Elite cop realism a bore

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 May, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 May, 1996, 12:00am

Police Quest: Swat for PC CD-ROMs Former police officer Daryl F. Gates's foray into the computer world should have paid off handsomely by now. The Police Quest series from Sierra - he helped design it and is now a consultant - has already reached its fifth instalment.

The latest is Police Quest: SWAT , a four CD-ROM game based on work tackled by a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) SWAT team.

The three earlier Police Quest games dealt with detectives or uniformed LAPD policemen investigating murders and other crimes. They usually drive around Los Angeles, questioning suspects and talking to witnesses.

SWAT puts the player inside the Special Weapons And Tactics team and is run on close to 'real time'.

The player spends time undergoing training and more training, and then there are the briefings. When a call comes in, the elite SWAT boys respond in full tactical gear.

Developments in computer gaming saw the earlier Police Quest instalments introduce photo-realistic graphics and video sequences.

SWAT uses full-motion video throughout. It is undoubtedly impressive - and very realistic - but unfortunately very tedious.

The gamer plays the newest member of the team, known as 'SWAT pup'. You begin by studying police procedures and developing firearms proficiency.

You have to sit through lectures by egomaniacal commanders. Then you take part in seemingly endless rounds of weapons training, shooting at range targets over and over again. When your beeper goes off, you are taken to the 'danger site' where you are briefed before taking part in whatever operation arises. Unfortunately, these missions are sometimes a long time coming. There is nothing interesting about shooting endlessly at cardboard targets. If I were that keen, I'd join a shooting range.

The one shooting practice that holds your interest is sniper training. The adjustments necessary to take wind and other factors into consideration make this activity highly challenging. The realism depicted in SWAT is commendable, right down to the sarcasm from trainers. And the missions certainly get the adrenalin pumping.

But sifting through the enormous amount of information and facts is just not stimulating. No doubt this approximates closely the real life of a SWAT member but perhaps Sierra has gone a little overboard pursuing 'reality'.

Police Quest: SWAT has everything you ever - and never - wanted to know about SWAT work. Halfway through the game, you start expecting a quiz. The game requires a 486 DX 33 MHz processor, a double-speed CD-ROM and 8 MB RAM.