Quite what 'coming of age' means when applied to a shoot 'em up is slightly beyond me. Maybe it means it has to wander about in an ill-fitting suit among relatives it scarcely knows, in the hope of loading up with envelopes full of hard cash. Or perhaps we have to shut it in a dirty shed and starve it for three days, then circumcise it with a rusty cheese knife. More likely, it's just PR-speak for "We've done a shoot 'em up and unless we say something fancy about it, all the snobby pc owners who look down on console games will ignore it." After all, SWIV's been around in one form or another since back in the days when games looked like a digital watch gone wrong.
Don't panic, though - this isn't another one of those poxy 'retro' games that everyone who doesn't have to pay for the buggers gets so excited about, where you spend two grand on a Pentium and another 40 quid on top to play a game you could have had on a Spectrum six years ago. This one's been made all modern and 'with it'. Even the name means something different. It used to stand for Silk Worm IV, but not any more. The world moves on... And being a shoot 'em up, tradition demands that your mindless carnage be encapsulated within a ludicrous plot.
You are an ex-special forces soldier who's making a tidy living by churning out novels about your supposed deathdealing past, even though you were only a cook in the special forces and the only death-dealing you did was during that unfortunate salmonella accident. Somewhere in the world there's a civil war going on. And with the inevitability that must sometimes make you wish you didn't live in shoot 'em up land, your daughter is kidnapped by rebel troops -presumably in the hope that your cooking skills run in the family and they'll be able to use her as a chemical weapon. So, with a heartfelt sigh, off you go to win her back in your helicopter and jeep (known as Special Weapon Interdiction Vehicles so that the game can still be called SWIV).
The bare facts
And what you find is a full 3D landscape, somewhat reminiscent of the one in Magic Carpet. And a tactical shoot 'em up approach, somewhat reminiscent of Desert Strike (shoot the radars and you've more chance of sneaking about undetected; shoot certain objectives before certain power-ups appear, etc). Except that the action is about five times more hectic. There are four different landscapes, including Arctic, Lunar and Martian attack scenarios (that'll teach them to throw fossils at us). And a number of different ground-based vehicles, including skidoos and lunar buggies. And shitloads of weapons and power-ups to help you in what looks like being a bloody difficult task. We'll tell you all about it next month. If you're good.
Download SWIV 3D
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
SWIV 3D Assault has a long history: its predecessor, SWIV, appeared on platforms such as the Amiga, Atari, and Commodore 64 in the early 1990s, and the current game with minor differences has been available in Europe for months. Called "the mother of all shoot-em-ups," this game focuses on arcade action rather than carefully-planned-out strategy as its basic thrust.
You assume the role of a lone fighter battling against rebels who destroyed your home town in a prolonged and bloody war. SWIV stands for Special Weapons Interdiction Vehicle, and you fight on land, over water, and in the air against seemingly endless enemy attacks. This combat takes place in five very different worlds -- Temperate, Antarctic, Lunar, Martian, and Alien -- and using an assortment of vehicles including gunship helicopter, skidoo, four-wheel drive land buggy, hovership, skimmer, and hovercraft. All of these vehicles have different capabilities and limitations (for example, you cannot go over steep slopes in the buggy and you cannot stop easily in the skidoo); I personally loved the skimmer the most, and I really appreciated that the choice was not restricted to a helicopter and a tank or only to vehicles that actually exist and are used in war. The enemies have their own wide array of craft, and many are among the most colorful and intriguing I have ever seen in an action game. You conduct a set of missions within each world, and have a set of targets within each mission. I never got bored with the sequence of missions because there was such variety in the tactics needed to succeed.
The style of gameplay in SWIV 3D Assault is as frenzied and frenetic as I have ever seen in a combat action game (and I have played a ton of them). Never before have I seen so many different kinds of vehicles and stationary contraptions shooting at me from so many angles at once. The attacks are quite clever, as from the air you rarely encounter an assault from right in front of you but instead usually from a craft that has circled around to get you from outside the viewing area. While the artificial intelligence of these adversaries does not appear to be that sophisticated, it is more than enough to provide a spirited challenge. Given that there is no multiplayer mode, that is essential. There is a huge assortment of weapons one can fight back with, and unlike many games of this type it is not always the best choice to choose the most powerful one you have in your arsenal. I was really impressed by the creativity of the weaponry and by the nice way you pull them in when you encounter them while searching out targets. The rolling topography provides a critical part of the excitement, as you often try to hide in a valley after an only partially successful strafing run over the target area; and there is even one mission where you cannot succeed without using a Jump Boost (one of the pickups) to make it over seemingly impassable terrain.
Although the game supports a variety of input devices, game pads or joysticks are best suited to the nature of the play. The heads-up display is well designed, and you find yourself constantly looking at the Health Bar to see how close you are to obliteration. You really need to be able to move quickly and shoot accurately to succeed in the game, and a novice player will encounter repeated failure until the basic survival techniques are learned.
The graphics in this game are well done, with the rolling terrain often beautifully depicted and the weapons and vehicles nicely rendered. But despite both MMX and 3Dfx support, the visuals in this game cannot compete with the very best in this genre, represented by Blue Byte's Extreme Assault. The level of detail and the depth of textures on the small objects portrayed here are just a notch beneath the best, and on occasion you can make out the background block used to erase an enemy vehicle when it is destroyed. As a reviewer who has tested a lot of 3Dfx games, it is clear that there are those where this 3D acceleration makes all the difference in the world and those where it really makes only a marginal difference; SWIV 3D Assault clearly falls into this second category. However, I should point out that the video clips in the game are excellent.
Although the sound effects in the game are only average, the music used is superb. Augmenting the usual techno-rock is a selection of classical pieces, including two of my very favorites -- Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain and Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries. The mixture of types of music adds to the sense of freshness in the game, and the use of established classics shows that it is not always necessary to create brand-new music to make a game really exciting. One disappointment with the sound effects was that some weapons made no noise when they fired, and if you hit some structures there was no noise until you destroyed them.
The documentation on this game consists of a single manual which provides the basic information on the gameplay, augmented by black-and-white photographs. The manual is pretty bare-bones, but it is a bit larger and better thought out than normal jewel case manuals these days.
Required: Pentium 90 CPU, 16 MB RAM, 68 MB hard disk space, 2X CD-ROM drive, Windows 95 or DOS 6.0 operating system. These requirements are relatively low for this type of game.
SWIV 3D Assault grew on me the more I played it. As you progress through the worlds (or zones as they are more specifically called), the action gets more intriguing and the creativity of the game really shows. The first world of the game clearly does not do justice to its beauty or innovativeness (the is one of those cases where reviewers who pan the game may not have had the patience to play it to the end). By the time I was fighting in the Alien Zone I was so caught up I could not stop myself from pushing onwards to the grand finale. If you love frantic arcade combat, you really cannot afford to miss this one.