Whisper it – now the dust of assorted BioShocks has settled, maybe humble SWAT 4 is Irrational’s finest hour. It still seems strange that the studio behind magical undersea civil war had a crack a straight-down-the-line military sim before they visited Rapture. It’s precisely because more ambitious creative minds are in control of something that seemed destined for ordinariness that SWAT 4 works so well. It’s both a finely-balanced and extremely tense co-op tactics game and one that veers off into America’s darker waters.
Even nine years on, it feels imprudent to spoil SWAT 4’s lynchpin level. The sights it holds are unexpected and chilling, and in many respects foreshadows the world-building-through-environment that Irrational would excel at in the first BioShock.
To focus too much on the Irrationaliness would be to overlook how deft a squad game SWAT 4 is, especially in co-op. The need for precision, patience and strategy is absolute, especially in those levels where you’re required to take down foes non-lethally. Even outside of those levels, this is not a game about gung-ho violence, but about caution and awareness. Amazing, and not a little depressing, how rare that remains.
Unhappily, SWAT 4 remains unavailable for digital purchase. Hopefully someone will correct that soon. In the meantime, the second hand market is your best bet.