Police Quest: SWAT
Sierra's Action-Adventure Misfires
Designed by former police chief Daryl Gates--the founder of the original Los Angeles Police Department SWAT team--Police Quest: SWAT could have been a realistic urban adventure. Unfortunately, despite its potential, this game shoots itself in the foot.
The latest game in Sierra On-Line's Police Quest series begins with a tone-setting sequence that's more like an encyclopedia of SWAT history, weapons, and tactics than a game. Toward the end of this information-packed interactive segment, you get to unload a few rounds using various weapons in a firing range.
After completing your training, it's time to switch CDs and prepare for your first mission. If you're running System 7.5.3, though, you'll have some problems--the first is an annoying screen freeze when you change discs. Audio frequently runs seconds behind the video, and other glitches spring up along the way. Sierra's support team recommended switching off extensions and increasing virtual memory, but the game remained buggy. Updating to System 7.5.5 ultimately took care of most problems.
After you finish tweaking your system, you face another problem: Police Quest: SWAT's interface is virtually impenetrable. The game appears to have been ported directly from the PC version, and its designers poorly compensated for the Mac's lack of a two-button mouse. After 15 attempts--in which I frequently shot my team leader or got blasted by the bad guys for running into areas I had no intention of exploring--I was ready to give up.
SWAT's movement, communications, and weapons interfaces are separate elements, and you're forced to switch between them during missions. In a game where response time is important, one wrong mouse-click can cost you your life.
Even if you do master its tricky interface, SWAT doesn't offer the tense, exciting atmosphere you'd expect from a police adventure. Because the game relies on eye-catching full-motion video, game play follows a rigid format that doesn't let you try new approaches. You're trapped in a set script--a design flaw more lethal than a burst of automatic-weapons fire.
SWAT's soundtrack is a strong candidate for improvement, too. Pseudomilitary theme music accents the training phase, but mission sequences have no background at all. A simple tune might've given the game an edge it sorely lacks.
The Last Word
Police Quest: SWAT is seriously flawed by a cryptic interface, an inexcusable reliance on full-motion video, and an inability to run on any but the most recent system software. Its lackluster atmosphere puts the final nail in its cof-fin. I'd hesitate to recommend this game to anyone.--Daniel Madar.
RATING: Two Stars/3.0
PROS: Interesting material on SWAT history and tactics. CONS: Impenetrable interface; problems running under System 7.5.3; rigid game play.
COMPANY: Sierra On-Line (206/649-9800, http://www.sierra.com).
COMPANY'S ESTIMATED PRICE: $49.95.
Copyright © 1997 Macworld Communications, Inc.