First-Person Shooters usually have a few things in common. They are violent, they have different weapons that all require balancing with each other, and they bring the competitive nature out of every player. S.W.A.P plans to break that stereotype with a re-imagining of the First-Person Shooter.
S.W.A.P, or Subterfuge Weapons Assessment Program, is a First-Person Shooter being developed by an Australian independent development studio called Clockwork Interactive. Nico King, S.W.A.P Project Lead, and Gregg Nott, Network Programmer, were showcasing the game at the EB Games Expo earlier this month, and I decided to give the game a try.
Often, when one thinks shooter, they think guns and killing. In S.W.A.P, things are a bit different. Instead of a gun, you have a weapon that allows you to switch bodies with enemy players. Switching bodies means switching places. It also means that if the enemy you switch to is carrying the objective, then you now have the objective.
This mechanic is something that changes the way you play. Instead of hunting down your enemy, you have to think of when it is best to strike. Do you try to switch bodies as soon as they pick up the objective? Or do you make them think they are going to win, but then switch bodies with them and make your move with the objective while they are still finding their bearings? These thoughts are constantly going through your head as you play S.W.A.P, and it’s something you do not normally have to think about in a shooter. At first it was a strange feeling, but I adapted to the concept fairly quickly.
You are probably wondering how it is that two people can switch bodies? Well, maybe people can’t, but robots can! That’s why you play as a robot. The robots are small, which makes hitting them harder than it sounds, but not so hard that a large amount of skill is required.
The whole game is centred around the idea of robots. The map we played on had a technological feel to it. The walls rose up high and had a metal finish to them. On the ground were elevated hexagons you could walk under and jet pack over, and higher elevated platforms to traverse using a jet pack. The map requires these objects so you can find ways to avoid being hit and body swapped. Furthermore, there were strong turbines at the entrance to each team’s base which required steady movements to by-pass. I was told by the developers that it is possible, if you are skilled enough, to walk into the turbine, but quickly switch with an opponent so they fall in and die.
The game mode we played was a capture the flag variant where teams of two had to take a virus to the other team’s base, earning a point. There were quite a few times when someone thought they were home free, and then they would get body switched right at the last moment. Then it becomes a frantic rush to either get back in your body and capture the point, or, if you are on the other team, move as quickly as you can to try and get the virus into the opposing base. Most games are like a tug-of-war with the player with the virus constantly changing.
S.W.A.P is still in early development, but what I played at the EB Expo worked quite well. As there is only one weapon, balancing is not a problem, and the robots felt like they moved at a decent speed. However, there was an issue where my AI team mate kept shooting at me towards the end of my play time. It was funny, because shooting your own team does nothing. Of course, the game is meant to be played with human players, but Clockwork only had three stations set up. Therefore, the fourth player in the two on two game had to be an AI.
After playing S.W.A.P, it is now on my radar. Indie development is all about innovation. So when developers try to go off the beaten path in a genre, hope for good things. Clockwork Interactive is doing just that and I see loads of potential. S.W.A.P looks like I could be one of those games that is easy to grasp, but has potential for advanced tactics. The non-violent nature of the game makes it great for all ages.
Nathan Manning is an Xbox Editor for AnalogAddiction. He is excited about all of the great ideas coming out of the Australian game development industry. You can find him on Twitter and AnalogAddiction there as well.