A moment ago, we dropped a drunk for not cooperating. He folded his arms and refused to be handcuffed. It took a Tazer to the forehead to get him to oblige. Boy, the Stetchkovs picked the wrong SWAT team to mess with. Seriously, if we have no remorse zapping helpless junkies in the face, then the real bad guys have no chance whatsoever.
SWAT 4's plot-free carnage-romp through the underbelly of Boston is swept aside in this fine expansion pack of eight missions; but you'll need the original SWAT 4 to play it. In this expansion, you'll track down the Eastern European crime family known only as The Stetchkov Syndicate. Happily, this add-on story doesn't get in the way. Stetchkov is a tactical shooter that offers very much more of the same as the original, minus the bugs that were ruthlessly squished.
There's still a four-man team to lead into battle, but this time the management system has been enhanced with stackable orders. Put simply, you can order your men to do something immediately-if-not-sooner, or hold on until you give the go signal. It's a simple tweak that opens a range of new tactics, and you don't feel like a mother duck leading her gaggle of excitable younglings around. You can lay down orders and execute maneuvers all from SWAT's excellent right-click menu. Hold down Ctrl and the orders are delayed until you're ready to go. It's exactly what the SWAT franchise needs.
More tangible additions include Night Vision goggles that help steer you through one of the darkest games we've ever played. A new Tazer sits on your hip, and is beefed up to launch a pair of darts; especially handy when tackling stubborn grannies ... we mean criminals. The already brilliant multiplayer also gets a boost with voice communications and a doubling of your potential co-op chums to 10.
The Stetchkovs exist to give meaning to the locations you visit. The original game didn't do plot between missions; just people in peril. Here, each mission is a level in its own right, and takes you one step closer to busting Boston's most notorious drug cartel. What's more, the open-ended jumble of buildings, corridors and rooms ensures nothing remains the same from play to play.
We always enjoyed the choice of locations in the parent game, such as the cultists with the horrendous secret hidden in their basement. It was a step away from the traditional tactical shooter warehouses. The Stetchkov Syndicate takes that sense of style up a notch as you flit through a church rammed with recovering junkies in one level, then sweep into a rock club with a massive devil statue the next. Excellent.
Meatier story, more creative, twisted-up areas and less bugs; this extended tour of duty is worth signing up for.