Borderlands 2’s director made one other nice, underappreciated shooter: SWAT four

There’s been a shootout on the A-Bomb nightclub in Fairview, and the fallout is disastrous.Patrons writhe on the ground between the audio system, caught up in a gang altercation that’s nonetheless ongoing. The increase of shotgun fireplace and male voices travels by means of the partitions, a bassline the DJ by no means meant. As lead operator of a SWAT squad it’s my job to revive quiet, and my coronary heart is thumping like an 808.
Yesterday, taking part in Borderlands three, an encounter like this is able to have been a cinch. Then, I used to be packing a pistol that fired lightning ten instances a second. Now, the hardware I’m toting is a paintball gun which makes individuals cough. Non-lethality is not any joke.
That is SWAT four, and what’s led me right here is Paul Hellquist. As inventive director of Borderlands 2, he led the collection to over 20 million gross sales and the world-conquering place it nonetheless occupies in the present day. However earlier than that he labored at Irrational Video games, as lead designer on Bioshock, and as one in every of three designers on SWAT four.

What’s placing is the distinction: though Borderlands 2 and SWAT four each technically belong to the identical style, they couldn’t be additional aside in philosophy. The previous awards you medals for killing within the hundreds; the latter provides you further factors for clearing ranges with out hurting anybody in any respect. Borderlands affords all the data you possibly can presumably need upfront, from the precise place of your enemies to the gun you’ll get as reward. In SWAT four, in contrast, you’re by no means fairly positive what you’re up towards. That’s why I’m eternally poking a mirror on a stick below the door, within the hope of catching a glimpse of whoever is likely to be ready on the opposite aspect.
Even the map is usually unreliable – the closest factor I’ve acquired to A-Bomb’s flooring plan was scrawled on a serviette by an off-duty barman. In that means, SWAT four is much less paying homage to Borderlands than Thief. Which is smart: that is an FPS from the studio that helped set up the immersive sim. Regardless of its scientific remit as a squad shooter, it’s dripping with ambiance – fairly actually within the case of the leaky ceiling of 25 Glendive Lane, the place water collects in buckets, the one sound on this eerie, overlarge home. The place is house to a serial killer, and it’s disgusting, a warren that stinks of rotting meals and neglect. But Irrational’s degree designers can’t assist however humanise the perp – on the body of the kitchen door, utilizing a pencil, the killer’s mom has fondly recorded his development as a toddler. In April 1994 he’d been 4 foot; by July 1999, he was nearing six. The size solely feels as if it’s lacking a notice to elucidate the place life went improper afterwards.

You may see the place Bioshock got here from. Even the 911 calls and briefings that precede ranges are filled with a element and drama that’s, frankly, surplus to necessities in a tactical shooter. Forward of 1 mission, my lieutenant describes a botched financial institution job that led to a excessive pace chase and a crash. The beleaguered baddies tried the doorways of close by places of work till they got here throughout a software program studio – unlocked due to course software program builders can be engaged on a Saturday.
It’s not simply the jokes on the expense of overworked sport builders – all over the place you look, SWAT four is powered by an consideration to element that makes it really feel true to life. These are environments that had been lived in, labored in, danced in, proper up till the emergencies that precipitated the arrival of 5 policemen dressed from head to toe in kevlar. What’s extra, they make sense as areas. The hall behind the dancefloor at A-Bomb results in the loos, as you’ll count on. The cubicles of the software program home are, after all, ignored by administration places of work. And the latch-operated steel door in the back of a serial killer’s bed room? You may safely assume there’s somebody behind it.

With no minimap or goal markers, survival relies in your means to make spatial sense of the extent. These slo-mo breach and clear moments in Name of Obligation? Right here they require meticulous setup and timing – particularly in the event you’re going non-lethal. You’ve acquired seconds to shock the suspects inside into submission, earlier than they realise they’re by far the best-armed individuals within the room. Yelling is my weapon of alternative, and when that fails, the pepper spray. The sound of sidearms clattering to the bottom as enemies give them up is as satisfying as any Jakobs revolver.
When you’ve secured any hostages, you’re tasked with bringing ‘order to chaos’ – accounting for each final particular person on the map. Usually, after I’m cuffing harmless civvies, they ask why I’m treating them like criminals. And the reality is that SWAT four has taught me to concern movement of any sort, as a result of movement results in surprises, and surprises result in chaos. It’s a far cry from Borderlands 2 and the up to date shooters which have adopted in its wake. In a style that now thrives on sudden emergence, SWAT four nonetheless stands out for asking you to close it down.

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