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PSP  header logo

SWAT: Target Liberty

For: PSP

How about targeting fun instead?

Product: SWAT: Target Liberty | Developer: 3G Studios | Publisher: Sierra Entertainment | Format: PSP | Genre: Action, Shooter, Strategy | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: US
SWAT: Target Liberty PSP, thumbnail 1
Someone call 999 because SWAT: Target Liberty is in serious need of help. Beyond needing a potential title transplant, prepping the paddles to jump start its plodding gameplay is a good idea. Not that we're paramedics, but we'd go so far as to say the only thing keeping it alive is a fantastic presentation and enjoyable set of multiplayer modes, which all but counter the uninspired single-player experience.

As New York City SWAT Captain Kurt Wolfe, Target Liberty assigns you to quell the conflict between two rival Korean gangs. An all-out war has broken out, pitting the Jopoks and Gangpehs against each other across the Big Apple. Wolfe's efforts to stop the bloody rivalry only serve to stir the pot, though, as a dangerous plot emerges from the background – a terrorist plan to detonate a dirty bomb in the heart of the city. Through the course of the campaign's 12 missions, it's your job to save New York City from gangs, guns, and poor play mechanics.

Actually, that last one isn't so much your responsibility as it is Sierra's. But unfortunately the game doesn't do much to meet that obligation, despite a noble attempt. Indeed, this is a game that is less than the sum of its parts – whether it be graphics, level design or its weapons, examine Target Liberty's elements individually and you'll be impressed. Yet, it all comes together to form a markedly shallow – dare we say dull – experience.

Missions are played from an isometric perspective, with direct control granted over Wolfe. And because Wolfe's no Snake, this is no lone mission – four SWAT officers are available in the game, from which you can select two to accompany you during each sortie. You can issue orders to your subordinates using a context-sensitive cursor controlled via the R button. Whatever you target with the cursor, such as an innocent bystander or locked door, prompts an appropriate action.

For instance, in the case of a locked door, a menu will pop up with options for picking the lock, blasting it open with C4, flashbanging the new room once open, and so on. Press X and both officers will execute the order or you can issue individual commands using the Circle and Square buttons tied to each officer.

It's entirely up to you whether they're employed as backup or sent in on-point. Real-time tactics play a huge role in determining your success in Target Liberty and it's what makes the game initially appealing. Unfortunately, team tactics end up boiling down to a repetitive routine of busting in doors and cuffing (and interrogating) suspects. Regardless of whether you take the initiative or order your squad members around instead, you're ultimately repeating the same rote tasks over and over again.

Perhaps this routine would be more enjoyable if the game moved at a faster tempo. By default, Wolfe and hit team walk (amble, really) at an excruciatingly slow pace. Holding down the Circle button makes them run, but it feels more like what walking ought to be. If real SWAT operatives moved at this pace, they'd be shot up like Swiss cheese before ever even locating a suspect.

Surprisingly large levels cause the slow movement to stand out even more. The game offers expansive, detailed maps perfect for its breed of tactical gameplay but the flipside is they're an absolute nightmare for portable play. Levels require too much time to complete in just the typically few minutes you may have available. This is somewhat of a conundrum because Target Liberty ought to be praised for pushing the limits of the system with its great level design despite the fact it doesn't cater to the very notion of handheld play.

There's no question praise is warranted for the game's presentation, however. Incredible detail in its environments make it one of the more impressive titles to hit PSP this year. Attention paid to small touches – such as tiny goldfish swimming in a park pond or a clearly readable corporate logo on a dumpster – have immense impact and such care yields an eye-pleasing game that's more enjoyable to play.

The same can't be said of the audio design, alas, which is memorable for its lift music and toy-like weapon sounds.

In fairness, many of the game's flaws diminish and strengths are amplified when departing the campaign for multiplayer. Removing yourself from the scripted banality of the core campaign opens up a different experience that retains the visual flair and large levels of the single-player game, while heightening the action from its sloth-like tempo.

Three modes are offered – Football, Rodeo Round-up, and The Great Escape – each making an inventive twist on the classic SWAT versus terrorist conflict. For instance, Rodeo Round-up has you compete against other players for the most captured killed suspects. The draw here, though, is that only ad-hoc mode is supported, which is particularly saddening since the game could have been that much better with online play.

That said, the core gameplay isn't horrible, it just fails to be interesting due to slow, monotonous pacing. And when it comes down to it, multiplayer in combination with a great visual presentation keeps Target Liberty from flat-lining.
SWAT: Target Liberty
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 19 October 2007
Instead of setting its sights on liberty, the game should have perhaps concerned itself with offering a more engaging experience. Still, decent multiplayer and great graphics prevent this from being simply ordinary
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