Alien Swarm is an original mod. There’s no doubt about it, it takes a great shift in playing methods against the common modding genre of first person shooter. Especially when the platform it has been modded for is one itself. Most mod teams have shared this theme with UT2004, taking the easy road in development of the camera. This is what makes Alien Swarm interesting.
Alien Swarm takes place in the ‘distant future’. The player assumes the role of a commander in the Interstellar Armed Forces, where they must take control of a squad of troops who are sent in to various locations to clear them of the swarm and regain control. With an arsenal of awesome weaponry to utilize against the swarm in what ever way you see fit, you can hunt down some bugs and promptly swish their arse to oblivion.
[page=Graphics and Sound]
Visually, Alien Swarm is kind of a mixed bag. Some of the models have (Mainly the player models) are the stock UT2004 ones. That’s not immediately apparent though, but you will notice them eventually. The animations are been redone, taking over the strange looking ones that where present. The new ones are nice and crisp, and is a great addition to have instead of brand new models. Level design is done fairly well, although on first look, it will appear bare and empty. Filling the map with static meshes to improve visual appeal would be a bad move though, due to the way the camera works. The only major problem I could pin-point with the maps is that they are extremely dark. Trying to spot killer aliens in the dark isn’t fun. But for what is there and available to see, they’ve done a great job in this relatively small team. Textures are good, although, as pretty much stated earlier, the majority of textures you see are floor textures, which still seem pulled out of UT2004. There are plenty of arrows pointing you towards various objectives that you need to accomplish, which helps a little, but they haven’t made it any easier for you, just less back tracking and searching.
There isn’t much to say about how Alien Swarm pulls of with sound. Most of it I could recognise from UT2004, especially the weapon sounds. Most of the production time devoted to sound has been allocated to voice acting, which is of average quality. Not bad, and not exceptionally good. A bit of music work has been developed for the project too, which seems to be on the same lines as the voice acting.
Now for the actual design of the game. I’ll walk you through how the game runs from menu to an actual game, and how that game plays. Upon opening up the game, you are treated to a cool looking menu, with a real time 3D view in the background of a marine standing in front of a nest of eggs. You’re presented with your standard options, tutorial, single player, multi, settings and quit. The tutorial is quite lengthy, and eventful, but it does feel strangely like the later levels. By that, I mean it feels quite empty and desolate. NPC’s would be a cool small addition to add in, just for some fun. It goes over everything for you though. After that, you go on to start the Sigma campaign. You are treated to a mysterious looking cut-scene which introduces you to the games story. And, finally, you now have to prepare a squad that you will send in to active the emergency cooling systems for the primary reactor. Along with destroying at least 20 swarm eggs of course.
The gameplay feels tweaked, and has different features amongst it. You can have up to 4 squad members, from a total of 8 to choose from. Each has their own personal traits, and are different from each other. Some are more suited to explosives, while others have the ability to use med packs. A couple more than 8 would make the gameplay that bit more varied. In game, you control one team member directly, while ordering the others to either haul their arse and follow you, or stick around waiting for bugs in a specific spot. Again, there are good points to both of the options, standing still will increase accuracy and awareness, while moving around will not. The small, but extremely fun array of weapons are all different and best suited for different situations. From assault rifle, to a place-able sentry gun, you have a small choice of what to use. Ammo is a bit sparse in the maps, and with the amount of aliens running rampant, I was frequently worried that I would loose bullets and get killed. It happened at one stage, where one team member was hacking a panel, and the other was defending. The defending team mate chewed through his bullets like a cow on a paddock of grass, and was killed momentarily by the enraged horde. The other two team members where in another part of the map, trapped in a room by a sentry gun they had placed, unable to pick it back up. Despite these obvious little flaws, the gameplay is some of the best fun I’ve had in a mod, and the fact that the main part of the game is Single Player which is well executed for the bulk of it, makes this more appealing to the average mod player.
Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to be able to play multiplayer or co-op.
Overall, Alien Swarm is a well developed mod for the surprisingly small team that are behind this mod and Black Cat Games. It is slowed down by some little tibits, which can of course be easily fixed with some creative coding. But, all that aside, Alien Swarm has raised the bar in original mod design. Sure, this could be easily pulled off in a first person shooter, but the more tactical element puts this in a category of its own.
Well deserved mod of the month award, lots of hard work, and dedication has been poured into this mod which was bestowed with 4th place in the Make Something Unreal contests Best Mod section for the Grand Finals.