Have You Played… Alien Swarm

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Valve have a game even more forgotten than Ricochet. Despite being only five years old, I bet if I’d asked you to write down all their games you’d have missed off Alien Swarm [official site].

And more’s the pity, since it’s absolutely great. A remake of an Unreal Tourney 2004 mod, created by the original team using Valve’s Source engine and Left 4 Dead know-how, and even they have forgotten about the game to the degree that they’ve let its website fall offline.

There are still, roughly, 30,000 people playing it a week. But for a free game, with 4.4m downloads, that’s not a huge figure. You should add yourself to its total, and experience a genuinely fun four-player co-op take on the whole Alien Shooter vibe. RPS had a right royal time playing it. It even comes with an SDK so you can make your own levels for it.

Don’t forget about Alien Swarm. Including you, Valve!


  1. Cyrus says:

    Had it been possible to play singeplayer I might have dug in.
    Alas that was not the case.

    • mangrove says:

      Very enjoyable coop game. Loved the ‘Aliens’-esque atmosphere. Too bad it fell by the wayside.

    • mangrove says:

      Pretty sure you can play it solo if you wish. I remember playing through a couple of missions as a lone engineer (with difficulty).

      • welverin says:

        There’s a practice mode, or whatever they called it, but you don’t gain progress from that.

        I quite liked the game, unfortunately, my friends didn’t like it nearly as much.

        The lack of bot support really hurts it for us. We don’t play with random internet strangers, and the game doesn’t work without four players. With LfD if you’re short players, you get some bots, in AS you’re just short and that jacks up the difficulty.

        • malkav11 says:

          Yeah, this is why it dropped off my radar quite quickly. When I play coop, I have one, maaaybe two other people to play with. Mostly just one, though. If the game scales to accomodate a range of players up to a maximum of 4(+), awesome. I can play it. If it mandates a full player count (and far, far too many 3+ player coop games do), then it’s either play with strangers or not at all. And I generally find “not at all” the more pleasing option.

        • Razumen says:

          I’m pretty sure you can bring in extra characters and switch between them. They don’t really have an AI but they’ll shoot at enemies in their FOV, and you can order them to follow or stay put from your main character. It’s quite a bit harder than playing with people, but it’s doable.

      • Andrew says:

        A bit late I know, but there is a command you can type into the console to let you play single-player. Of course if you want to do the whole campaign you’ll have to be engineer…

  2. bleeters says:

    Not since they nerfed the tesla gun.

    Some people would call running around firing it continuously, never dealing friendly fire and only consuming ammo when it dealt damage broken. Some people would call it overpowered. Some people are why we can’t have nice things.

  3. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    Yes, it was brilliant. Such a shame it came out before Steam Workshop was a thing, just think what could have been with really easy level and campaign sharing.

    • Spider Jerusalem says:

      Yeah. I just knew the fan made campaigns were going to come rolling in. Still waiting on that one.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, the lack of maps is what killed it. You can finish the campaign in one sitting. There some fun to be had in doing it at increasingly hard difficulties and different loadouts, if you have friends also up for that, but even the UT2004 mod had a second campaign (at least by its later versions).

      It’s a shame they apparently don’t have enough wheeldesks in the right place to retrofit workshop support to it.

      • LionsPhil says:

        (Or, hell, map pack DLC. I would part with money for more quality campaigns on top of the free base game. But I suppose that’d basically be paid workshop items if you make it open to all comers.)

  4. oWn4g3 says:

    It was one of those games that I really hoped they would further expand upon. The base game was great fun to the point where I wouldn’t have minded paying for the addition of some well crafted new missions.

  5. Cinek says:

    It was really fun while it lasted… which wasn’t long.

    Alien Swarm really could use a pack of additional missions. I really enjoyed my time spent with it, but after going 4+ times through the same missions it… washed out.

    • jonfitt says:

      Yeah. I played all of the levels at a few different difficulties and then when no additional content came out, I moved on.
      If was the mid-point release of an early access game today, we would all get excited. It has tons of potential. It just needed a butt-load more levels and single player bots.

  6. Mrice says:

    I still hope they will release another one, tied in with all these new community features, with a big fat pack of maps.

    Personally i stopped when i reached the end of the skill tree, clicked the button to make a gold medal and lost all of my unlocks in exchange for…. a little picture by my logo? That sucked.

    • SomeDuder says:

      Well, the idea was for the community to expand the game and setting. But the Workshop wasnt a thing back then, and with the whole people being dumb as bricks regarding installing mods, it never took off.

      Shame, cuz I genuinly enjoyed it and played the few included missions way too often.

  7. EhexT says:

    It doesn’t have proper singleplayer mode. They had the budget to iterate on their previous UT version and they chose to do it in all the wrong ways – by prettying it up instead of adding bots and more gameplay depth.

  8. FreeTom says:

    I tried going back to this about two years ago and it just seemed like a ghost town. 30,000 a week seems a lot but if you divide that down to how many will be online at any given moment and then divide it again by about 100 servers it’s approximately no one.

  9. TonyB says:

    You’d lose the bet in my case, along with a group of friends from work I played this solidly at lunchtimes for six months or so (first working through all the missions at the increasing difficulty, then beating all the speed run challenges, then finding the pick of the user-made missions to keep it going a while longer). Our team catchphrase has passed into legend amongst my friends:

    “WHY AM I ON FIRE?!”

    (Well, it was typed in often enough that it was effectively a catchphrase.)

  10. KFee says:

    I loved Alien Swarm. This an RUNNING WITH RIFLES are my favorite top down shooters.

  11. Bfox says:

    Tried getting a refund on Steam for this but Gabe turned up at my door the next day and shivved me :(

  12. Sacarathe says:

    The original mod is still a superior product, still got players and servers.

    link to alienswarm.de

    I’ve yet to play a better coop game for 6-8 players.

  13. shoefish says:

    Probably my favourite coop game of all time. Just going through the campaign is great, but attempting the speedruns is even better, as is doing insane/brutal for the first time and being surprised by all the extra parasite spawns! One of the few games I’ve bothered getting all achievements for, because mostly they are great. (With the exception of kill 100,000 things).

  14. DrazharLn says:

    The game can be played single player properly with the Swarm Director 2 mod (improves bot performance and makes bots sort of controllable by players).

    Swarm Director 2 also recommends a few additional campaigns and provides download links. Additional campaigns

  15. Fellhuhn says:

    What this game did completely right was the locks. In some (or only one?) mission one player has to solve a puzzle while the rest of the players have to fend of an unlimited amount of enemies. So instead of just holding a button like in most games nowaday he had to think and work through some mechanics to unlock a door (or whatever). All that while under fire, hearing your teammates scream and having no clue what is happening around you. Continue hacking or abort and help your friends? Such a clever concept.

  16. Pyui says:

    Ah yes, Alien Swarm. The mod Valve bought, promised things like additional campaigns and then killing it in favor of microtransactions as well as ensuring it’s demise by moving the people behind it over to Left 4 Dead.

    • Razumen says:

      Actually the goal of AS was for the community to create additional content, that’s why they released all of the editing tools for it. Valve themselves never promised additional anything.

  17. lordfrikk says:

    Only Valve can afford to leave a perfectly playable concept to rot endlessly.

  18. Winterborn says:

    Loved this game so much, hoped that when they added workshop this would be a showcase title for it… nope. Only people playing it now are speedrunners, so don’t go in unless you have three friends with you.

    Such a shame.