Valve’s free title ‘Alien Swarm’ was released on Stream today. It’s a third person isometric/semi top-down view shooter sharing many, many elements with L4D and other shooter titles. Moving is done with WASD and aiming is done by moving your mouse which turns your character to face a direction and clicking. You have a laser sight to help indicate the general area where you’re shooting and also a range indicator-like crosshair where you can determine how far or exactly what you’re shooting at.
Straight up, the game is quite fantastic. It ‘feels’ perfect. There’s a shocking number of guns and gear to unlock and multiple dimensions to how you’ll go about playing the game based upon the gear you choose. Playing with other people, especially friends, is key and the teamwork opportunities make it all the more fun. You can choose your class from Officer, Medic, Weapon Specialist, and Tech. Each brings something unique to the group dynamic. For example, tech can weld doors shut behind you to keep out baddies or unlock doors by playing a quick mini-game.
Right now there is only one campaign but it’s comprised of several levels. Once you play through a few times you’ll notice that, unfortunately, it’s not randomly generated. It suffers from the same problems that I feel L4D did with it feeling too repetitive after you’ve played a few times. Luckily it has three modes that ramp up big time in difficulty. We played for several hours today and aside from learning the maps really well I haven’t felt bored or tired of playing.
Like I mentioned, there are many elements from L4D. The menu system and multiplayer grouping system are all the same. So far it has been flawless. In-game you’ll notice elements from Gears of War like the reloading mechanic where you need to time it right or else you’ll jam your weapon or take a while to reload. The game as a whole feels like Left 4 Dead as you maneuver through the level whilst surviving the onslaught of alien bugs while trying to reach what feel like ‘safe points’. The story is forgettable, but I haven’t cared.
The guns are excellent and each brings, in addition to the roles filled by the class you choose, an addition role to fill. The longer range weapons like the machine gun really do fit in with the Tesla cannon and the shotgun. The secondary items such as the combat flares for added aiming help or the damage increase add to the dynamic feel or how your group adapts to completing the levels. Wrap it all up with an amazing UI ripe with features like drawing on the mini-map and an extremely functional load out pre-mission screen and the features are top notch.
My only real complaint at this point is that there isn’t more. I want more campaigns. I want this to be fleshed out but I fear they’re just releasing it as is without plans to continue. Well done though, Valve, with this title. I’d be willing to pay $20 or more for a game like it in the future or perhaps some form of payment for continued development via content updates or something like that.
Having Mod Tools on top of it all? Mind = blown.
The below video is gameplay footage of my friends and I playing through some levels.