We'd love to be a member of a SWAT team. Not because we like guns and rescuing hostages or anything, but because at least we'd be guaranteed to have something interesting to talk about after work. Which isn't always the case when you've spent your entire day at a desk and the only person you've spoken to in the last eight hours is the postman when he had a delivery for you to sign for.
If you were a SWAT officer, you'd be abseiling down the sides of buildings, lobbing grenades into rooms full of terrorists and getting to retreat behind a big bulletproof riot shield when things got a bit hairy. No wonder there are so many games about SWAT units compared with those about office workers.
SWAT Elite Troops is a game that plays much as you might expect for a cop game. You take control of one officer and a further two follow you everywhere you go, acting as backup and scouting ahead if you tell them to. You're armed with a pistol (and later on a few beefier weapons), grenades, a shield and various other gadgets and each of the game's 15 levels gives you objectives to rescue hostages, kill terrorists and hack computers.
So far so generic, but this is actually a very good game. Not least because all of these basic mechanics of running, gunning and rescuing are seamlessly integrated. There are also plenty of little additional elements and mini-games which are expertly suited to mobile play. Such as bombs that need diffusing by identifying and cutting the correct wires against a timer, and hostage situations that need to be approached through a ventilation shaft instead of just charging through the door.
SWAT Elite Troops is nicely done because it's simple enough to work on a phone, but plenty of thought has gone into making it a more comprehensive, tense experience, too.
Each level in the game uses the same basic rules. You begin in an area of the map and need to move through doors and explore areas to find and fulfil your objectives, all the while taking down any bad guy who is silly enough to cross your path. Although the viewpoint is isometric, allowing you in principle to see over walls and into rooms, areas remain blacked out until you've entered them. And because there could be an ambush or hostage situation lurking on the other side of every door, you need to approach opening each one carefully.
Using the optic cable shines a little light on what's on the other side. Or you can blow open doors giving you the element of surprise, throw in a flash grenade first or simply get out your riot shield and go wading in. Gunning down enemies is simple but efficient. A red crosshair locks onto the nearest enemy, then fluctuates from large to small. Pressing fire when it's at its smallest pulls off a headshot, while doing it when it's bigger will mean more shots and the opportunity for your enemy to get in a few shots or a grenade of his own.
It's genuinely difficult to get from the start to the end of a level without putting some tactical thought into how you're going to approach each situation. Your health is whittled down quite quickly and only seeking out the few first aid kits in each level will save you – each element makes for a tense and strategic experience.
Losing health can feel a bit random, mainly because you can't properly tell when you're taking fire. You just need to assume that as long as you're in the open with an enemy still standing you'll take some shots. Also, there isn't too much more of a challenge offered by the harder difficulty modes, so when you've finished the game within a few hours, there's not that much replay value.
These little problems aside, SWAT Elite Troops is remarkably well formed and designed. It packs in plenty of ambitious special officer action while making everything very intuitive and fluid. It's maybe not quite as exhilarating as the real-life job, but it's one of the better mobile games that replicates it.