Amstrad Computer User1st June 1988
Published in Amstrad Computer User #43
"Special assignment! Rescue the hostages from the terrorist gangs... Blow away the bad guys... All action joystick bending combat for those with the skill to survive".
I've never been keen on your runof-the-mill, two dimensional, head-'em-up, move-'em-out and shoot-'em-up type of games.
They all, of necessity, follow the same well tried formula - good guy meets hundreds of bad guys, good guy shoots hundreds of bad guys, civilisation as we know it is saved - and rarely provides enough variation to hold my attention for long.
Once you've wasted a couple of dozen grenade-throwing terrorists, you've wasted them all.
However, it would take a stronger willpower than mine to resist the temptation of a bent joystick and, after blurb like that, there was always the possibility that L.A. SWAT from Mastertronic would be the game to make me revise my opinions. Sadly, it wasn't.
L.A.SWAT is set in 1999. A terrorist group has taken over the west side of L.A. As the leader of a crack SWAT squad, your assignment is to clear the streets and rescue the hostages being held by the gang.
For those of you who have managed to miss some of the finer dramatic productions of American network TV, a SWAT squad is a highly trained, ruthlessly efficient group of men dedicated to making the world a safer place for Mom, apple pie and the American way.
SWAT stands for Special Weapons And Tactics - although in this case ep Walking And Tedious is more like it.
In order to rescue the hostages you have to steer your squad of three through the streets, defending yourselves against attack, until you reach the junctions where they are being held.
The team leader is an unpopular guy. The terrorists pick on him to the exclusion of all others: snipers use him for target practice, grenades shower around him, and clubwielding thugs pursue him relentlessly. Once he gets taken out another team member takes over.
Points are scored as the squad progresses along the street from junction to junction, weaving between the overturned cars and picking off terrorists as they go.
This is complicated by the fact that there are still a few civilians within the area. Dropping Joe Public is not considered to be good form in SWAT circles and will cost you points, so it pays to be selective about where you point the business end of your gun.
Sounds pretty good doesn't it? Plenty of action and a good setting; L.A.'s an exciting kind of place. Well, so it is.
Unfortunately L.A., Mastertronic style, bears more than a passing resemblance to Milton Keynes on a wet Sunday, while the SWAT squad moves with all the speed and agility of Clive Dunn on Valium.
Eventually, if you are still awake, the squad reaches the junction where the hostages are being held.
Finish off the terrorists, bring out the undamaged hostages, and yet another successful mission is in the bag.
Somewhere out there I believe there is a novel and exciting shoot-'em-up game just waiting to be invented. I'm afraid that L.A. SWAT isn't it.
Speeded up and with a bit more variety, it could become a reasonable game, although never a world beater. In its current form however, it leaves a lot to be desired.
SWAT stands for Special Weapons And Tactics. The weapon is a rifle that can't shoot further than halfway across the street, and the tactics are shoot everything that moves and hope it's not a passer-by.
Nothing special about that, and there's nothing special about L.A. Swat. The slow responses and bad collision detection soon become tedious - not frustrating, merely tedious. Entertainment USA? Never.
The 'squad' is actually three guys, only one of which - the leader - can shoot or be shot. Once he's bitten the tarmac, one of the remaining two takes over as leader while the other one toddles up the other side of the road as if he's out for a Sunday afternoon stroll.
This game is slow to get into and never really speeds up. Total absence of sound may be OK for games that score high on playability, but not even good sound effects could rescue L.A. Swat.
There's a problem with this game. Shooting a pedestrian costs you 100 points. If you happen to shoot one before you've actually scored 100 points, then you go below zero and the game crashes, forcing you to er-load if you want to play again.
I did re-load once, and managed to wipe out a few of the gang and advance a few yards, but my enthusiasm disappeared very quickly when I shot two more pedestrians by mistake and the screen frone again.