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Video Game / Alien Swarm

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David "Crash" Murphy: Is it dead?
Joseph "Sarge" Conrad: Yeah. Dead 'n' ugly.
David "Crash" Murphy: Reminds me of that last Commander...
On Shieldbugs

Alien Swarm is a free PC title that began life as a Game Mod for Unreal Tournament 2004. Valve, impressed with their work, subsequently hired the team (a la Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat and Team Fortress Classic) and in between helping out with Left 4 Dead and Portal 2, they developed a Source Engine remake of the mod, released on July 19, 2010. The game is played from a top-down perspective.

Up to four players control a squad of Space Marines who are sent to investigate a mining facility on a frozen frontier colony planet that has gone dark. Turns out, it was completely overrun by, well, a swarm of aliens. It could be considered analogous to a top-down Left 4 Dead, although the setting is not quite as bleak.

Currently, the game only has one official campaign titled Jacob's Rest. This raises the question: "Who exactly is Jacob?"note 

On April 20th, 2017, Reactive Drop was released, which officially adds several maps (which previously had to be acquired through mods), up to 8 players (including bots) per map, several new weapons, a death match mode, and Steam workshop support.

Alien Swarm provides examples of:

  • Action Bomb: The Swarm Boomer. It's an Expy for the Gonarch, so of course it must explode upon death. There's an achievement for killing it before it does so.
  • Action Girl: Wildcat is a woman and a Special Weapons specialist. Faith arguably counts as well, but her greater healing stats (in comparison to Bastille) make her close to The Medic.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Completing any two missions in online co-op unlocks a hat. For another game entirely.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Shieldbugs. Complete with a big "shoot here" fleshy part on its rear.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • The Chainsaw. It can tear bugs apart... but so can the standard melee attacks, and those are less likely to get you killed or wounded. However, unlike the standard melee attack, you can move freely while using it. A good chainsaw user can simply run into a mob of aliens and leave chunky bits in his wake, while anyone attempting to punch his way through the mob would simply get mauled between punches.
    • Also, the chainsaw is often used by speedrunners, as it can be used to both remove the boulders in the last mission without using the slower mining laser and break down doors faster than opening them by hacking.
    • There are two hidden items in the game: The Assault Jets and The Blink Pack. Each can only be found on a specific stage. The first is your only jumping option in the game, but has very few uses and can't do much to enemies. The Blink Pack lets you teleport. It has unlimited uses, but a lengthy recharge time. It will also zap any enemies around both ends of the teleport. However, you're limited to teleporting to places on your screen, and only places you could reach on foot. Both take up a slot that could be much better utilized. Its only real use is in speedruns, where it can be used as a valuable timesaver.
    • The Smart Bomb is certainly an effective weapon if you're being overwhelmed by aliens, but it's single-use and ends up being tremendous overkill in most situations. Most of the time you can get the same effect just by dropping a freeze grenade at your feet.
    • The Grenade Launcher. Big splash range when things get crowded but causes extremely high friendly fire damage plus the shots arc instead of flying straight. It sees some use in harder difficulties due to the tougher enemies, but on easier difficulties it's usually overkill and not worth the risk of killing your teammates.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Without healing, a parasite will kill you, and spawn another four that pose a significant risk to your teammates. Better to die in battle, charging into the largest mass of aliens before dropping all your grenades at your feet.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: While Bastille and Faith are both medics, they both have some of the loudest and most violent lines said when attacking very close Swarm creatures.
    Bastille: Bastard piece of shit!
    Faith: I'll kill you all!
  • The Big Guy: Wolfe. He gets a health bonus and an Autogun damage bonus.
  • Blood Knight: Karl Jaeger lives for the glory of battle.
  • Boxed Crook:
    • Wolfe is an ex-con who chose military service over life imprisonment. In a less-seen variation, he turns out to enjoy the military far more than his previous life of crime, and sticks with it as a career.
    • Vegas chose this mission over imprisonment for a Noodle Incident.
  • Bullet Time: The adrenaline rush. Happens automatically at some points in the game, but there is also an item that grants it (and it's more effective when Bastille is in the team). In both cases, it affects the entire squad.
    • Also, whenever a character dies, time slows down and the camera pans to provide a shot of him or her dying. Generally, this is used to get the last edifying reactions from their squadmates. These are normally variations on theme of "oh shit", "noooo", "lol" or "oops".
  • Chainsaw Good:
    • Oddly enough, the blade of this game's chainsaw is horizontally-aligned. Still chops the Swarm up good though.
    • Probably because a vertical chainsaw would be harder to maneuver side-to-side through multiple swarm while being held comfortably.
  • Character Level:
    • EXP is awarded at the end of various stages. To add to that, items and weapons unlock when you level up; thus, the more you play, the larger your arsenal.
    • There is also the Rank system, where you can trade 26 levels for another Rank. This has no positive impact on the game however, and actually takes away your weapons if you choose to do so (level 27 being coincidentally the highest you can get). Reactive Drop's new weapons means you have to reach level 31 to promote to the next Rank.
  • Combat Medic: Both medics count, but Bastille's damage output and reload speeds are greater compared to Faith's, and Bastille gets a boost to Adrenaline's duration.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Crash looks an awful lot like Jeff Goldblum.
  • Cool Starship: The Bloodhound.
  • Cosmetic Award: Actually averted. The game has many achievements but each confers the tangible award of an experience bonus. Of course, then there's the one that gives you a hat.
    • Some of these achievements can be redone every mission, providing the experience bonus each time.
    • Then there is the promotion option at level 27. It resets your level and gives you a medal next to your level ingame.
      • Which is nothing but a Bragging Rights Reward, since all it shows is how many times you've relocked your kit and reset your levels.
  • The Cracker: David Murphy, aka "Crash". He apparently brought down an entire financial network at the age of 21. He's serving time with the military as a result.
  • Cutting the Knot: A chainsaw often opens doors faster than a player can hack the locks. You'll want to play a tech anyway though, since Vegas gets a large bonus to chainsaw damage.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: If you can master the grenade launcher, it's one of the most effective weapons in the game. If you can't master it, it's one of the most effective ways to kill yourself.
  • Doomed Hometown: Wildcat's parents and home colony were wiped out by a Swarm invasion. She wasn't keen on fighting before that.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: Playing on Easy cuts your EXP gained by half, making leveling up more of a chore to do.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: On the second level, atop a massive cargo elevator. Features Bullet Time and a Zerg Rush.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: Tech characters are equipped with a motion tracker that causes the swarm to appear as red dots on your map. Complete with the distinctive pinging sound from Aliens.
  • The Engineer: Crash and Vegas.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Midway through the campaign, you send some files to your Voice with an Internet Connection, who informs you that the entire colony has been wiped out, if you had not deduced this yourself. The course of action he recommends? Nuke 'em. It's the only way to be sure.
  • Exploding Barrels: But of course. However, they are not triggered by the marine's melee attack.
    • The green ones leak gas or chemicals that are hazardous to marine and bug alike instead. Very hazardous. Good for covering your back.
    • In the expansion Reactive Drop, some of its levels have yellow barrels with biohazard symbols. These ones are triggered by melee attacks.
  • Expy: The Autogun is the smartgun in all but name.
    • Parasites to the Facehuggers, to the point where Valve would probably owe 20th Century Fox royalties if the game wasn't freeware.
  • Flat Character: All the playable characters don't have much in personality or character traits and their backstories are simple blurbs.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Averted, though how much damage it does depends on the difficulty. On Easy, the game will register the hit and count it against your XP gains but no damage is dealt.
    • The Tesla gun however is Friendly Fireproof under pretty much all circumstances. It's justified because it's programmed to ignore human biosigns.
    • There is a special absorption system in place to limit the amount of FF received, at least early on. It drops off over time, though.
  • Game Breaking Bugs: Originally crashed on loading for some people. A patch fixed that, though.
  • The Gambler: Vegas joined the military to flee his debts to The Mafia.
  • Game Mod: Like Killing Floor, it started out as a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004. Valve hired three of the original developers, who then remade it on the Source engine in their "spare time". Like other games on Source, it also supports custom maps.
    • Plus the mods for the game itself that the community creates. The game is also fully open-source, meaning you can edit the files however you want.
  • Gatling Good: The Special Weapons class starts with an Autogun, which is like a less powerful minigun that can lock onto targets. You can unlock an actual minigun when you reach level 17, which trades off accuracy for a faster fire rate.
  • Goomba Stomp: If you land on an enemy after jumping with the Assault Jets, they go squish.
  • Guns Akimbo: Dual pistols and Personal Defense Weapons are available. The pistols' description notes that they are issued in pairs.
  • Gunship Rescue: The Drop Ship Bloodhound gives you covering fire twice over the course of the campaign.
  • Gratuitous French: Leon Bastille throws some French in here and there, with "Merde!" standing out.
  • Gratuitous German: Jaeger sometimes yells "Scheisse!" when a parasite jumps on him. He also taunts the drones in German occasionally.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Vegas usually shouts "Ten cuidado, bastardo!" ("Watch it, bastard!") when shot at.
    • Of note is that the Captions for some of his lines are translated to Spanish even though they're in English and vice versa.
  • Grenade Launcher: Underbarrel varieties appear on many basic guns, while a stand-alone rotary-chamber version is also available. The Assault Rifle's launcher is explosive, the Vindicator's is incendiary, and the Prototype Assault Rifle's stuns.
  • Hacking Minigame: Techs must play it to unlock doors and access encrypted files, so the rest of the squad must hold off the aliens while they do.
  • Harder Than Hard: Insane difficulty. The game on Normal difficulty is challenging enough, this makes the swarms faster, stronger and spawns them in more places (you get parasites on the first level). It demands good teamwork otherwise you won't get very far.
    • An update outclasses Insane with Brutal difficulty for people who say Insane isn't hard enough! How hard is it? Hard enough that none of the developers could complete a mission on Brutal difficulty!
    • Onslaught mode, another new feature added to the game, can be borderline Nintendo Hard since the aliens now are randomly generated and a huge swarm may randomly appear to slaughter the team, just like in Left 4 Dead. As if this and Brutal difficulty wasn't enough, Valve also added a Hardcore Friendly Fire option that makes all friendly fire deal full damage to teammates and people who are set on fire stay lit a lot longer. And yes, this can turned on for Insane and Brutal difficulties.
    • There's an achievement for beating a mission on Brutal with Onslaught and Hardcore FF turned on. Have fun!
    • Reactive Drop takes this even further with the challenges "Difficulty Tier 1" and "Difficulty Tier 2" - which "adds 5 difficulty levels higher than Brutal" and "adds 5 difficulty levels higher than Difficulty Tier 1.
  • Healing Shiv: An unlockable weapon for Medics. Very similar to a certain other Valve game's, but with limited ammo, and you're able to heal yourself with it.
  • Heal Thy Self: Along with the medical beacon and the unlockable Healgun, first aid kits, although they are self use only. Marines that are low on health will have their Power Armor emitting sparks.
  • Hold the Line: Happens a few times. Depending on how merciful the map maker is, there may be a conveniently-placed re-deployable Sentry Gun nearby.
  • Hilarity Ensues: When a door gets destroyed and falls on a player or the aliens.
  • Homage: To Aliens, Starcraft and Starship Troopers, with a few nods to Space Hulk thrown in.
  • Infinite Supplies: Played with when Reactive Drop's "Energy Weapons" challenge is active. Every marine's ammo regenerates after a few seconds without firing, but players cannot reload.
  • Inventory Management Puzzle: You can only carry one of the game's many equippable items at a time. It's your choice whether to take something that benefits you (Health Kit, armor upgrade) something that harms the Swarm (tripmines, rocket pack) or something that helps the team (Damage amp beacon, flares, Welder).
  • Killed Off for Real: Unlike Left 4 Dead and many other multiplayer shooters, players who are killed stay dead until the next round.
  • Kill It with Fire: One of the unlockable weapons that everyone can use is a flamethrower. Missions that involve biomass require at least one person to be wielding a flamethrower, and the flamethrower can be equipped regardless of level requirements for those missions only.
  • Laser Sight: All weapons in the game have one equipped. Pretty much necessary, given the top-down camera. The deployable tripmines also use these.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Players who attempt to speed run a map and not tell anyone else (which will usually get the Leeroy killed or their team killed) and/or guys who mishandle power weapons like the Flamethrower and constantly cause friendly fire damage with them.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: The basic Swarm enemies usually burst into bright green gibs if enough damage is dealt to them. This includes if they've been punched, though this may be due to the fact that they're Made of Plasticine.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Two inventory items allows you to unleash a flurry of homing missiles at a whim.
  • The Medic: Faith and Bastille. Also fits into the Combat Medic role. Faith is said to be particularly gentle and emotional.
  • Mercy Kill: If there are no medics, healing packs, or shock armor left, an infected player has no chance of survival. Better to burn them to death than wait for a swarm of parasites to emerge from their corpse once they die.
  • Mook Maker: The last level features a giant spider-like enemy which spawns tiny suicide bombers, and releases a whole pile of them on death.
    • If a parasite kills a player, it also releases a bunch upon death. Protip: Don't stand near a player who will be killed by a parasite. And don't stand near other players if you're going to die to one!
  • More Dakka: The Autogun really lays down some covering fire, but the Minigun does even more, at the cost of accuracy.
    • X33 Damage Amplifier item does exactly what it says for characters standing in its radius, doubling damage done for the duration.
      • Including damage to teammates. As if shotguns weren't dangerous enough...
  • Nintendo Hard: Deaths last the entire map, players must use their class roles efficiently or die horribly, enemies on Normal are already swarming by the dozens while you only have so much ammunition, and those goddamn Parasites can ruin an entire run in seconds. Bump it up to Hard or take on any difficulty-related Challenges (or Onslaught in general) and you're in for a rough time no matter what.
  • No-Gear Level: Played with when Reactive Drop's "Level One" challenge is active, as only level one items and weapons can be used during that challenge.
  • Noodle Incident: Several of the marines mention previous battles where things got pretty rough, to which Sarge replies that he hopes their current mission doesn't get that bad.
  • Nuke 'em: The ultimate outcome of "Jacob's Rest".
  • One Bullet Clips: Averted. When you reload, you lose the remaining bullets of the previous magazine.
  • One-Hit Kill: The officer class has access to napalm mines that can kill even Shieldbugs on contact.
    • Getting flattened by a falling door will do this to you.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Reactive Drop's "One Hit" challenge. To make matters worse, friendly fire inflicts full damage to marines.
  • One-Hit Polykill: The Special Weapons skill Piercing Bullets gives each shot fired a chance to pass through multiple enemies in its path.
    • Also see the Railgun and Scoped Rifle.
  • One-Man Army: Averted. You can't start a campaign without at least two people. Unless, of course, you enter a console command. You'll probably die if you go it alone, though, even on easy.
  • Palette Swap: The Tesla Cannon and the Mining Laser both share the same models with different colors.
  • Power Armor: What the characters wear, color-coded based on their class. Officer = Green, Medic = White with red lights, Heavy Weapons = Bluish grey, Tech = Yellow. There are also some design differences; medics, officers, and techs have different flavors of backpack for their armor while the heavy weapons character has what looks to be an ammo drum.
  • The Quiet One: Flynn is a man of few words.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Half of the characters have a shady, if not downright criminal past.
  • Recursive Ammo: Jaeger and the Hand Grenade Unlockable. Normally, the Hand Grenades are basically a copy of the standard Assault Rifle's Grenades. It's worth noting, however, that the Explosives skill increases the damage by 10 per point, and adds one cluster munition to the main grenade per point. Jaeger has Explosives 4. That's five explosions from one grenade dealing 120 damage each.
  • Sergeant Rock: Joseph Conrad, aka "Sarge". Apparently he's one of the few people to survive a Swarm invasion and knows how to beat them.
  • Send in the Search Team: They even lampshade this by naming one of the playable characters Joseph Conrad.
  • Sensor Suspense: Intentionally, as one of its many shoutouts to Aliens
  • Sentry Gun: Comes in five flavors! gatling guns, flamethrowers, freeze rays, Tesla sentries and high-impact autocannons that prioritize larger targets.
  • Shock and Awe: The Tesla Cannon. It slows enemies down and can deal damage to them through doors. It's programmed to ignore human biosigns and is therefore Friendly Fireproof. There is also the Tesla Sentry, which does this for you while you take the shocked Swarm down with your own preferred weapon.
  • Shout-Out: Several in the achievements, such as Another Bug Hunt, Nuke From Orbit, and Close Encounters. There's also an exploding enemy called the Swarm Boomer.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Officers have access to a nasty pump-action shotgun called the Vindicator. It features an underbarrel incendiary Grenade Launcher.
    • Jaeger gets a bonus(+ 70) to its already high damage(105). Yeah, anything he so much as looks at that isn't a shieldbug is pretty much dead.
    • There's a versatile variant available to all classes once the player reaches level 3. While it inflicts more damage per shot, it fires slower, has much less ammo, and cannot fire incendiary grenades.
    • The achievements for beating the entire campaign on whatever difficulties clearly take the idea for their icons from Halo.

  • Small Girl, Big Gun: Wildcat. She has movement and reload speed bonuses.
  • Smart Bomb: A deployable item that subjects any Swarm within range to a Macross Missile Massacre.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Jaeger. Also, Williams, the pilot aboard the Bloodhound.
    • The unoffical Telic campaign expansion for the UT2004 mod added a cigar equipable by Sarge. Given that it did nothing but took up the equipment slot, its whole purpose was looking cool.
  • Solo-Character Run: Requires a console command, but is possible. Done for bragging rights.
  • Son Of Political Prisoners: Bastille was born in prison. It's also how he got his education, as the prison housed many intellectuals.
  • Take a Third Option: Doors either require a key card to unlock or need a tool to unseal it if it was welded shut. Other doors require a Tech to hack it open. Sometimes, you can find a way around the doors, but if the first two options won't work, you can just take a chainsaw and rip the door down. Just be careful with where the door falls down!
  • There's No Kill like Overkill: The Smart Bomb tends to kill every single thing on the user's screen.... and still have some left over missiles flying around.
  • Timed Mission: The final level of "Jacob's Rest" involves an armed nuclear bomb. The Marines must deploy the bomb and then leave before it explodes.
    Williams: You do not want to be there when that bomb goes off. Trust me, it would ruin your whole day.
  • Token Minority: Vegas is the only black person in the Valve version of the game. On the other hand, it has two women, Wildcat and Faith.
  • Videogame Flamethrowers Suck: Averted. Now that the Tesla Cannon is no longer the undisputed King of Weapons, the Flamethrower has mostly taken its place. Why? A single puff of fire ignites an enemy (only prolonged fire ignites teammates, thankfully... but when it does, it isn't pretty), making it highly ammo efficient. Each puff is weak, but the burn damage is high; a single flamer sweep can turn a horde of drones into a staggering, flaming mess: no squad members injured. Only an idiot goes into a nest of Parasites without one. Oh, and its alt fire extinguishes fire... how's that for handy?
  • Weaponized Exhaust: The two hidden items, the Blink Pack and Assault Jets. The first is a teleporter which has a side-effect of electrocuting everything around you at start and finish. The other is your standard rocket jump boots, and can light enemies on fire if you're next to them when you take off.
  • We Cannot Go On Without You: Any level that requires a Tech marine will become an instant failure if they are killed. Sometimes it's a good idea to have two Tech guys as a backup plan.
  • Weld the Lock: If you have the Welder equipped, you can weld doors to temporarily hold off the Swarm. You also find some doors already welded that if unwelded, may reveal extra items if not the way forward.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: To Aliens, if it wasn't obvious.
  • Zerg Rush: As expected from a race called the swarm.