Alien Swarm

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.

  • Downloading has been quite slow all day but seems to have finally picked up. Looking forward to trying this out because it does look like it could be quite fun. Maybe I will see you in a game Keen.

  • I think that I might have snuck in under the radar or something with my download. I started downloading about 3 hours after it opened and was getting 1mb/s or faster when others were being told the servers were busy.

  • It does seem like a fun game but I have one problem with it. If you die that is it, you are out for the round and they can take a long time to finish. There needs to be some way to revive. Make it a medic skill so everyone will want to keep their medic alive.

    I understand the rational behind wanting no respawns as they want the chance for you to fail but then there needs to be an incentive for staying in a game after dying. As it is you might as well move on so you can at least still have fun.

  • This game is straight up great. I think this is actually better than L4D. It offers the kind of co-op experience I wanted there, without forcing a PvP mode which ruined in the game for me. I played last night with some folks I know and we played only on hard mode straight away, and while we died MANY times as newbies playing on hard, it was amazingly fun, addictive, and intense.

    Score another one for Valve, they are putting the rest of the industry to shame.

  • @ Curious George, you can still write on the map when dead, so you can try to help your team mates out with that. But then again, I only played with a group of people that I know, or at least am moderately acquainted with through an online community. In a pick up game, it might be significantly less impressive (but that is true of almost any game). I think dying being permanent is absolutely crucial. Not only does it ramp up the intensity, but it gives the whole thing a sense of integrity as a survival/horror game.

    Yeah, it sucks to die, but when I did, I found that watching my team mates and rooting for them was exciting as well! Maybe I’m old fashioned though. The idea of “I just want to play again gogogogogo” strikes me as the ADD generation craving its constant feedback loop that was just severed by a game asking them to sit and be patient for 5 minutes.

  • @We Fly Spitfires: Runs flawlessly at 60fps+ on maxed out settings (which it detected by default) on my 2+ year old rig.

    Recommended specs:
    OS: Windows® 7 / Vista / Vista64 / XP
    Processor: Intel core 2 duo 2.4GHz
    Memory: 1 GB for XP / 2GB for Vista
    Graphics: DirectX 9 compatible video card with Shader model 3.0. NVidia 7600, ATI X1600 or better
    Hard Drive: At least 2.5 GB of free space
    Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card

  • @Curious George
    When downloads get slow for me on day 1 releases, I usually change my download country.

    Go to settings, then the download tab (or something), and change the country to somewhere else. I’m East Coast, USA, so I usually change to France (since they’re all sleeping when I’m usually at home).

    This has worked like a charm the last few games I’ve gotten via Steam.

  • I’ve played this game a bit, and its not the kind of game I enjoy. It needs some refining, but I know a lot of people who would like this game. It’s not for me.

  • I have been playing this today and indeed my only real complaint, considering it’s free, is the lack of missions.

    The Offline Practice is worth doing before you venture forth but the AI-controlled Marines are annoying especially when they keep leaping back through doors as you are trying to weld them shut behind you (Hint: Press X to have all your team Stop once they are through).

  • Yeah, played it trough on easy, hopefuly community made capaigns are coming, coz its far to short !

    But man those parasites are overkill, even on easy they can kill you so fast that medic wont even have time to start healing you, by far the most dengerous enemy around.

  • There is a director AI mode you can enable that makes the game much more difficult by adding more mobs instead of just getting the same ones at the same spots over and over.

  • Thanks for the heads-up, Keen! That looks hella fun — gunna try it out tonight! =)