” or somesuch), in which the aliens still move fast, but are easy to kill and come in huge director-managed waves.

  26. We Fly Spitfires says:

    Hmm… looks shootingly awesome :P Must try!

  27. geldonyetich says:

    There may not be a L4D style AI director, but I did notice on my many runthroughs that there is some element of randomness to the levels. Sometimes aliens will pop over that railing before the extending bridge that is right before the part where you blow the pipes, sometimes they won’t. The rooms where the eggs spawn in the mall randomize to some extent.

    That said, I do look forward to seeing a lot more levels for the game. The original campaign is great romp – I unlocked the entire armory on day one on a few playthroughs – but I’m definitely hoping there was more to it.

  28. subedii says:

    Jim: : And, sadly for Team 17, it makes Alien Breed Evolution look a bit stiff and uninspired. Which is a shame, because that’s a fairly entertaining game.

    No I think it genuinely is stiff and uninspired. I was bored the whole way through that demo. The graphics were muddy and unclear whilst trying to channel the spirit of Gears of War, and there was zero tension to the proceedings.

    Meanwhile I’ve only had the time to play Alien Swarm once as singleplayer, but I can already see the awesome possibilities.

  29. bakaohki says:

    I find the four legged headless stuff everything but scary – can I haz real alienz plz? Giger and stuff? And spooky atmosphere too? ;_;

    • Nick says:

      I imagine it won’t be too long before replacement models exist.

  30. hexapodium says:

    RPS Namecheck! Hooray! The “screaming at Phill to get to the exit” bit is so very true…
    Walker is a reasonable healer in this, though.

    • Yargh says:

      nonono, this is all wrong! John Walker being a competent healer does not fit in my world view.

  31. The Pink Ninja says:

    I liked it. I feel it could be improved somewhat and I wish my team-mates were as skilled as me, but nothing is perfect.

    It’s FUN, it’s FREE and from what i know of Valve and the community it’s sure to be much improved and replete with maps.

  32. Archonsod says:

    It needs more overdramatic and slightly sarcastic voiceovers. Particularly those informing you of people about to die or shooting food.

  33. Redford says:

    Everyone in the NS community is making fun of me because I got crushed by a door. :(

    • Lilliput King says:

      Door falls on my sentry, it explodes, takes me and two of the team with it.

      Goddam doors.

    • terry says:

      In my first game I couldn’t even get through the door, just welded it repeatedly to the jeers of my team :-(

  34. RIchard Fairbrass says:

    Space Hulk mod anyone?

    • Armyofnone says:

      Oh my god. Richard Fairbrass. You’re a genius. SOMEONE MUST MAKE SPACE HULK.

    • NieA7 says:

      First thing I thought when trying it out was Hulk, properly modded version would be great.

  35. Vinraith says:

    Have there previously been any isometric Source games/mods, or is this the first?

    • gerafin says:

      Besides the few real-time strategies (doesn’t really count) I don’t think so. There is this, however:

      http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-749828.html

      IceIYIaN claims that you can make any (?) source game isometric. I might just have to try it out when I get back to my gaming rig tomorrow.

    • Vinraith says:

      To the degree this will serve as a template, then, it should usher in some fascinating new mod projects. That alone makes the whole exercise worthwhile, a fun little MP game is just gravy.

    • LionsPhil says:

      @Vinraith: Er. Alien Swarm is not isometric. Please don’t dilute that useful term to mean “top down”.

    • Vinraith says:

      @LionsPhil

      Oops, my apologies, I honestly misremembered the angle of the camera on that one. It is, indeed, top down. Everything else I said still applies, though, and I suppose it shouldn’t be that hard to wrestle the camera from top down to isometric if one desired.

  36. NieA7 says:

    Usually I play single player stuff, the only exceptions being Guild Wars, Blood Bowl and S4 League. Given this is free and all I thought I’d give it a go…

    How the hell do you actually get in to an online game? Best I can get is a perpetual hourglass trying to join a public game. Sorry for being thick and all but this is a deeply foreign country to me.

    • itsallcrap says:

      You’re not doing anything wrong, it’s just the sheer quantity of players causing that to happen.

      Just hit escape and choose a different game to join. As a general rule you should go from ‘Establishing connection’ to the actual loading screen in less than ten seconds. Otherwise, give up.

    • ZephyrSB says:

      You might also want to turn off ‘Search for LAN’ in the multiplayer options – that helped me out, anyway.

  37. rebb says:

    I must say i do miss the original Adrenaline-Music from the UT2k4 Mod, snif.

    • Heiper says:

      As I said, you can put that theme in Options/Audio/Customize Battle Music

  38. Heiper says:

    ¡Ey, guys! It’s my first time posting in RPS ’cause I’m shy like that.

    Just a little tip if you are having server/lag problems:

    Enable console in options/keyboard
    Open console
    type “openserverbrowser” in console

    And ta-da! A tf2-esque server browser where you can see ping and other things will be magically available for you.

    Also, I can’t believe nobody has commented on the “custom battle music” option

  39. itsallcrap says:

    Hexapodium was like, “I can’t carry on – there’s too much wee wee in my pants.”

    I used to play TF2 with him a lot back when the original RPS server was still alive. He was always saying that.

  40. Dominic White says:

    The first-wave goon assault force has made good progress today. The Director is largely figured out now. Word is that there’s a tiny mod due soon that switches it into full-on L4D style mode, with it keeping up the pressure with varied groups of enemies and the occasional special alien thrown in to keep things interesting.

    • Stabby says:

      Where are you getting all this information? You have some kind of super spy network, don’t you.

    • mechtroid says:

      Goon assault force == Something awful forumites. We let them keep the title, it makes them feel special. ;)

      Your internet PI,
      Mech

  41. bytez says:

    Just finished playing, well mostly due to nvidia drivers locking up my system.
    At first it was just the 3 of us and we did a run of the game on normal. Was pretty fun, then one of my friends left and we created a public server, waited for 2 slots to fill in and we rolled on the hard difficulty.
    This game definatelt shines at the harder more frustrating levels as you have to cooperate and watch what others are doing.
    I had pleasure of playing with 2 people, who seemed to play as a team, even without the voice-comms.
    Its awesome.

  42. malkav11 says:

    Er, Shadowgrounds -does- have four player coop. It’s just that it wasn’t a primary design consideration for that game, as displayed by the utterly baffling decision to force all four of those people to play on the same computer if you want to do it.

    • Dominic White says:

      Shadowgrounds wasn’t meant to have multiplayer at all. Just before launch, they realised that they could fit more players on-screen, so added support for additional controllers. Quick n’ easy.

      Adding netcode and redesigning/rebalancing the game to account for that would have probably added six months to the development time.

      Anyway, if you’ve got an HDTV in your house, you can probably plug a PC into it. Voila – it’s like a console, but better, and perfect for same-system co-op gaming.

  43. airtekh says:

    For a free game, this is all kinds of awesome.

    It takes something special to drag me out of my latest TF2 binge.

  44. Hobbes says:

    I got Monkeybreadman’s oblique, if well-intentioned and, imho pretty apt, remarks straight away. Maybe I should stop hanging around playgrounds (natch).

    I had almost the exact same experience as Phill’s – running around on zero health and having to use single burner shots to pathetically protect myself while waiting for the lift. Haven’t had such a good crunch time in ages, even in L4D2.

  45. mlaskus says:

    Soooo, anyone fancy playing a campaign together on insane difficulty? I’ve tried playing with random people online but so far I met mostly jerks who run around spraying bullets wildly and totally ignoring tactics or team play. :/

    • bleeters says:

      Possibly! Attempts so far have generally resulted in exhausting my medical supplies halfway through from healing up constant friendly fire.

    • mlaskus says:

      Great, but we still need two other guys.

  46. mlaskus says:

    Anyone fancy playing a campaign together on insane difficulty? I’ve tried playing with random people online but so far I met mostly jerks who run around spraying bullets wildly and totally ignoring tactics or team play. :/

  47. Sunjammer says:

    So happy to see this game. It took me completely by surprise! I was a fan of the original mod, so hearing dudes talk about it made me twist my body into a question mark and bounce around the room.

    Played through the campaign earlier today, Me and a buddy, and a couple of drop-ins. Impressions are good! Some missions are far better than others. The game excels in two situations: Tense defenses and open ended loopy maps, like the one where you burn down biomass. The trudge from A to B never really felt very great.

    It’s the kind of game where there is just potential oozing from every corner though. I haven’t done Half Life modding since, well, Half Life, and I still instantly wanted to get back into it because of this game. I’d absolutely love to try and port some classic Space Hulk campaigns to it.

    Also, is that Gabe Newell voicing the commander? He sure sounds large and bored!

    • Haplo says:

      With any hope, any Space Hulk campaigns will be able to mimic that single, terrifying moment when your Storm Bolter jams.

      I remember having that happen in the computer version. Good times.

  48. The Dark One says:

    I’ve really enjoyed this. The one gripe I’d make is how the rolling maneuver resets any reloading you’ve been doing, but a ton of games do this, so I can’t feel too mad about it.

    • JB says:

      I haven’t experienced the roll/reload problem (yet), but I’ve been playing as the Tech and sometimes I seem to stick facing the doors until I move quite far away, even though I’m done welding/whatever. Which is annoying/life threatening if we’re being swarmed.

      Awesome game though, played through the first 2 missions with just 2 of us, and got stuck on lvl 3, so we grabbed a third from the RPS chatroom. Then we kicked some serious alien…..thorax?

    • Fuu says:

      @ The Dark One:
      I think the reload reset when you roll is perfectly fair. Normally to reload your speed reduces to a walk. If you’re rolling while you reload it means you’re in serious danger – and reloading while you dodge attacks at running speed (or thereabouts) seems gimmicky, or arcadey or something.

  49. bleeters says:

    I’m not sure I’d especially agree that the unlockables are horizontal upgrades that just alter your style of play, rather than making you increasingly better at introducing xenos to human diplomacy. I mean, the tesla gun stuns everything it hits for example.

    • Cael says:

      But it also has a really limited range and doesn’t do a whole lot of damage (especially on insane)

    • subedii says:

      Yeah Tesla gun has its drawbacks, especially when dealing with ranged enemies. Personally I prefer the default engineer rifle if I’m playing tech. Has the stun grenades as well if I need them.

    • Bleeters says:

      I suppose. I just remember the first encounter with a shield swarm when all of us were toting starter rifles being a tad more difficult then when it was electrified and incapable of action.

  50. Kell says:

    I’m a long-time community mapper of the BSP family tree, and one of the many who ( before the rise of these new-fangled shoot-from-the-first-person games ) loved Spacehulk. In fact I used to make my own floorplans from plasticard and kitbashing, with an assortment of non-Citadel miniatures to fill out my Aliens vs Predator vs Terminator vs Marines vs Cops take on Spacehulk. And my girlfriend has just recently started a L4D map, because we cannot get enough of that Aliensy coop shooty idiom.
    To all this, Tilegen can only be described as “crotch moistening”.

    • Tei says:

      Moist is the most moist word on the english language, It can’t be translated (notreally), so wen people use the word moist, all I can see is a moisty shaped hole.

      @Kell
      Go there:
      http://www.inside3d.com/frikbot/bigmap/
      opens the zip file, and from there, go insane.bsp

      I will tell you what are you looking at. Is a tilebased BSP system, that don’t need any support, it use bmodels (with names like *3 ) as tiles, that can be used as models, to created a tilebased world.
      This one mod is a GTA like world, procedurally generated using spawntables.