SWAT 4 (2005) is a tactical first-person shooter from Irrational Games, in between Freedom Force vs. the 3rd Reich (2005) and Bioshock (2007). The game came on 2 CD-ROMS and has been out of print for years - new copies are available on ebay for between $65 and $175, and a demo disc from the April 2005 issue of PC GAMER is listed as “Buy it Now” for $15.95. I played that same demo that many years ago, and was enthralled and terrified; years later I would remember the game, at a time when I felt pirating games was a bit more acceptable; that policy has changed, but not when talking about games that are out of print, and otherwise impossible to play. If the game preservation venn-diagram overlaps between the MOMA and pirates, so be it.
It’s 1:35 AM (real-world) when I run the scenario for the tenth time. The A-Bomb nightclub has become a nightmarish bloodbath, multiple armed suspects holding just as many civilians hostage. The walls are grimy and spray-painted, there’s splashes and pools of blood on the floor, injured hostages strewn around. Red team stacks up on a door in front of me; in the corner of my screen a video feed shows Blue team outside a similar door somewhere else in the nightclub. I pause for but a moment and hear gunshots and screams inside; there is no waiting, we go now and we go hard. A few quick right-clicks later and my team enters the main room of the nightclub with a flashbang and a stinger grenade, rushing in, shouting at the top of our lungs for everyone to GET DOWN.
Gerard is hit coming in, his partner Lewis takes out the shooter. Another suspect starts to run; we shout after him in vain, so I put a bullet in his ankle. I cringe, knowing it wasn’t necessarily the “right” thing to do; I might get some shit for it later. Looking around the room, there are 2 dead suspects, 1 injured; 1 dead hostage, 2 injured. There are more screams and more gunshots coming from upstairs. It’s hard to think about what’s “right”.
My room-mate walks into the living room, which is in darkness other than my bright computer monitor, and asks what I’m playing. I tell him, and lament that this is my tenth time running the scenario, and I just can’t get it right; too many people always get hurt. He looks visibly uncomfortable when I tell him the level is a armed hostage crisis in a nightclub.
“Isn’t that a little… topical?”