So if reviews are suppose to be a kind of buyers guide to things that cost money, then consider this a public service announcement, go download this free game now… No really, I mean it. Start downloading it and comeback so I can tell you why you are now a cool kid for getting it.
Alien Swarm is a free Valve game (did I mention you should be downloading it right now) made by Black Cat Games, a studio now working for Valve. These are the same dudes who made the Unreal mod Alien Swarm back in 2004, this is pretty much their sequel, err re-imagining, or whatever, call it what you want. It’s Awesome.
This super awesome FREE game (I cant stress this enough) is a 3rd person coop top down shoot ’em up powered by Source engine and Steam Works. It also has a full featured online suite including a variety of unlockable weapons, items, armor abilities, and to my surprise, that nifty persistent social leveling system all the cool kids like yourself enjoy (something Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead don’t even have). Graphically, the game keeps to Valve now incredibly high visual design standards and raises it ever so slightly higher with some really cool shadowing and weather effects. Online with 4 people runs really smooth, even when you are getting swarmed by dozens of aliens, hah see what I did there, and is just a pleasure to play.
So not to sound ungrateful, but I do have a couple of gripes about the game. There are 4 classes with 8 characters, each with different abilities, roles, and weapons made avalable, that part I like. Anyone can be anything, but the game will not let you enter a game without at least 1 tech (since to advance a tech dude has to unlock doors). With that though, the game is more than happy to jump in without a medic, which even on the normal difficulty, is a death wish waiting to happen. Oh, and to add insult to injury, if all your techs dies, its instant game over. The only instance which this is not true is if all the doors and gates have been open, which is usually the last couple of feet in the level. Basically, what I am saying is that the game is very role depended, and to much is required of the Tech so a bad one can really muck up your experience.
The only other thing that sucks is that there are only 7 maps in the game total (each which can be cleared in about 10 to 20 mins). They remedy this by including all the source code and dev tools so you and everyone else can make their own levels for the game. Even better still, Alien Swarm uses Left 4 Dead’s mod system which allows you to easially see what mods are being played, where to download them and packs each one in a nice easy to install package. Enjoying mods just doesnt get any easier than this. And if you want to make your own levels, but don’t want to learn the professional toolset that is Hammer SDK, they also include a much easier to use basic tile based editor.
So why is this game free, I have no clue… you could power through all the content in like afternoon easily, but that is also true of Left 4 Dead so who knows. What I do know is that you should take advantage and give this game a run, I would have happily payed money for it, but getting it FREE makes it really something special.