App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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Ask just about any PC gamer what their favorite multiplayer first-person shooter is and they’re most likely to respond with Counterstrike. This Halflife mod quickly snowballed into an outright phenomenon, and as far as I know there haven’t been any attempts to truly emulate the experience on iOS devices. Until Critical Missions: SWAT, that is.
Much like the PC hit, Critical Missions: SWAT is deeply rooted in multiplayer. Solo play is an option by way of AI bots, but there’s absolutely no campaign here, much less any real story. Once a game is set up or joined, players are asked to pick a team (Terrorists or SWAT) and then basically run around shooting at each other while completing their team’s objectives or preventing the other team from finishing theirs. Each match starts players off with a set amount of cash that can be used to purchase new weapons and ammo, and more cash is earned by playing relatively well. As an added bonus, in addition to the regular multiplayer and team deathmatch modes there’s also a Zombie variant that puts some players in control of the walking dead (who must try to convert the living) and the rest in control of SWAT officers trying to survive the onslaught.
Due to some bad timing I was never able to give Counterstrike much of a chance, but after spending some time with Critical Missions: SWAT I finally understand the appeal. The core idea of mission-based competitive multiplayer (across iOS devices and PCs, no less) is fun in itself, but the addition of self-directed progression by way of earning more and more cash for bigger and better weapons really enhances the experience. In this case specifically, it’s also great to see that there are a fair number of game types to play around with. I was particularly fond of the zombie mode.
However, Critical Mission: SWAT’s problems are numerous, and can completely overshadow its good points. The most immediate problem involves the controls. They just aren’t good for iOS devices. Movement is incredibly slippery and unresponsive, making something as simple as walking through an open door take an unnatural amount of concentration and effort. This obviously makes aiming all the more difficult as well. In addition to this, some of the levels seem poorly designed. Of those that I’ve messed with, one didn’t seem to have an exit for players who fell in the water and another an easily exploitable position for SWAT players to take in zombie mode.
The idea behind Critical Missions: SWAT is certainly solid, and a number of the features work quite well, but two of the most basic concepts (controls and maps) feel like a complete mess. With a little more work it could be an incredibly entertaining game, but at the moment it’s far more frustrating than fun.