Valve Announces New Game: Alien Swarm


So, well, Valve just rather nonchalantly announced a game. Yeah, exactly.

Remember Alien Swarm? A total conversion mod for UT 2004, with four-player co-op top-down action. The team behind it, we’ve just learned, were hired by Valve two years ago, and have since been working on L4D and now Portal 2. Except at the same time they’ve been making Alien Swarm all over again in Source. And it’s coming out on Monday. And it will be free. And it looks great.

The new version of top-down shooter Alien Swarm can be seen in action here. It looks pretty damned fantastic.

But it’s not the only thing that’s coming. Along with it the complete SDK and code base is being released, all available for free this Monday (19th).

If you don’t remember the first version, here’s Quintin’s feature on the game from 2008.

The game will also include updates to the Source engine (in the SDK), and has had some changes made to it in its Source incarnation. A third-person camera, depth of field effects, and “a wide variety of gameplay additions.” Although what those are isn’t clear yet. However, take a look at the screenshots below to see the difference in the game.

Valve lists the contents as follows:

Alien Swarm is a game and Source SDK release from a group of talented designers at Valve who were hired from the Mod community. Available free of charge, the game thrusts players into an epic bug hunt featuring a unique blend of co-op play and squad-level tactics. With your friends, form a squad of four distinct IAF Marine classes. Plan your attack using an unlockable arsenal of weapons with countless loadout configurations against a wide variety of aliens. Blaze your way through an overrun, off-world colony, eradicating the alien infestation in environments ranging from the icy planet’s surface, to a subterranean lava-flooded mining facility.

– Tactical, 4 player co-op action game with a top-down perspective
– Complete game code and mod tools
– Unlock persistent items by gaining levels
– Over 40 weapons and equipment with countless loadout configurations
– 4 unique classes and 8 unique characters
– Matchmaking, Steam Cloud, Steam Stats
– 64 achievements
– Tile-based map generation tool
– Powered by Source and Steam

Here’s how Alien Swarm looked two years ago:

And this is what the new version looks like (click on them for giant versions):


  1. Veret says:

    What, seriously? No one’s said it yet? Okay, I’ll do the honors:

    “And in other news, Valve announces Alien Swarm delayed until Tuesday.”

    Seriously though, looks awesome. As long as I get my goddamn Episode 3 sometime this decade.

  2. mod the world says:

    I accept this free game as apology for Left4Dead 2 and the CSS update. I hope you learned your lesson Valve!

    • Starky says:

      The CSS update, while having teething issues is bloody awesome – Finally my 3Ghz quad core can get more than 40-50 FPS when stood in smoke, all those lovely cores getting used (well 3 of em).

    • Simon says:

      Whats wrong with L4D2? :(

    • SamuraiPie says:

      @ Simon – mod the world is pointing to the fact that Left 4 Dead 2’s release was covered in delicious controversy because it was released so quickly.

      It was a different time, a strange era – Back in mid 2009, gamers were just getting used to Valve Time as a concept, expectations for Valve releases were appropriately lowered and any release dates were devoured with a large pinch of salt. Then all of a sudden, they went and turned around a sequel to a huge title in under a year!

      It blew a lot of people’s minds, freaked out a lot of squares, man; some were shocked, some were impressed, many really didn’t care… but others still became incensed by this disruption in the Valve Time continuum and joined up with this weird digital crusade-against-Valve-type-thing in protest. The crusade was unceremoniously crushed when Gabe Newell, Emperor and Overlord of Valve, invited its leaders to come to their office for a coffee and some sugar buns… The crusaders emerged as changed men – they declared Valve were in fact not massive bastards and were instead made entirely of win sauce, they just wanted to give them hugs and nice things.

      Many have theorised what really went on in the Valve office that fateful day, but top scientists believe the leaders of the anti-Valve faction were surgically implanted with Source-based mind control consoles, and that Gabe controls their thoughts and actions even to this very day.

      So if by chance you see a guy in your local game shop dumping 612 copies of the Orange box at the counter, frothing at the mouth screaming about some Engineer update and waving a rusty crowbar around – you’ll know why.

  3. Vitamin Powered says:


    I loved the first one, and will definitely be grabbing this. Of course, that’s not saying much, given that it’s free, but still.

    Also, gotta say I love the “here, have a surprise game!” element. I wonder if we’ll end up getting more surprise games in this age of easily downloadable games/entertainment.

  4. mbp says:

    This Free Games business has gotten me all confused. Don’t game devs have to eat? Things were so much simpler back when a single game cost about half a weeks wages so you could only afford to buy about two games a year.

    • Baka says:

      RPS: I have a friend (an idiot) who is determined that in six months Valve will be owned by either Microsoft or EA…
      Gabe: Tell him that I’m not interested in buying either one of them.

    • LionsPhil says:

      @mbp: Presumably their publisher status as Steam overlords combined with the lack of parasitic shareholders or business executives is keeping them in takeaway pizza and carbonated caffine, allowing them to make games more or less for the love of it.

      Ordinarily I’d at least put a cynical eye towards beneficial side-effects, like free Portal bootstrapping Steam-on-Mac, or Steam features themselves sugar-coating the bitter pill of DRM, but in this case I’m finding it hard to really see what they gain here other than a resource they already have in abundance—fanboys.

      …um. And perhaps it’s also acting as a public beta for the new tech and a feedback/learning experience for the new-ish team?

    • Simon says:

      Steam is a private company, they cannot be bought out unless Gabe gives in.

    • Starky says:

      Here I’ll break it down for you…

      Valve made great games.
      Valve (owned mainly by Gabe) wanted a digital download service.
      No one they went to would make one (Microsoft, EA etc…) So they made their own.
      Everyone hated it (It was forced upon CS players), it was the worst thing to EVER happen.

      Valve made HL2 – everyone suddenly HAD to have steam, they hated it but it was worth it for the glorious HL2.

      Fast forward 6 years…

      Everyone loves steam, Valve own steam, Valve take 30-40% of every game sold on steam (85% if it is their game).
      Steam has 25 million accounts, and probably sells upwards of 250 million dollars worth of games a year (each user spending $10 a year – given I’ve personally spent something like $200 (or £120) so far this year…
      Out of that Valve maybe get 60-70 million (from their own sales).

      So they don’t need to make games to make money, just get people using and buying games on steam.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ Starky:

      You’ve done an estimate of how much income Valve get… do you feel like having a go at estimating how much money they spend every year (eg number of staff/average salaries, offices, equipment, server costs, buying-in IP and/or licences, legal fees etc)? For example they have 100 people listed as direct employees: link to

      $60-70 million revenue does sounds like a big number [nb. revenue of $600,000 per employee is roughly in the right ball-park for a market-leading mid-sized high-skills IT/software company]

      However comparing that with the annual sales of some of the big publishers (some with 7000+ employees) puts things into perspective slightly:

      $4280m Activision Blizzard
      $4200m EA
      $1400m Ubisoft
      $968m Take Two
      $830m THQ
      $400m Atari

      (also leaving aside Microsft / Sony / Nintendo / Nokia / Apple / etc)

      The good-will Valve generate and their closeness to PC gamers means that what they are doing is not easily replicable by any of these big players however much money they throw at it. However if Valve ever start behaving like some of these companies they will lose a unique advantage.

      If Valve *have* to get even bigger for some reason, let’s hope they get in bed with Google.

  5. Azadeth says:

    What’s this? A game about space marines fighting an infestation of insect-like aliens in an off-world colony? OMG HOW AMAZINGLY ORIGINAL!

    Seriously, game designers need some new ideas. And James Cameron should be allowed to sue at this point.

    • Kid A says:

      I need a triple facepalm and 50ccs of Not Giving A Damn, stat!

    • Nobody Important says:

      If reading Linux message boards have taught me anything, it’s that people suddenly become hyper critical of free stuff. Make it $5 and they’re all like “SQUEEEEEE SO CHEAP!”

    • Bret says:

      Wouldn’t Cameron be a bit busy fending off suit from Robert Heinlein if that was the case?

  6. Durns says:

    Valve are, and have been for a long while, simply a honey-trap for Steam.

    Steam has a key weakness — getting people on the platform. It doesn’t come bundled with new PCs and isn’t extensively marketed outside the (relatively) hardcore gaming press and communities. It also acts as a form of DRM (albeit one of the least intrusive options) and games are ‘loaned’ rather than bought.

    To play any Valve games, you require Steam. The moment Steam is installed, you are hooked (in a good way) – I personally have only bought Steam (and GOG) games for the last two years after decrying it for many before.

    Valve know this, and know that the better and more community-oriented the game is, the better their sales (steam installs) and returning players (steam returners) will be. They also know that if people like and identify with Valve, they are more likely to reflect positively on Steam (as the two are closely associated in the popular consciousness) and recommend it to others. Therefore Valve have an extremely strong incentive to release amazing games, and on a slow schedule which ramps up the interest and visits to their sites, ramps up the amount of times Steam gets mentioned, etc.

    Clever girl…..

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’d agree with you if you were talking about free Portal, but I think AS is a little too niche/hardcore for that. I doubt many people who are excited about this don’t already have Steam accounts and a high opinion of Valve.

  7. Daniel says:

    I think the most appropriate phrase here is: WTF? I mean, this is awesome, but seriously:

    What the fuck?

    • Neut says:

      Yeh seriously, what?

      They should put the announcement for this on Steam next to the big ad for the $15 Modern Warfare 2 DLC for 5 new maps. With a big Valve and Activision logo for each. Just to nail the point home.

  8. Barman1942 says:

    Valve, don’t stop being awesome.

  9. V. Tchitcherine. says:

    Oh dear, I just bought Bad Company 2 as it was on special at my local Electronics Boutique, nevermind that I’m wholly engrossed in the engineer update whilst salivating at the upcoming polycount update… now this piece of brilliance? Oh wait and Mafia II comes out in one month…

    Too many incredible games at once!

    Also, the updates to the Source Engine look fucking godly.

  10. Juror #9 says:

    umm maybe you guys checked this out but here’s some gameplay for those who haven’t. Looks rather hectic, in a good way

  11. indeed says:

    Source has the benefit of not needing as many models…which unreal basically requires. Because the bsp in the source engine is so versatile, while unreal reallyreally wants static meshes source is better for indie developers in that it allows more flexibility…

    But I mean you can get unreal to act the same way, if you really want to.

    I personally am currently working in source because I’m unwilling to learn to model or purchase a modeler. And that’s it. Unreal’s UI is vastly superior…and…pretty much everything about it is.

    The only real problem I have with unreal is its plasticine lighting, but that, again, can be negated if you want to.

    But anyway…source has it’s reasons to be used, though I hope they’re working on the next generation of the engine while doing everything else. And hopefully they’ll hardcode less this time…

  12. Daniel Carvalho says:

    I’d say AlienBreed looks better screenshot-wise. Looks less camp and more serious.

    • indeed says:

      I’d say serious isn’t the goal in a game with a story theme this generic.

    • Nick says:

      Unfortunatly Alien Breed is a bit arse. No idea if this will be any good but Alien Swarm certainly was.

  13. Out Reach says:

    Please let there be a “For Science!” battle-cry…

  14. internisus says:

    I actually bought that version of Unreal just for Alien Swarm, but I haven’t yet gotten around to it; now I don’t need to. This is extremely cool and exciting news for me. Also, I choose to see it was a kind of L4D0, and since I have over 300 hours logged between the two zombie games…

    I rather think I prefer the old graphics, though.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Unfortunately, the old graphics included player models (even if they tweaked and retextured the heads) and a lot of scenery objects from base UT.

  15. Thiefsie says:

    I can’t afford it.. they should be paying me to play this game…


  16. malkav11 says:

    I probably would have bought this. Now I can’t. Damn you, Valve!


  17. bildo says:

    valve hired guys doing BM:S. guaranteed after reading this. its gonna release with the new HLEP3. Mark my words

    • Urthman says:

      You are soooooo absolutely right. Maybe the timing will be different, but otherwise, yes.

      They make all that progress, give every indication of being close to finishing, and then completely disappear? Only one explanation.

      Also, I can see Valve taking a hands-off approach when the Black Mesa folks were starting out — who knew if they’d finish, or if it would be good? But for someone to release a very-high quality remake of the game that put Valve on the map? No way that Valve would not want to take that under their wing and help make it awesome.

  18. markcocjin says:

    All I could think of right now is this game is coming with an SDK and code base.

    Does anyone out there realize what this means for a Source Engine powered RTS?

    Will we see a better Half-Life Wars?

    Is this what Ice Frog from DotA is working on?

    • markcocjin says:

      Oh and might I add a potential for a Baldur’s Gate style RPG with easy modding capability?

      Oh and this is Source Engine right? I believe it wouldn’t be a problem to make a “Switch to FPS” mode.

    • Kid A says:

      A first-person mode in Alien Swarm would be akin to modding a third person view into the original Doom. You just don’t need it.

  19. Jayt says:


  20. Al3xand3r says:

    Hearing the developers of this worked on L4D and the like is a “doh, of course!” moment. Warning voices for reloads, swarms of enemies, melee hit, campaign play, etc, it’s all like a more mainstream, less tough version of Alien Swarm, but in first person. I think I prefer the original Alien Swarm to L4D, excluding the amount of content, though with a few fan campaigns on top of the “official” and different difficulties there were quite enough to go through. Anyway, it’s incredible this is free. That probably means it’s not quite as developed as other Valve games (not many alien types? not many levels? etc) as long as the base of the game is as polished as it seems to be in the videos, then with the offered SDK the community will fix the lack of content in time. I just hope they have kept the setup very similar to the first game, ie, leveling up your marines, choosing which mission of the campaign to tackle next, having branching paths, all the different tools and functions like welding doors shut, hacking turrets and the like. Either way, I can’t wait for Monday!

    I wonder if this means we will see Valve releasing a Source based Thief-like multiplayer experience since that’s another project Black Cat Games were working on when they disappeared, first for UT2004 and then, I think, for UT3 perhaps. They’re the same people who made Thievery for UT99 after all. That would be a pretty awesome experience to have for sure, just like Alien Swarm.

  21. spork says:

    Anybody think there will be a single player campaign? Or is it just co-op?

  22. Orteko says:

    Wow, i’d given up all hope of ever seeing infested come out :)

    The original was brilliant if you had the right-minded group of friends.

    Sadly it looks like they’ve done away with the characters from the original so those nice high-res renders that were close to the last thing announced bear no resemblance to the new game.

    Not that i’m complaining however, this announcement makes my day :)

    The fact that they have all been working at valve on l4d and other titles gives me high hopes that this is going to be very nicely polished.

  23. SLeigher says:

    Yeah when i saw mw2 dlc for $15 I was like surely there must be more than just 5 new maps, but no… activision and most other game developers should be embarrassed by how much better valve is. A free game is just sweet but free updates often with a hell of a lot more than 5 new maps is just awesome.

  24. Davie says:

    GomxoawijlzkansWHAT? Wow. That’s really, completely awesome. I never played the original mod, but I’ll be sure to grab this. I love Valve.

  25. the_fanciest_of_pants says:


  26. Chaz says:

    Well I just hope the community has improved with the graphics, as Alien Swarm’s suffered from having some major dickheads among its ranks.

    • Dominic White says:

      Well, the Alien Swam original community numbered a couple hundred at best. This is a high-profile freeware release by Valve. For each dickhead veteran, there’s going to be a thousand newbies.

  27. Setanga says:

    Dickheads like you? I have to say I didn’t meet more on alien swarm than the average online game but whatever, maybe it was your first time playing online so it made a lasting impression. I mean, lol, this will be played by the same people who play pretty much any of the popular Source games, duh.

  28. Premium User Badge

    john_silence says:

    Black Cat’s forums looked so dead and angry – ugly as a zombie, I say!
    And then swoosh, out of the blue IT is released. Yay! I had no idea these guys had been hired by Valve – they’re the secretive type, those black cats. Ksst ksst meeeaw meeeeaw.

  29. Kieron Gillen says:

    I know everyone’s clearly excited about this and don’t need convincing, but to throw in my coins, this is one of my favourite mods ever. Just hilariously punishing co-op game. Brilliant.


    • Dominic White says:

      Word is that the new version is somewhat easier than the original, though. Although there’s several options available to make it harder if you want it to be more hardcore.

      One developer note mentioned that there’s a (disabled by default) L4D style ‘director’ mode that’ll send swarms after you if you’re doing particularly well.

    • -Spooky- says:

      And now .. We need Natural Selection 2. Don´t forget folks – Only one week left to buy the NS2 Spec. Edt. :D

  30. Clavus says:

    Why do people keep saying L4D2 was a mistake? It was more of a sequel to L4D than every new Call of Duty game is to the last.

  31. Brian says:

    I played this game when it was a ut2004 mod so so so many hours. One of the best games I have ever played. Period. Cannot wait for this.

  32. Inno says:

    Looks great, can’t wait to try it out.

  33. Dave says:

    You are a dick. or are being sarcastic badly.

    It costs nothing.

    shit on the floor costs nothing and I presume you ignore it every day? or maybe you make some sort of online comment about it…?


  34. Bowlby says:

    Wow, Team 17 must be feeling pretty pissed off right now.

    Looking forward to trying this very much. I played the original by chance and thought it was brilliant – especially the way you could lock down doors to quarantine areas, blocking off the aliens’ path.

  35. anonymouse says:

    Valve is on right way to replace blizzard as the best game dev ever. That is if they are not there already…

  36. Nosferatu says:

    ummmm, interesting… but it sounds more like a l4d mod than a UT mod. hmmm

  37. J. Alberto says:

    The new XCOM evolution

  38. Pockets says:

    Obviously its good news. The one thing I’m unsure about is the change to 4 player instead of 8 – a good part of the best Alien Swarm games I played before often included situations where people started dropping one by one. Eventually you’d get to the big set piece ending with just a few people left alive, which really upped the tension. The extra players helped it get away with being punishing in a way that post-L4D people might not be after from their co-op, but it was a big part of the Alien Swarm experience for me.
    Hopefully they’ve kept that feel in the gameplay, because every other aspect of it looks brilliant.

  39. Papageno says:

    I fooled around with this when it was a UT2K4 mod and found it incredibly atmospheric. It reminded me so much of the scenes in the film Aliens, in which they’re first entering the defunct colony. So glad that the project wasn’t abandoned. I don’t suppose they got to keep the motion detector sound from the movie, though, alas.

  40. Ricotta says:

    I LOVED AS1! Especially lighting the person on fire with the ammo pack

  41. cheap prom gowns says:

    very good,thx for sharing!

  42. Kevbo says:

    Glad to see the mod getting attention again and reborn as a free game. I’ll see everyone online tomorrow :)

  43. Jackson Grant says:

    I never knew the original Alien Swarm plagiarised weapon icons from AvP2.

  44. itsallcrap says:

    Gah! I did so well resisting buying a game over the weekend so as to do something productive with my evenings.

    Now I have no choice but to fritter them away blasting alien scum. Curse you, Valve.

  45. donkeykong says:

    Looks awesome, I used to play UT2004 all the time :)

  46. Destroye says:

    I hope they add more campaigns.

  47. party gowns says:

    I think that you know how to make people listen to what you have to say

  48. doctor_oz says:

    how to speak in alien swarm

  49. Darcangelo says:

    Alien Swarm is a game and Source SDK release from a group of talented designers at Valve who were hired from the Mod community.

    Available free of charge, the game thrusts players into an epic bug hunt featuring a unique blend of co-op play and squad-level tactics. With your friends, form a squad of four distinct IAF Marine classes. Plan your attack using an unlockable arsenal of weapons with countless loadout configurations against a wide variety of aliens. Blaze your way through an overrun, off-world colony, eradicating the alien infestation in environments ranging from the icy planet’s surface, to a subterranean lava-flooded mining facility.