Alien Swarm is a shmup played with an overhead view where the player can chose to play one out of four Marine classes; the Tech, the Medic, the Officer, and the Special Weapons.
Alien Swarm is a shoot em up that you play with an overhead view. You can chose to play one out of four Marine classes; the Tech, the Medic, the Officer, and the Special Weapons. Every class makes its own contribution to the mission. The Special Weapons Marine solves problems with a chain-gun and a portable sentry gun, among other assorted choices of “special weapons.” The Medic is design to heal party members but can also hold her (or his) own during a gun fight, the Tech focuses on opening electronically locked doors and welding them shut, in case there are aliens on the other side. The Officer is the team leader and provides buffs to the party's members and their abilities. A team can have more that one Marine class, but there are missions that will require a specific class to complete.
It started off as a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004. Valve (the company that brought us the Half-Life series) hired Alien Swarm's development team to finish the game.
Alien Swarm was release as a full retail product entirely for free via Valve's Steam distribution on July 19, 2010.
The gameplay is simple enough, the player just has to get from point A to point B. There are small hints to an actual story spread across certain levels via blood trails, bodies, and active data pads. You can take your time and immerse yourself in the game's premise when you're playing offline but I don't suggest doing so during online play as you may end up being left behind a door that's been welded shut and you may have no means of getting it open again. At least your marine knows what went down as he goes down, if that's any consolation. In this game, though, dead is dead. Once a marine bites the dust, he stays down. There are no re-spawns and the player with the dead marine will have to stay out of the rest of the game.
The controls might take a little getting used to, as it still uses the “WSAD” system to move while aiming with the mouse even with its top-down view. The controls are intuitive and aiming is easy. The view also provides a complete 360 of the nearby environment so you can see where the aliens are coming from and hopefully swivel in time to shoot them before they can get to you. The game is very helpful during offline practice, telling the player what key to press to get a desired effect. This was especially useful when this reviewer played as Special Weapons and did not have a hand-held welder. Going near a door will prompt a pop-up of the effect desired (Reinforce Door) and what key to press to do so yourself or give the command to a fellow marine. Of course, during online play, one can simply type in chat to communicate with the other players.
The games graphics are polished and is very appropriate for its theme. Dark corners abound and the lighting is just bright enough to see the aliens and still keep a sense of suspense. Audio is done well. There are even hints of the memorable motion sensors from the popular movie franchise the game is based on, which only adds to the games charm. Alien Swarm knows what it is, accepts it and goes to town with it, a fun romp around the block shooting aliens down with guns.
The game has been released for free along with the SDK. This simply means anyone can make new levels and share them online. The game's online play is still active and servers are not hard to find, though one should not expect Left 4 Dead 2 levels of activity. It is enjoyable played either alone or with up to three other folks that has nothing better to do for an afternoon that to mow down a horde of aliens into a messy, green pool. Note, though, that you have to sign up with Steam to get the game.