Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
Developer: 3G Studios
Release Date: October 16, 2007
Sierra Entertainment has brought its successful SWAT franchise to the PSP with SWAT: Target Liberty. You play as SWAT team leader Kurt Wolfe, who has been tasked with restoring order to New York after two rival Korean gangs have taken over the streets. You discover amidst the gang chaos that there is an even more sinister plan in the works: A group of terrorists is planning to detonate a nuclear bomb in the city.
SWAT: Target Liberty is played from a third-person, overhead perspective. Keep in mind that this is not your typical "shoot and scoot" type of game; stealth is often required to properly apprehend and interrogate suspects. Similar to all other SWAT games, you are only allowed to use deadly force when necessary, meaning that there's a process of steps you'll be required to perform in order to meet your objectives. As you progress, it's often vital to interrogate detained suspects to collect important information.
Before you begin the single-player campaign, it's recommended that you go through the four training missions to become familiar with the controls and procedures of Target Liberty. It will take less than 10 minutes to complete the training missions, and it's time well spent prior to attempting to actually play the game. As was the case with the PC iterations of SWAT, there are quite a few commands to learn and master. Fortunately, I found that it took very little time to gain a good grasp of the controls for the PSP version. If you spent some time away from playing Target Liberty, you always will have the option of repeating the training missions at any time so you won't have to start a new game to reacquaint yourself with the controls.
Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of repetition in each mission. You'll cautiously navigate around the map seeking cover while advancing, locating suspects and civilians and ordering them to comply. If they do so, you'll secure their hands and then interrogate them for information. If they fail to comply, you have three options: engage them with gunfire and kill them, knock them out using a non-lethal weapon or change their attitude by smacking them upside the head with the butt of your weapon (highly gratifying at times).
It is fairly common to find that both the bad guys and civilians will require some "attitude adjustment" to gain their cooperation. Before starting each mission, you have the opportunity to change team members and weapon load-outs. Overall, the AI for team members is adequate, but I encountered a few situations where one of my AI teammates would run into an ambush and just stand there until he was shot dead instead of trying to run for cover. At the conclusion of each mission, you'll usually unlock videos that covers various aspects of being a SWAT officer; the videos were apparently shot at a training facility.
Target Liberty keeps track of mission statistics for the sake of awarding points at the completion of each mission. Elements of gameplay that affect the score include reporting injured or dead suspects and civilians, restraining and interrogating suspects and civilians, and avoiding the use of unnecessary force. Statistics, maps, mission objectives and other useful information are available during the game by pressing the "Start" button. Throughout mission maps, you can locate additional weapons and art unlocks, which help to keep you interested in the game. Your team members will improve their skills and specialties as they gain more experience; while this has been the standard practice in RPGs, it's becoming more commonplace in recent action titles. Games are saved automatically, and because most game maps are fairly large, you'll usually encounter at least one checkpoint on each map.
The rendered graphics in Target Liberty are surprisingly detailed with nice in-game effects such as steam, sparks and fire. You'll find a large quantity of debris on just about every map location, adding to the maze-like quality of each level. CG cut scenes are mixed in with the action during each mission and do an adequate job of helping move along the improbable story. Most of the maps are fairly large and will require a significant amount of crisscrossing to work your way through them. The camera system is automatic and can't be adjusted; on more than one occasion this became problematic due to map obstructions and would sometimes result in team members keeping their backs to the action. The soundtrack is a bit strange. At times you'll feel like you're in an elevator or even the produce section of your local supermarket, but luckily, most of the time, your ears are presented with a bouncy rhythm that seems better suited to the actual gameplay.
Target Liberty supports ad-hoc wireless multiplayer games with up to four players. In order for the players to access all multiplayer maps, the host must have unlocked the maps by completing the levels in the single-player game. While playing in multiplayer mode, you have a choice of three different gaming modes: Football, The Great Escape and Rodeo Round-up. In Football, players collect hostages and return them to their bases. If a player is unsuccessful in returning the hostage, the captive becomes available for pickup by other players.
In The Great Escape, a player acts as a SWAT member who is escorting a terrorist leader across the map while the other players act as terrorists and try to stop the player without harming the captured terrorist. Finally, in Rodeo Round-up, players either kill or collect hostages within a certain amount of time. All actions must be reported for points to be awarded. Multiplayer mode also includes an extra map called "The Killhouse," which is a randomly generated map based on the number of enemies, hostages, civilians and cover points specified by the game's host.
Having spent a significant amount of time playing the SWAT games on the PC, I was a bit skeptical about SWAT: Target Liberty. I expected a poor knock-off, but I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised; the game is fun to play — up to a point. The single-player game will last the average gamer no more than 10 hours, after which your only option will be to repeat it in order to improve your score, or find some friends who also have a copy of the game so you can compete in the multiplayer matches. When all is said and done, even with the exceptional graphics and reasonable playability, SWAT: Target Liberty doesn't quite offer enough bang for the buck.
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