Codex Gamicus

SWAT 3: Close Quarters Battle (also known as SWAT3 or SWAT3:CQB) is a tactical squad-based first-person shooter, developed by Sierra Northwest and published by parent Sierra Entertainment for the PC on November 23, 1999. SWAT3 remains the biggest selling title of the SWAT series,[citation needed] and is the only member of the SWAT series to come close to the popularity of the earlier titles of the Police Quest series, from which it originated[citation needed] although it is the first game in the series which omits the name Police Quest.

As the first first-person shooter of the Police Quest/SWAT games, SWAT3 received a new game engine with cell and portal technologies for simulation of environments, and advanced AI and ballistics. The developers spent some time with LAPD SWAT, studying tactics in order to create an accurate, realistic simulation. Most of the animations in the game were motion captured, acted out by a SWAT officer.[1]

The player assumes the role of a Los Angeles Police Department SWAT element leader, in command of a five-man element. Over a number of missions, the player has to defend the city from violent criminals, terrorists and the threat of a nuclear weapon, and prevent disruption of an important treaty signing. The game also features multiplayer including traditional Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes in addition to Paintball mode and Cooperative play through the single player missions.

SWAT 3 was succeeded by SWAT 4 in April 2005, development and publishing being transferred to Irrational Games and Sierra owner Vivendi Universal.


As the name indicates, the game is based on CQB tactics. The player is in charge of a 5-man SWAT element, and unlike other tactical shooters, such as the comparable Rainbow Six games, the player is a police officer; therefore arresting rather than simply shooting suspects on sight is the primary objective. The improper use of deadly force (when a suspect is wounded and unable to use weapons, has surrendered or poses no threat) is penalized in the game.

The single player game features four elective weapons; the HK MP5 and MP5SD, the Benelli M1 Super 90 and the Colt M4A1, in addition to the modified Springfield M1911 side arm issued to all LAPD SWAT officers. All of these feature a flashlight and some have modifications to give SWAT a tactical advantage in certain situations; for example, the M4A1 can fire 'beanbag' less than lethal rounds which hurt but do not kill targets, and the M1 Super 90 has secondary breaching ammunition for shooting locks out of doors. Others have a selection of full metal jacket and expanding hollow point ammunition, whose effectiveness depends upon the situation and the target.

File:SWAT3 loadoutscreen.jpg

The pre-mission loadout screen

Unlike some other games, some weaponry and ammunition is actually able to penetrate through walls, which makes spray-firing a risk, as a stray bullet can pass through a wall and hit an innocent.

Firearms are augmented by a number of tactical aids, such as CS gas and flashbang grenades, chemical lightsticks, breaching explosives and the 'opti-wand'; a miniature camera on a telescopic wand used for searching around corners, an update to the mirror-on-a-stick solution used by real life police.

SWAT officers are outfitted much like in real life, with some advancements for the game's near-futuristic (in 1999) setting; these are used to explain elements of gameplay, such as the HUD; officer's fully enclosed helmets have relevant information, such as ammunition counts and a target reticule projected onto the faceplate.

Instead of traditional health points, SWAT3 has a health 'scale' more similar to a life bar, representing sensors monitoring blood loss and body temperature. Wounds cannot be healed mid-mission, and an officer can take very few hits before being incapacitated. This necessitates the use of flashbangs when entering an area, to distract and disorient armed suspects waiting in ambush.

File:Swat 3 0004.jpg

SWAT officers confronting a suspect

The game has three difficulty levels; easy, medium and hard, which increase the aggression and tactical intelligence of suspects and reduces their likelihood of surrender. There is also a 'response time' options for AI officers and suspects, ranging from 1 to 20 milliseconds, which dictates how quickly officers and suspects respond to changing situations.

Within a mission, the game has two 'modes': stealth, and dynamic. In stealth mode, officers move slowly and cautiously, use the opti-wand on doorways and corners, speak softly, do not use flashbangs and pick locked doors instead of destroying them. Suspects are unaware of or can lose track of the police in stealth mode, and the police gain an element of surprise, especially if the player opts to start the mission in stealth mode. When a suspect is encountered, the game automatically switches to dynamic mode. In dynamic mode, officers move quickly, speak loudly and shout, and use flashbangs and breaching explosives when appropriate. The player can switch freely between stealth and dynamic modes.



There are a number of militant or terrorist factions encountered by SWAT over the course of the game, of various nationalities and agendas. The Kurdish People's Party is a small, disorganised US splinter of a group seeking the independence of Kurdistan from Turkey. The cell is led by Lokman Damar. Malta is a US terrorists-for-hire group led by a man named Ric 'Dog' Peters. The People's Liberation Party, also referred to as the PLP, is a Russian Communist group which seeks the reunification of the Soviet Union. The group is quite large with a number of different leaders, and prefers hostage-taking to achieve their goals, holding many people around the world. Sovereign America is one of the main antagonist factions in the game; a militia recognized as a domestic terrorist group by the US Government after the bombings of courthouses and other municipal buildings. Sovereign America asserts that the US Government is part of a 'new world order' that will take away their freedom. Accordingly, they reject all Government authority, including police. Sovereign America is led by Tobias Stromm, self proclaimed minister and preacher of "end of the world rhetoric".


The game is set in Los Angeles in 2005, shortly before the signing of a United Nations Nuclear Abolishment Treaty. The player and SWAT have the responsibility of ensuring that the treaty is signed safely. A number of fictional domestic and foreign terrorist groups serve as antagonists, who plan on using the signing as a platform for their demands. To make matters worse, lost Soviet portable atomic demolition devices ("suitcase nukes") are reported to have buyers in the LA area.


The original game had 16 missions total, ranging from fast deployment to VIP protection. Some of the maps are based on true locations such as the LA City Hall and the Convention Center. The expansions added more maps, but neither of them is used on the 5-man campaign, only with the additional 10-man campaign that was distributed later on Sierra's website.

The earlier missions are more routine SWAT call outs, keeping the learning curve shallow for new players, the first being search warrant service to the home of Martin Brenner, a suspected freeway sniper. This serves as a basic introduction to the game. The next mission introduces Sovereign America for the first time, with an arrest warrant served on one Victor Getts, suspected of vehicular manslaughter, bomb making and membership of Sovereign America.

The bombing of the Turkish embassy, and kidnap of ambassador Jemil Kemal introduces the Kurdish People's Party. This is followed by an invasion of the home of Donald Foreman, CEO of a large cable provider by a heavily armed group, holding Foreman, his wife Linda, and his two children to ransom.

The Orthodox Patriarch Alexei III and his retinue are held in an Orthodox Cathedral by an armed group is the first incident connected to the treaty signing, as the bishop is visiting Los Angeles to attend the signing. Matters are complicated by the private security team hired to protect Alexei. This security team provide an unknown variable. Completely randomly, they will either attack the SWAT team, attack the terrorists or do absolutely nothing. This will change each time the mission is played.

The downing of the aircraft of the Algerian president by a Surface-to-Air missile becomes a serious international incident and marks the entrance of the People's Liberation Party. The resulting chaos caused by the shutdown of LAX has created a significant number of vulnerable targets for more missiles, including the plane of Russian president, Igor Stomas. The missile is traced to a waterworks construction site, and SWAT is dispatched to investigate. Soon after, the PLP storms a television studio during an afternoon talk show, holding LA Mayor Marlin Fitzpatrick, Tolerance Defense League Chairman Herman Moyer, host Donna Briggs and many members of the audience and station staff hostage. The group demands an international broadcast of their message of Soviet reunification. The People's Liberation Party again targets President Stomas at his penthouse suite at the Carlysle Hotel, demanding a flight to Moscow with the intention of taking Stomas with them.

File:Swat 3 0005.jpg

Hotel Carlysle, hostage and threat

SWAT's next task is the arrest warrant for Ric Peters at his nightclub, The Phoenix, when he and Malta are finally identified as the mysterious group responsible for both the Foreman home invasion and Cathedral incident. They also have to deal with a failed bank heist by Sovereign America, who have holed themselves up in the bank.

In the final run up to the treaty signing, SWAT is given VIP protection duty for dignitaries at a pre-signing meeting at the Los Angeles Convention Center (which, until 2006, regularly hosted the E3 video games convention). The day goes smoothly until multiple armed suspects attempt to disrupt this meeting, holding several important politicians hostage.

The People's Liberation Party strike again after the convention center incident in another attempt to disrupt the treaty signing, creating a national emergency by taking over the LAX control tower, broadcasting false Air Traffic Control information (resulting in a midair collision) and installing another Surface-to-Air missile launcher at the top of the tower, threatening aircraft carrying dignitaries headed to the treaty signing. Air Force One is briefly in the area but is diverted quickly to Edwards Air Force Base. Despite danger the President of the United States being averted, there are many more civilian planes waiting to be diverted to other airports, the FAA closing down LAX after the earlier collision. SWAT storm the tower from the basement and soon restore order.

SWAT is required for VIP protection duty at a World Trade Organization conference at the Ventura Hotel, accompanying the Treaty signing. Death threats have been received by some of the attendees from various militia factions, and several militia men storm the building. This is followed shortly afterwards by the bombing of an electric substation leaving most of LA without power, save for Municipal buildings with backup generators. This was apparently a diversion, to allow Sovereign America forces led by Tobias Stromm (A Fred Phelps type character) himself to take over City Hall, for what Stromm calls an "end of the world vigil". It transpires that Sovereign America was the winner of the auction for one of the suitcase nukes, now installed and guarded by Stromm at the top of the tower, and Sovereign America intends to destroy the entire city in a last stand, but thankfully SWAT, after a tremendous battle, arrest Stromm and save the city.

During the final preparations for the Treaty signing, and the celebrations afterward, suspicious personnel observed entering the storm drain system near UCLA, where a parade is supposed to pass, carrying heavy equipment and overheard talking about demolitions. The storm drain system had already been cleared once by police officers - after being alerted to these developments, SWAT is sent in to investigate, finding a mysterious armed group disguised as gas masked maintenance workers.

Finally, SWAT is tasked with protecting the Treaty signing. In a last ditch attempt to stop the signing, the People's Liberation Party attack, hiding a second suitcase nuke in the building and taking many dignitaries hostage. Despite this, with the intervention of SWAT, the treaty signing is completed successfully. Mission failure results in the nuclear destruction of Los Angeles.


The game was released in three separate versions. Each newer version contains all the changes from the earlier version. The first version was named simply SWAT 3: Close Quarters Battle. SWAT 3: Elite Edition added several new features, including five more scenarios, the ability to play as a SWAT team member instead of team leader, two-element missions, and a multiplayer mode. SWAT 3: Tactical Game of the Year Edition added a few more scenarios, as well as an Advanced Tactics CD which contains actual SWAT training footage.

The official patches are available free of charge at the publisher's website and upgrade one version to the next (i.e., upgrading the original SWAT 3 to SWAT 3: Elite Edition).


Initially, the SWAT 3 servers for online multiplayer modes were operated by Sierra Entertainment. Following the purchase of Sierra by Activision, the SWAT 3 multiplayer servers went down permanently. However, multiplayer functionality can be restored using VPN software and third-party multiplayer servers operated by SWAT 3 fan communities[citation needed].

Additionally, a fair-sized modding community has grown around SWAT 3, producing new missions, maps, weapons and character models for use in both singleplayer and multiplayer modes[citation needed]. SWAT 3 includes tools and support for modifying the game.


SWAT 3 received positive reviews, averaging 84% on Game Rankings.[2] Praise was lavished on the graphics, along with the AI of enemies and civilians and team interaction. PC Gamer UK gave the game a score of 91%, saying "All the best ideas from other squad based games, shoehorned into a police setting, perfectly."[3] The game was also reviewed by GameSpot, with a rating of 8.3/10.[4] GameSpot commented "SWAT 3's most impressive feature has to be the amazing artificial intelligence employed by friend and foe alike."[4]

As well as spawning several different released versions, SWAT 3 had a sequel, SWAT 4, which was developed by Irrational Games and published by Vivendi Universal.


  1. IGN Staff. SWAT 3: Close-Quarters Battle Interview. IGN. Retrieved on 2007-04-04
  2. SWAT 3: Close Quarters Battle - PC. Game Rankings. Retrieved on 2007-03-07
  3. "The Ultimate Guide to PC Games", PC Gamer Presents/Future Publishing, July 2003. ISBN 829973780X
  4. 4.0 4.1 GameSpot review, GameSpot. Retrieved 25 July 2006.

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