Sierra's involvement in SWAT: Global Strike Team has led many people to think that Global Strike Team is the latest edition of the SWAT franchise, a franchise that has been with Sierra since the heydays of full motion video games. Global Strike Team, however, is a plot driven version of the SWAT franchise. Unlike SWAT 3: Close Quarters Battle, it is more action than a simulation of day-to-day SWAT missions. For one thing, there are only three members in Global Strike Team and rarely do they all work together. Most of the time, you'll only have one partner as backup and the sniper (no spotter), which was never really part of the five-person SWAT element, is now part of the team.
Global Strike Team, thus, is another game altogether. It isn't about the LAPD organization. And I doubt it would be as the LAPD is pretty stringent on how it is portrayed both in games as well as in movies. Global Strike Team is basically a worldwide policing force that runs on SWAT principles. The aim of each mission is to preserve life - not take it. Shooting criminals in the back does not belong in this game, although the penalties for such transgressions are not very high. You just get a poorer mission rating at the end. However, there is a good deal of police work involved, including rescuing civilians and handcuffing suspects.
The arsenal you carry also takes a little liberty with the SWAT license. For example, the classic H&K MP5 and Colt 1911 pistols are all discarded for a nameless assault rifle, shotgun and sniper rifle. You still get to use flashbangs to disable your opponents. In fact, there aren't really any offensive grenades like a frag grenade available. Again, while Global Strike Team exercises a little freedom from SWAT, the whole point is still to preserve lives.
The missions you undertake are all linked together. The story, without giving too much of it away, involves two gangs fighting each other only to be united by one mastermind who begins attacking SWAT directly. There is even an outright attack on the home base of the Global Strike Team.
It would appear the scriptwriters have taken on the Bush administration's recent mantra. There are numerous references in the missions to terms like the war on terror and some missions will involve identifying and disabling weapons of mass destruction. At least Global Strike Team doesn't take place in Afghanistan or Iraq. But as part of the Global Strike Team, you do carry out missions abroad. The United States of America would seem like your home but there are agents in Britain, France and you'll even travel to an abandoned military island in Russia by the game's climax.
The combat in Global Strike Team is easy at first but ramps up in difficulty as the bad guys become better armed. By the time you hit the folks in Russia, not one suspect you'll encounter won't be wearing full body armor, which makes it difficult to force them into compliance. I ended up just giving everyone headshots to make sure they stay down but that obviously isn't the spirit of SWAT. In fact, you come up against such well-armed paramilitaries, it almost seems like you're part of some covert military operation. One mission had you landing on an island to disable SAM missile sites. Wait a minute there, if I handcuff those people, will anyone even bother to arrest these felons? And on which country's legal jurisdiction? Those questions are for a more realistic title.
Global Strike Team, however, features a neat voice recognition system. You can use the directional pad to issue all of your orders but you can actually refer to your squadmates by name. So you can say, Jackson, disarm, and Jackson will acknowledge and disarm whatever object you happen to be pointing at. You have to speak slowly though. Those with a heavy accent can rerecord the default voice settings. It is programmed to do these things based on the different sounds you put into the microphone. However, the defaults one worked for me without a hitch.
Shouting at suspects for compliance or shooting above their heads or doing something that otherwise causes them grief will eventually cause a suspect to give up their weapon. They will do so more willingly if you sneak up behind them. They won't do so willingly if you're in front of them and they're shooting at you. This is more of a gimmick, though, since the suspect only responds to the compliance command and not whatever curses you can think of at the time. Sorry NYPD Blue fans.
In multiplayer, Global Strike Team offers both competitive and co-operative modes. The most rewarding is the co-operative play. It takes some of the same missions from the single player game but puts a different spin on it. The insertion points are different. The missions are in fact different and they also have ties to the characters in the single player campaign. For example, at one point, you're asked to do a diversionary raid so that the special characters in the single player game can carry out their mission. And there is a definite correlation between the two missions, which keeps the game fresh.
One of the most vicious levels in the game has you visiting some slums in Chicago. Let me tell you, those slums were so decrepit I had second thoughts about ever going to Chicago. Think of it as a version of what happened in Denzel Washington's Training Day only the whole neighborhood is rising up against you and your human partner.
Global Strike Team is an entertaining title. Its campaign is long enough that you won't finish if you're renting it in one sitting. The game is literally begging for a random scenario generator. Truth be told, creating one shouldn't be too hard either. It is by no means anywhere close to the police work done by real SWAT organizations. However, ceteris paribus, Global Strike Team's liberties with the source material are forgivable, and the result is a game that is not too shabby.