This isn't easy to write. Normally I can take some kind of perverse pleasure from tearing into a bad game, but sadly that isn't the case this week. You see, I'm a huge fan of the first two games in this series. S.W.A.T. is an exciting shoot-'em-up that has you utilising a bunch of different weapons from a semi-automatic to grenades that stun enemies with electric shocks. S.W.A.T. 2 is a more traditional sniper game, but certainly a pleasant one and a good distraction if you're looking to kill some time. But all S.W.A.T. 3 does is show that Spiderman and the X-Men weren't the only franchises with crappy third acts.
The gameplay is a throwback to the original, which is still one of the best Flash shoot-'em-ups I've had a chance to play. Using the mouse, you aim your crosshairs at the terrorists and fill them full of lead, dropping back behind a wall before they shoot you. Though it takes a while to get the hang of it, these controls work pretty well, and when combined with a few keyboard buttons for added actions it quickly becomes quite intuitive.
The problem with S.W.A.T. 3 is that you'll spend a lot less time shooting up bad guys and a lot more time like this:
Cowering behind a wall like a little girl as masked hoodlums fire at you with AK-47 assault rifles. In the first game you could time your attacks by listening to your enemies' fire, jumping out and firing off a few quick rounds whenever they paused. Also, because you could still see half of the enemy base while taking cover, you had a good idea of where the bad guys might be, meaning you could plan ahead and reduce the amount of damage you took.
No such luck in S.W.A.T. 3; not only can you not see much of anything from behind the wall, but the enemies only stop firing for a split second, never enough time to attack while avoiding damage.
Also, I don't know what those gas masks are made of, but it must be titanium since it takes about three shots to take the bad guys down. In the first two games it was often one shot, one kill, but here your weaponry is largely ineffective (as opposed to the enemies' AKs, which will tear you to shreds in short order.) In the opening animation the developers make sure to show the wide variety of weapons you can use - everything from standard pistols to shotguns and M-16s. Finding these weapons, however, is a total lottery. You aren't able to upgrade your side arm and you're at the mercy of whatever power-ups are sprinkled through the levels.
Sometimes the terrorists will throw a grenade at you, and by hovering over it with your mouse you can throw it back, Call of Duty 4 style. I will admit this is a nice addition, but I enjoyed having my own grenades to throw back when I had that option a whole lot more. In S.W.A.T. 3 you can pick up throwable items such as knives and machetes, but you can only hold one at a time and you have to be very accurate with your throw. If that's the case, why not just pop off a few rounds? Same result in the same amount of time.
Death comes often and with little dignity attached. Unless you have the reflexes of a ninja you're not going to get very far in this game. I never even got through the first mission; in the end, all that was left of me was a red splat on the wall.
The last thing that just confuses the hell out of me is this incredibly redundant Game Over screen. First it tells you in no uncertain terms that you are dead (you know, just in case watching your character spill his guts across the ground didn't give you a clue.) Then it asks if you want to go back to the main menu. Better decide quickly, though, because in ten seconds it's going to... take you back to the main menu. So what exactly is the point of asking?
It's such a shame to see an excellent series like S.W.A.T. descend to such a low. A few of the tweaks are nice but they've been replaced by a horrible learning curve and a tiny arsenal of weaponry to use. It becomes less fun and more of a chore as you try to survive long enough to see one more stage. If you want to play any game from this series, play the original S.W.A.T., and avoid this poor sequel.
Before I end this week's review, I'd like to let you know that this is the 100th post in Big Mean Flash Gamer, and the 99th game I've reviewed. Next week I'll be doing something a little special, going back to five games I've previously reviewed and giving them a second chance to entertain me. If you have any particular titles you'd like me to review again, leave me a comment and I'll see what I can do.