Alien Swarm review

  • The Price!
  • Non-stop action
  • Unlockable and user generated content
  • Overly simplified gameplay
  • Repetitive mission objectives
  • Lack of atmosphere

Well, the success of Left 4 Dead was bound to inspire similar works, and that’s precisely was Alien Swarm is. As our more astute readers might have guessed, Alien Swarm delivers exactly what the title promises: Aliens and lots of ‘em. Like our favorite zombie shoot-em-up, this is a 4 player co-op game (sorry, no one gets to play as the aliens…yet) involving an isolated team who must fight through seven levels of alien hell in order to get to the precious chopper…er…‘bloodhound’.

The player assumes the role of one of four classes of Marine, each with his own specialization. There’s the ‘Special Weapons’ class which enjoys the use of chain guns, flamethrowers – those kinds of things. The ‘Tech’ class solves problems that can’t be solved by bullets (yes, those problems exist even for Marines). The ‘Medic’, of course, keeps everyone stitched together. And, finally, the ‘Officer’ can buff the abilities of the rest of the team. Now, while one of each typically works best, it does not necessarily have to be so. In fact, there can be up to two of the same class (though most rounds require at least 1 specialization). Thankfully, however, responsibilities can be shared. Anyone can carry the welding torch, a single-use med pack, an additional ammo crate, or (our personal favorite) a mobile sentry gun.

The game itself mainly consists of the mechanic of ‘get from the start, to the exit’ and, frankly, what happens in between is never really all that interesting. That said, however, the ride is always fast-paced as clawed xenos pop out of every darkened corner. It’s an isometric third-person view, so you’ll always see your attackers from all directions. The aiming controls are almost too precise, which means that firefights are almost never as intense as they could be. However, players will still have to work together (especially on the harder difficulties) in order to reach the exit. There are no ‘survivor closets’ in this game - once someone dies, he’s gone for the rest of the round.

There is a leveling system that allows players access to newer and better gear, but you must always choose wisely. The inventory space is always very limited, and – despite what the previous sentence suggests – newer is not always better.

Above: Do developers really think hacking is like a game of Pipe Dream? We mean… is it?

The story is ripped right from the Aliens plot (that’s right, the Aliens), but you’ll probably be too busy shooting at the damn things to care. There are data pads with e-mail exchanges scattered throughout the levels, but is anyone really going to take the time to read them in 4 player co-op?

Above: Take a nice long look… it’ll be the last time you’ll see it

Those who play Alien Swarm and find it a bit lacking needn’t despair though. The SDK has been released on Steam, and users are heavily encouraged to craft their own levels. Within months we should be seeing a bevy of new user content, guaranteed to keep the replayability factor good and fresh every time we care to play it.

At least Alien Swarm doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is. It’s an online action shooter with plenty of things to shoot at. It might have been more atmospheric if it were in first person, but it might have been horribly broken too. So if you like blowing aliens into green little pieces, give Alien Swarm a shot.

Now for those of you still on the fence, there is one more important selling point to this game: the fact that it isn’t sold at all! It’s free! That’s right, for the very reasonable price of $0, you could be blasting aliens for hours with three of your buddies. You can download it here.

Even Scrooge McDuck couldn’t resist.

Jul 23, 2010

More Info

Available Platforms: PC


  • aimforthehead - June 1, 2011 4:17 p.m.

    Not the greatest review... Alien Swarm happens to predate Left4Dead, so it is impossible for it to be a mock game. With the different roles and options for each class, such as hacking, healing, and neat things like taking control of security systems like turrets, it is hardly simplified. I thought the atmosphere was great, and it left an SDK so people could make great custom campaigns (which they have). Did anyone mention it is free? A 6 is inexcusable -_0
  • Diaboliquin - July 31, 2010 5:43 p.m.

    Shame on you Ryan, you don't even know that Alien Swarm it was a mod for UT2004, now ported to Source, so your L4D argument is wrong. This game deserves a better score than you poor "review".
  • xthesawnoffx - July 31, 2010 3:35 a.m.

    i can agree it was kinda retarded that there was only 1 gampaign in the entire game if you didnt know about the add-ons but cmon a six? the game should deserve like a 7 in a half in my opinion im not sayin it should get a 10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 in score im just saying it deserves higher and just because you didnt bother playing online or searching for add-ons doesnt mean you should put it in a bag take a diarreaha crap in it then light it on fire then put it in a volcano
  • xthesawnoffx - July 31, 2010 3:22 a.m.

    a six... really? if you looked me in the freaking eyes saying "i gave this really great game a six" i would knock your teeth out and hopefully get your brain back in place if you say it needs more gameplay look at it has add-on maps and campaigns for the game and you wanna tell me theres no other gameplay for the game? to hear that would be like a giant worm eating you then crapping you out on your 360 internals and then the worm stole your games and blew up your house and a flood happened and no one noticed you were dead.
  • VMPSaberwolf - July 26, 2010 2:12 p.m.

    He thought the game was a 6, big deal. It's his opinion. If every game was scored based on what the general consencous was, then there'd be no point to reading the review in the first place. I do not know why people get so worked up over a score. Does someone else giving a score you don't think is appropriate affect your personal play experience with the game? That's like saying, well like I love "X" game, but because someone gave the score a 1, I shouldn't play it anymore, despite playing it and loving it for years. And just to piss the people off that can't understand the above point, I would have given Half Life 2 a 3. Did not like it. Go nuts.
  • CH3BURASHKA - July 26, 2010 2:42 a.m.

    The whole thing looks a bit generic, but you can't argue with free.
  • HeavyTank - July 25, 2010 10:47 p.m.

    I'll have to agree with the rest of the users here... I've been playing this game for many hours a day since day 1 and I found it really enjoyable and entertaining, and that's what games should be like.I dunno, maybe the author doesn't like top-down shooters..I can't really find any other reason for this rating. A 6 would've been too low even if the game was sold, nevermind being completely free...especially if we take into consideration that the game will soon have loads of new maps, skins and game modes made by the community.. Don't be fooled by this review!The game is extremely fun and won't become repetitive as quickly as you might think.Try it.
  • OneToBoner - July 25, 2010 8:34 a.m.

    Why would you even review this game? It's free. We use reviews to determine if we should spend our hard earned money on a game. When something is free we should just get it and like it or dislike it. If you want to review a game like this, you should also review more indie/free games and give them some exposure.
  • EnragedTortoise1 - July 24, 2010 9:48 p.m.

    The f*ck? It's free!
  • xskull - July 24, 2010 9:16 p.m.

  • Gahmah - July 24, 2010 5:35 p.m.

    6 is above average guys, been playing it, feels like whoever gets around to doing stuff with it should do a lot of optimization, game runs kinda janky without a whole lot going on or looking that great.
  • Woodsey - July 24, 2010 12:07 p.m.

    Whoever wrote this needs their head checked; the game's great fun. Are you sure you played it online? If those are your screens then you've been playing with bots.
  • 2dboy - July 24, 2010 10:36 a.m.

    Because it's free, I will add +2 to the score.
  • arturus1000 - July 24, 2010 8:47 a.m.

    I' m currently developing a map pack for this game. It's really expansive. There are actually 6 different types of alien, and you can add custom battle music - In short, this game is freakin awesome! If you walk up to portal 2 like this... i swear - I will... uhh... Crap. I don't live in america. -uhh... i shall write evil messages on Gamesradar UK.
  • CountFenring - July 24, 2010 8:33 a.m.

    I am inclined to agree with the six. I can't fathom why some people are freaking out over this.
  • mahabat - July 24, 2010 7:55 a.m.

    seems like everyone but the reviewer was a fan of this game, i am to, maybe beside the score they give their should be a reader rating averaging system, just to see the contrast, it could be interesting
  • Eultima - July 24, 2010 7:15 a.m.

    a 6? really? the game is better than decent....
  • jake1123456 - July 24, 2010 6:21 a.m.

    I do think you're quite hard on this game considering what it is. As many before me have said, the game is FREE, a side project the L4D team was working on that they released out of the goodness of their hearts. Free obviously means it doesn't cost me anything out of pocket to play this game, and lets face it, we've all paid a lot more for a lot less. Furthermore, being a poor college student and having a lot of other poor college students as friends, there are few games that we can all play together with 4 player co-op because buying 60 dollar games every few weeks just isn't in the budget. Therefore, a free game with 4 player co-op capabilities is a godsend, because now there's a game that all of my friends can download and play together. Sure, its a straightforward shooter with bare bones story, only one campaign (for now) that's just all about killing a few different types of aliens. But with a decent class system, a fairly diverse load out, and hours of mindless shooting fun at varying difficulties that require pretty decent teamwork at hand, I think this game deserves better than a 6. I do get where you're coming from. I can easily see this being released on XBLA or something for 10 bucks and this review would be completely warranted. But for a free PC release with full Steam support and very fun, repeatable, though simplistic, gameplay; a 7 or 8 is much more appropriate. In my opinion, which is the key here.
  • faraany3k - July 24, 2010 5:34 a.m.

    I totally do not agree with the review, its like the worst review from GR for a long long time. Clearly your review has screenshots of you playing with BOTS. I hardly think you have played it online. Secondly how on earth OVERLY SIMPLIFIED GAMEPLAY make a game BAD. Which i strongly disagree that game is simplified. The game is inspired only by left4dead cuz its 4 person coop. Alien Swarm has dedicated medic and tech characters that are completely different from left of dead theme. Ryan please play some more. And then review.
  • Pantas - July 24, 2010 4:52 a.m.

    If alien swarm was inspired by left 4 dead, then they must have traveled into the future, because they released alien swarm as a UT2k4 mod years before L4D was even announced. You disappoint me, Ryan

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