The Swarm by Buka & GlobalVR
Released: February 2013
Players: 1-2 simultaneous
Type: Mounted Light Gun Shooter
Rating: Yellow for Animated Violence or Red for Life-Like Violence (operator selectable)
Arcade Exclusive? : YES
SYNOPSIS: Shoot evil aliens who have invaded Earth and use some of your new found alien mutant powers against them in the process in this mounted light-gun shooter by GlobalVR
In a story that is pretty much familiar to everyone, aliens invade Earth and its up to one guy to stop them. The attract mode even uses the cliche line “The fate of mankind now depends on one man.” At this point that is little to get the blood boiling from a game released back in 2009 for the PC through Russian distribution channels. I’m not sure how big the game development sector is in Russia although off the top of my head I can’t think of any other games made there without needing to consult the interwebs. That doesn’t mean they can’t make fun or good games, I’m just not terribly familiar with work of developers based there.
If you take a look at the PC version that this arcade game is based on, it is quickly obvious that they are not really the same game. The PC title was a 3rd person shooter and the arcade is an on-rails shooter that uses the assets from that game, giving it some exclusivity that you don’t always get with console/arcade ports. I have not played the PC version but from the few videos of it on Youtube one can get a solid idea of how it plays. Comparing them can only be done in terms of graphics and sound due to that, so I will see what I can offer.
Aside from the generic storyline, what might be a little bit different here is that the hero is infected with alien powers, which he can then use against the attackers. Also, the setting is in Moscow which usually only shows up in WWII shooting games. When the game starts, you can choose out of six levels to play. From what I played, you are running through some burning ruins of Moscow and along the way run into these green aliens who are infesting the city while chasing down and killing some soldiers. You run along shooting them down with plenty of blood splatter to accompany the violence. This can be set to either a Yellow Label or Red Label game, if set to red then the green aliens actually explode with red blood. One could look at it as bad timing to release the game as passions heat up once again over violent games in the culture and this happens to be the most violent arcade game (again, when set to Red Label mode by the operator) released in some time. But if really worried about it, the operator will set it to Yellow and it won’t cause any problems.
There are a variety of enemy types, enough that I don’t think I managed to see all of them available from what I have played. The overall style of most enemies seems to be a combination of aspects of reptiles and insects but on occasion you come across something else that doesn’t really fit into either category.
In a way it’s a little bit like GVRs Paradise Lost although at the end of the day it’s more interesting that PL since it has the player moving along more often and there are multiple paths and secret rooms to discover. In the build that I played this aspect of selecting a path was not setup very well. There were points where you eliminate some enemies and then the camera just sits there – no indication of selecting a path or anything like that. You just sit there until you fire in the right place on the screen that sends you to the next area or opens a secret room. It’s a little strange and could have certainly been done in a better way as if the player doesn’t figure that out, they may think that the game is broken and walk away. It doesn’t happen all the time but I do remember that when I came across that, it was a little confusing and I know how customers are if things suddenly stop without any indication as to what to do.
That said, I do appreciate the secret rooms with items to collect as well as things to blow up. Too often it seems like secrets are not really in arcade games anymore, or they are so difficult to figure out that only the development team knows that something is there. On occasion there are small things but with The Swarm, you actually get entire rooms filled with rewards where the last time I recall anything quite like it was House of the Dead 4.
The controls are familiar to anyone who has played a GlobalVR gun game since Aliens Extermination as the mounted guns haven’t changed, just the functions of the buttons. You have a grenade launcher on the left hand side of the barrel and by using the yellow button in front of the trigger to activate your shields. The shields are a bubble that can be set down in a place where you point at the screen to offer up some temporary defense. There are multiple weapons to obtain, which you get by shooting crates or shooting item drops. These are considered “genetic upgrades” and will give you new firepower such as fireballs. It’s a straightforward and simple to use system, the only complaint I have is that the left player is stuck with a green target reticule which was a poor choice when most of the enemies you point at are pretty much the same color and so it blends together.
One thing that the cabinet makes a point to tout is that this uses stereoscopic 3D graphics in conjunction with Real3D glasses (the same as are found in many movie theaters around the globe). This is GlobalVR’s first game to use that and it is optional – either the operator can choose to deactivate if they wish or there is a button on the control panel that lets the player choose between 2D/3D. The 3D is ok – there is some interlacing however which can hurt the effect at first until you get used to it. There are some particle and shading effects as well as bloom lighting, nothing too fancy but the game does look better than Frightfearland, their release right before this one. The framerate was always solid from what I witnessed and there was some amount of physics in having objects fly around the screen when you get some explosives to go off. One thing that does stand out about the enemies is that their textures are bright, which contrasts against the muted earth tones of the much in the environments.
What there is in terms of music is completely forgettable but most of the time you hear the sounds of combat with gunfire and explosions more than anything else.
As mentioned, nothing of a surprise here as they are using a tried and true mounted gun system. The only issues I found with the targeting is something that could be fixed in the software by simply changing the color of the reticule.
This cabinet is an evolution of their mounted gun cabinet which has been tweaked in various ways since Aliens Extermination came out seven years ago. It wasn’t too long ago that they released a design for Aliens which used a 50″ monitor that attaches to a monitor mount and this is similar although it uses a 47″ screen. The design of using normal TVs on mounts is becoming more common among arcades but one thing I do like on The Swarm design is the marquee that attaches to the back of the set and covers both sides and the top, so it’s more attractive than some other marquees for these types of setups I have seen. It allows for the use of cheap throw-away 3D glasses.
It should be noted that this is available in kit form as well, both to convert previous GVR light-gun cabinets or even more standard JAMMA cabinets over to it. How it will look in those instances will depend upon the operator however.
If you like blowing stuff up and splattering alien lizard dogs then you should find plenty to enjoy here. Finding a secret room will be a surprise for you and with a lot of different alien enemies to find, that at least gives you something to explore as well. Violent games generally get a bad rap, especially in recent months although from an operator perspective they tend to earn well over a long period of time. The game doesn’t throw anything new at you like mini-games or QTEs, it’s more of a walk along and shoot kind of game. So nothing particularly innovative there but it is a method that has worked for many games over the years.
That’s a tough one as there are some issues I have with the game. They can be fixed since it is all software related, I just don’t know if they will be. It’s an ok game as is but it didn’t particularly knock my socks off. It is great that they have a kit version of it as well, which happens to cost less than the Frightfearland kits so that you can go with it, without breaking the bank. The game is an evolved improvement over the likes of Paradise Lost so if you liked that or it did well on you location then this should do similar or better.