This is the start of an ongoing thing I will be doing on this blog: telling you how to have an awesome time gaming for, if not free, then really cheap.

Today I am going to be talking about Alien Swarm.

If you are guessing this game involves Aliens, and the swarming of them. YOU ARE RIGHT.

The game play is best compared to a top-down left4dead, which on its own would be fun, but it goes so much deeper than that.  It is four player co-operative, and unlike, say, left4dead, you definitely need all four. Each player chooses a class; Heavy (dude with a big gun), Medic (the healer), Sergeant (dude with a smaller gun, but better reloads), and Engineer (the Swiss army knife). All four seem to be needed, and all have a different way of playing.All the classes, each one has two ‘characters’ to choose from, with different abilities.

All the classes, each one has two 'characters' to choose from, with different abilities.

The Heavy is probably the easiest, and probably the one you give to the newbie of the group. His job is to carry a big gun, and keep everyone else alive with it. His weakness is definitely how long it takes him to reload, and how much ammo he eats up (if someone brings an ammo kit, it can usually supply a team very well. A Heavy needs the whole thing for one clip).  If you had two of them on your team, ammo would be a problem very quickly.

To make up for this, is the Sergeant. He is still a fairly simple “shoot first, ask later” character, but rather than a huge chain-gun, he uses a shotgun. It’s easier on the ammo, but lower on the damage. If you have both on your team, damage is rarely a problem. The problem comes in when one of them takes damage, that’s why you need a Medic.

A Medic can still use guns, but more likely will just use the healing items he can take. He needs to be constantly baby-sat, or he will die very fast.  If you can keep him alive with your bullets, he will return the favour by keeping you alive with magic healing lasers. If you don’t have a medic you will die very, very fast.

So that just leaves the Engineer, what makes him so important? Well he can lock doors behind teams, which is great in hold-out situations, but more importantly, he can open locked doors, and is the only character who can ‘hack’ which is needed to progress in some sections. If you don’t have an engineer, your team can’t continue. Other people can use engineer equipment, but it’s so slow odds are good your team will die as a result.

You will see this screen, a lot.

This game is tough, but not in a “throw-your-controller-against-the-wall” kind of way. With the difficulty on ‘hard’ (I think it goes up one higher too) it is very tough to finish a mission without someone getting killed. On top of that, what will often end up happening is once one person is dead, the rest begin to die because of the loss of the damage/healing/ability to actually continue. It leads to a hilarious domino effect that leaves everyone else laughing, and the last player fleeing in terror and crying for help. When you do succeed, it is totally awesome and your whole team feels like a god. The game also maps who did the most damage, the most friendly fire (I usually win that one), the highest health, and their ammo-usage through the level.

Here we see my friend, getting killed. Because I died already. Oops.

The levels themselves are short, but they don’t feel it. They are just long enough that, after re-doing them four times, you still don’t feel too bad about doing it again. The game ships with 7 levels all bundled into one campaign. You can download custom maps from all over the internet. I haven’t tried any other than the main, and we haven’t gotten bored with the main one yet.

Actually. All of my screenshots are from after I died, because while alive I would forget to snap shots.

A game is only as good as the monsters you are killing in them, and this one is definitely one of the best for that. The aliens all look similar enough that you can see they are the same species, but different enough they are easy to tell apart. Most of them are simple enough: They charge you, and will kill you unless you shoot them. The others are interesting; there are at least two different ranged enemies (we called them ‘spitters’ and ‘big spitters’. We are not exactly creative). There are also two big enemies, one that uses huge, shield like arms to stop bullets, and another that rushes you then explodes violently. There are little guys that fly, and as such are really annoying, but all of these pale when compared to ‘infectors.’

These things are small, and remind me of the baby aliens from alien. They leap at your face, and if they hit, they do HUGE damage over time to you. If they kill you, you explode into three to four more infectors, which then go for your team.  Its horrifying, and if one of these hits any member of your team, he will die without immediate dedicated Medic attention. If two people get infected, almost always one will die. Usually the one who dies is the one that is not the medic, or the engineer.

Let’s talk rating. We will judge this game on fun, multiplayer, cost, and simplicity. This way we can judge what is the best game for a group of broke gamers.

Cost: free!

Fun: It’s a blast! We spent hours playing this, and we will still jump on given the chance. It doesn’t take long to download either.

Simplicity: It’s really easy to get into, but hard to master. If you are with new-comers, lower the difficulty and it will still be fun.

Multiplayer: Oh good god you need four people for this. Apparently playing alone is possible but I really wouldn’t want to do that, it sounds like it would lead to a lot of death.

Overall rating: Download it, play it, love it. Drag three friends with decent computers to play along with you.

Download Link: Via steam

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