Alien Swarm

More $$$ value then most $60 games
How many times have you seen this scenario on TV. Space ship comes into orbit over human colony. Colony is strangely silent, with no-one responding to hails. So what does the colony ship do? Send down a group of inexperienced civilians and scientists soon to be members of some crazy alien food chain. Bottom members.

Fortunately for us, Alien Swarm is not from that universe. Alien Swarm is from the real world, where cooler heads prevail and people remember to check the security cameras. Of course a ground team still needs to be sent in, but it's going to be a crack team of four elite soldiers. This is where you and your friends come in. You're going to go down and fight your way through the unstoppable Alien Swarm.

Alien Swarm is a top down tactical action-shooter that's heavily squad based. You need your teammates to survive. Need. The combat is frantic and dangerous, with small corridors, dark lighting, and enemies coming from all directions. If you don't play well with other people, Alien Swarm is not going to work well at all for you.

This is compounded by the tactical nature of the game. Players each pick one of eight different characters, each with different skills, weapon selections and abilities, and each class has it's own role to fulfill. Medics can heal allies and are the only class that can use specific (and vital equipment) to remove infections. Special Weapons soldiers have access to a wide variety of powerful weaponry and equipment for heavy support. Tech's can weld doors shut, cut through access hatchs, and hack computers to fulfill mission objectives or activate turrets. Commanders reinforce squads, granting nearby soldiers bonuses. And in case you're worried about the classes firepower-don't. They all get lots of powerful guns.

Carefully building a squad around a strategy is key to survival, and one of the games greatest strengths as well as weaknesses. A lot of people online have no patience whatsoever (I blame the Call of Duty arcade-like train of thought), and you'll find a lot of games where the players refuse to work together and will simply run for the exit as fast as they can. Unsurprisingly, most of these games never make it past the first few missions on the games easiest difficulty level. Which means you're going to want to find friends to play with. Of course, since the game is free, it shouldn't be hard to convince them to try it.

When you do get a group of people together to play (preferably with mic's or in the same room), Alien Swarm is brilliant. It's tense, frantic and atmospheric action that requires everyone to work together. Slowly making your way through a tight corridor with nothing but the light of your flashlights is a tense experience, especially when the faint scratching of alien talons starts and you realize that the corridor is only wide enough for one of you to shoot at a time. Friendly fire matters here, and it's ruthless. I've unfortunately killed a teammate on more then one occasion (although to be fair, sometimes they were thrillseekers who deserved it when they ran in front of the guy with the minigun to steal the kill).

Although it only has one campaign, there's a lot of content to experience. The levels are clever, constantly throwing new challenges and terrifying situations at you (such as a memorable bridge crossing). Plus, each character you play as levels up based on your performance, earning new promotions which unlock new weapons and equipment, some of it specialized just for that particular class. The SDK (source development kit) is open, so fans have already generated their own maps and campaigns for those of you hungry for more fear. Alien Swarm is a title that I could barely believe was free. It's top notch, polished, and an absolute blast to play, especially with friends. If you spent this week thinking "Someday I'll try one of those," make someday today and start with this one. Alien Swarm is the pinnacle of free games that I have experienced over the years, and there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't try it today.

You will download it here.


OneBoot said...

It sounds like an awesome game, and I'd love to try it with other Quarkees sometime, aside from this one small problem: I don't do well with scary games. Scary movies, I don't mind. But games involving psychological horror aren't my cup of tea. :/

--OneBoot :D

ExtremeMMOGamer said...

That game was awesome when I had it on my PC before my PC crashed in December. I wonder if they fixed some of the lag issues when it had a cinematic it would lag out the gameplay for a bit both online and offline. The game felt like Starcraft meets left 4 dead.